An Act to amend the Citizenship Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.


Diane Finley  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act in order to
(a) permit certain persons who lost their Canadian citizenship for specified reasons to have their citizenship restored from the time it was lost;
(b) permit certain persons who, born outside Canada to a Canadian parent, did not acquire Canadian citizenship for specified reasons to become Canadian citizens from the time of their birth;
(c) provide that certain persons born outside Canada to a Canadian parent who was himself or herself born outside Canada do not acquire Canadian citizenship; and
(d) provide for a grant of citizenship, on application, to persons who have always been stateless and meet other specified conditions.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2022 / 1:50 p.m.
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Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the people of my riding of Calgary Shepard, I am pleased to speak to Bill S‑245. It is always a great honour and privilege for me to be able to speak on behalf of Canadian citizens.

I am not like everyone else in the House. Like 23% or 24% of Canadians, I am an immigrant to this country. I was just talking about that with my colleague, the member for Calgary Forest Lawn, who was born in Dubai.

As someone born in Poland, Canadian citizenship is extremely important to me. Canada is not only my homeland, but it is also the country that accepted my father, my mother, my brother and me when our country of origin, where I was born, did not want us. My father was a member of Solidarnosc. He was a worker, a labourer, an engineer for the Gdansk shipyards when Poland was communist. My father left Poland in 1983 to come to Canada, and it was Canada that offered him the opportunity to stay. He started working at a shipyard in Sorel. It was in Sorel, where I lived with my father in 1985, that I learned French.

Poland let us leave the country, but it did not let us take our passports with us, because the Polish workers at the Gdansk shipyard, the Lenin shipyard, and their families were not allowed to return to that country. As I said, Canadian citizenship represents my homeland as well as the great honour of becoming Canadian in 1989. Now I have the great honour of representing my constituents as a Polish immigrant to this wonderful country that has given us so many opportunities.

I must admit that I did not know a lot about the so-called lost Canadians, the people who lost the Canadian citizenship they had at birth or did not qualify for citizenship even though they should have been entitled to it by virtue of their presence in Canada. That is the result of a whole raft of laws and attitudes, and many MPs have talked about this and debated it since 1945. The laws changed again in the 1970s. Finally, along came Bill C‑37, passed by a Conservative government that wanted to solve the problem for good and reduce the number of lost Canadians as much as possible.

Despite the many bills that have been introduced to reform the legislation in this century and the last, despite the fact that parliamentarians studied this issue and were meant to receive witnesses to explain to them how these things happened, despite the fact that the government has tried to change the legislation several times to ensure that this does not happen, no one noticed that there would be a gap of 50 or so months during which there would still be lost Canadians.

Where are we at today?

I would like to thank Senator Yonah Martin, herself an immigrant from Korea, who sponsored this bill in the Senate. In the House of Commons, it was sponsored by the member for Calgary Forest Lawn. It is Senator Martin who proposed this bill to try to fix this problem for lost Canadians. Apparently, there are hundreds of Canadians in a situation that I would describe as extremely shameful, despite the fact that parts of the legislation have been changed over the past 100 years. Several different governments have tried to fix this legislative problem.

Before, the problem was that Canadians born outside the country to Canadian parents had until their 28th birthday to notify the Canadian government that they wanted to retain their citizenship. However, there was no form or simple way to confirm this with the government. It was not easy to do.

Even within the Conservative caucus, our colleague, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, would have been one of those lost Canadians, had it not been for his father tipping him off. I do not know how his father knew that Parliament was amending the Citizenship Act, but the amendments could have made him one of those lost Canadians.

In debate, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain said that he would be forever grateful to his parents who made sure to let him know, otherwise he would not have been able to serve in the House of Commons and represent the people of his riding in Saskatchewan.

This is the second time that we have tried to fill this legislative void by introducing Bill S‑245. I greatly admire author Franz Kafka. We have here the perfect example of a Kafkaesque or bureaucratic government that creates problems for ordinary citizens. This great German author who penned The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, The Trial, The Castle and Amerika, spoke about these major organizations that have far too many rules and far too many people trying to enforce them and about how an ordinary citizen can end up before them for making a mistake they were not even aware of.

Many people have lost their citizenship this way. However, those people can be proud because there are many parliamentarians, including Senator Yonah Martin, who are working to ensure this legislative void is filled.

We are now debating this bill to try to correct the error in Bill C‑37, which was introduced and debated in 2009 and 2011, if memory serves.

At the time, Bill C‑37 sought to amend the Citizenship Act to address this legislative gap. The period covered by the bill was approximately 50 months for second-generation Canadians. I am a first-generation Canadian. My children were all born in Calgary and are first-generation Canadians because they were all born in Canada. There was a legislative gap for Canadians who were born abroad to Canadian parents during those 50 months between February 15, 1967, and April 16, 1981. These Canadians were to inform the government before their 28th birthday if they wished to keep their citizenship.

As I said, there is hope, because we all agree that a Canadian is a Canadian and has the right to Canadian citizenship. It is a source of great pride and a great honour and privilege to be able to say that I am Canadian and always will be. In any event, that is my hope, unless the government makes another legislative mistake in the future and something happens to those of us who received their citizenship in 1989. I am hoping it will not happen, but one never knows.

In this bill, I think that Senator Yonah Martin found the right words to legislate on this issue. I have sponsored many bills in the House and I have had to talk to the jurilinguists and lawyers who work in the House to find the right words to achieve a goal. Sometimes, the problem is finding the right words and the right dates in order to ensure that legislative voids are properly filled while addressing the initial problem we sought to solve by introducing legislation in the House.

I thank Senator Yonah Martin, but also all of the other members and senators who worked hard on this bill. I am thinking of the former Speaker of the Senate, Noël Kinsella, and of former senators David Tkachuk and Art Eggleton, who worked hard to ensure that these Canadians get their citizenship.

During debates in the House, I always share a Yiddish proverb. Today's is this: “When you sweep the house, you find everything.” I hope that this legislation will make it possible for us to find all of the lost Canadians so that they can get their citizenship.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2022 / 5:15 p.m.
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Jasraj Singh Hallan Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

moved that Bill S-245, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-245, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians).

I want to thank the hon. senator from British Columbia, Yonah Martin, who brought forward this important bill. She introduced this originally as Bill S-230 in the last Parliament in the other place to address the lost Canadians whose citizenship was revoked without their knowledge and without warning simply because of the wording in the Citizenship Act.

I am excited to hear from the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, who will be sharing his experience of almost being a lost Canadian. If he chooses to do so, maybe he can share a picture of the card he carries around.

While Bill S-230 passed unanimously through the other place in the 43rd Parliament, the unnecessary and selfish election of 2021 killed the bill before it could get to first reading here. That is why I was happy and hopeful to see it pass unanimously once again in the Senate and reach second reading here in this place.

I want to thank Senator Martin for her continued work on this file, along with former Senate Speaker the hon. Noël Kinsella and former senators David Tkachuk and Art Eggleton, as well as Mr. Don Chapman. He has worked tirelessly with our colleagues in the other place to advocate for lost Canadians and this much-needed change to the Citizenship Act.

Canadians who lost their status or become stateless because of these changes to the act are Canadians in every way except technically under the law. They pay their taxes, contribute to their communities and uphold the values of what it means to live in our beautiful country.

From 1947 to 1977, the law of the land was that children born abroad received citizenship only if their parents registered them within two years of their birth. In addition, their parents must have also given birth to them in wedlock, with at least one of the parents being a Canadian.

In 1977, the then government introduced a new Citizenship Act, changing the law so that children born abroad on or after February 14, 1977, received their Canadian citizenship if one of their parents was a Canadian citizen, regardless of their marital status. However, if the Canadian parent was also born abroad, a child had until turning 28 to apply to keep their citizenship. If they did not, it would be taken away.

When the law passed in 1977, the government made no effort to inform Canadians affected by this change. No form was published, no instructions were given on how someone could reaffirm their citizenship and no one affected was told that this requirement even existed.

Finally, in 2009, Bill C-37 was brought in by the Conservative government to make changes to the Citizenship Act to rectify past mistakes. When it came into effect, the rules for citizenship changed for people born outside Canada to Canadian parents who were not already Canadian citizens. The changes saw the age 28 rule repealed, and Canadians caught up in the rule previously who had not yet reached that age were grandfathered into the amended law. However, the wording of Bill C-37 created an unfortunate gap for a small group of Canadians who were born between 1977 and 1981. Those who turned 28 before Bill C-37 became law in 2009 were also excluded.

In the committee review of this bill at the Senate's social affairs committee, senators asked IRCC officials how this could take place, what was being done to inform those who did not know they were lost and why the government was not being proactive in finding them. The answer from the IRCC officials was, “It’s fair to say that given the small number of applications...we are not out looking for Lost Canadians.” In reality, IRCC relies on lost Canadians to figure out they were stripped of their citizenship due to bureaucracy and paperwork.

Some lost Canadians knew about the change and either applied to keep their Canadian citizenship or let it lapse. These are Canadians who in many cases were raised here, who grew up attending school here and who have worked here their whole adult lives. These are Canadians who started families in this country and paid their taxes on time, but for one small change to the wording of the Citizenship Act, they lost their Canadian citizenship. When they turned 28, there was no letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and there was no warning. It was just gone.

All of us in this place know that Canadian citizenship is not identified by each person as one tangible idea. On the contrary, it is deeply personal to each of us. It makes up our identity and sense of belonging to a broader idea. For my community and me, Canadian citizenship is a goal. It is a marker for achieving the Canadian dream.

Being an immigrant myself and coming to Canada when I was five, I experienced first-hand the journey to achieving citizenship. My family grew up economically in poverty, lining up in the rain for low-income bus passes and having both parents working jobs just to survive. My family always had that goal to reach for Canadian citizenship. I saw my parents work themselves to the bone for my family. Because of their hard work, my brother, sister and I are where we are today. We achieved our dream of Canadian citizenship after having to work hard day and night, coming from little and knowing that the road is not easy. However, we know that the blood, sweat and tears we experienced on that journey were worth it. We are Canadian citizens.

That is why, standing here as a member of Parliament, I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose one's citizenship arbitrarily, especially for those who worked hard and even served in uniform for this country, to one day lose something they believed so much in. This is not just an issue for the many people this bill would help to reinstate citizenship to; it is an issue for all of us. As Canadians and representatives of Canadians, it is our responsibility to help preserve what it means to be a citizen of this country and fundamentally what it means to be a Canadian.

I ask my fellow colleagues to do the right thing and support this bill to reinstate citizenship for lost Canadians.

April 12th, 2016 / 12:05 p.m.
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Director, Citizenship Program Delivery, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Mary-Ann Hubers

There's nothing in Bill C-6 that talks about the first-generation limit, but there is in the law a first-generation limit that applies to children born abroad to a Canadian citizen. There were a number of reforms done that gave citizenship back to lost Canadians. The first one was in Bill C-37 in 2009. Then there were additional changes in Bill C-24 that gave citizenship back or gave it for the first time to a number of other lost Canadians. There were a number of individuals who were fixed by those provisions.

For those who are impacted now in terms of being themselves first generation born abroad, and they have a child abroad who's therefore not eligible for citizenship by descent, there are some avenues available to them. For example, they can sponsor that child for a permanent residence to Canada. If the child is stateless because they don't have access to any other citizenship, there's a grant in the Citizenship Act for stateless children of Canadians.

April 18th, 2013 / 9:40 a.m.
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Senior Honorary Counsel, B'nai Brith Canada

David Matas

I was interested in your comments about the process, which relates to your question. I'll try to connect the two.

There's been a long history—over 10 years now—of various governments introducing amendments to the Citizenship Act to deal with revocation, for example, Bill C-16, BillC-18, and BillC-37, which have some good suggestions in them that we like. We've proposed that some of them be incorporated in here.

It's of some concern to us that all these proposed amendments—which would change the revocation process, which is not working now—are put aside, and instead we have this bill. There are some good things in the bill, and we support many of the components of it, but because it's a private member's bill—and this is a point your colleague Irwin Cotler has mentioned—it doesn't go through Justice charter scrutiny the way government bills do.

To answer specifically, yes, there's a charter right of citizenship, which is not limited necessarily to the way citizenship is defined in the Citizenship Act. It's open to anybody who loses their citizenship to say that this is a violation of their charter right to citizenship, regardless of what the Citizenship Act says.

I can't tell you whether a charter challenge like that is going to succeed or not, but it's certainly potentially there.

December 14th, 2010 / 9:40 a.m.
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Director General, International Region, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Rénald Gilbert

You mean Bill C-37. The first Bill C-37, because there is a second that is—

December 1st, 2010 / 3:50 p.m.
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Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Fine. My colleague Mr. Wrzesnewskyj talked about the privilege of citizenship and how to limit its extension. We already had that debate in this committee, and we know it is always very difficult to determine who should be given this privilege and who should not.

I remember very well that, at the time, when we were studying the former Bill C-37 on citizenship, the officials had told us that the place of birth was the simplest and easiest to apply criteria, and that it covered the largest number of cases. That is why it is the general criteria which is used in our legislation to extend citizenship. It is the criteria you used in your bill.

Nevertheless, we still need to define a whole list of exceptions to cover as many situations as possible.

I would like to take advantage of your presence to have a more thorough discussion about citizenship.

Is the place of birth still the most relevant criteria to determine the attachment of an individual to Canada?

In my opinion, if we started to question this premise, we could see things in a totally different light. On the one hand, you have people who were born in Canada—some cases have been reported in the media—and who come to Canada like tourists, to give birth and then they leave for 18 years. Later, their children come to Canada for postsecondary education. These people have no ties in Canada.

On the other hand, you might have people who have always lived in Canada and who happen to give birth abroad, quite accidentally—some of them live along the American border, and the ambulance may have driven them to an American hospital—, and these people cannot extend their citizenship to their child if he or she is born abroad.

In this day and age, when people are travelling everywhere around the world, shouldn't we start to think about determining citizenship according to the number of years an individual or his parents have lived in Canada, rather than apply stupidly the place of birth criteria?

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 7:05 p.m.
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Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-467 which was brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South.

As all members of the House are aware, this private member's bill stems from the passage in the 39th Parliament of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls upon the government to treat children born or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, as children born in Canada, such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside of Canada.

The government supports the intention of Bill C-467, although we are concerned about some unintended consequences. Our success as a country is no accident but a result of an abiding belief in values such as liberty, human dignity and freedom of conscience and where harmony is the rule rather than the exception. We are an open and tolerant society, renowned for our respects for democracy and for the freedoms that come with that. We celebrate our different cultural traditions but not at the expense of sharing common Canadian ones.

That is fundamental. We need to preserve the value of Canadian citizenship along with an abiding connection to our past and to one another, where citizenship means more than access to a convenient passport.

Within the past three years, the government has passed significant laws that would correct flaws in citizenship legislation. Bill C-14 and Bill C-37 reflect clear and bold reaffirmations of our values and the principles that define us as a country.

Under the old rules, it was possible for Canadians to pass on their citizenship to endless generations born outside of Canada. To protect the value of Canadian citizenship for the future, the new law under Bill C-37 put a limit on citizenship by descent to one generation born outside of Canada, similar to the rules in other countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 6:55 p.m.
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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, it is rather unexpected that I rise today to speak to Bill C-467.

At the outset, I want to say that I listened with great care to the speech from the mover of the bill, as well as the member for Trinity—Spadina. Clearly, we are in favour of this bill and certainly willing to get the bill to committee, but as the member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out, there are some improvements that we would like in the bill.

Bill C-37 came into effect in April of 2009 and out of that whole process there are still gaps in the legislation. The fact of the matter is that this bill would not deal with all of the gaps that the member for Trinity—Spadina outlined so eloquently in her speech.

Having said that, this is certainly a positive move by the member for Vancouver South. I missed the initial period for questions but wanted to ask him whether this bill would apply to members of the reserve forces in Canada.

When we look at the summary of the bill, it refers to the enactment providing that children born abroad to, or adopted abroad by, a citizen employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian armed forces, the federal public administration or the public service of a province be considered like a child born in Canada. The bill mentions the Canadian armed forces.

In some cases, reserve members are not covered by measures covering the armed forces in general. I was unable to ask the mover that question.

This issue has dogged us for quite a number of years. Having been a provincial member for 23 years now, issues have come up where people have found, perhaps accidentally, that they did not have Canadian citizenship. It came to a head, as we know, around 9/11 when the Americans started to tighten up on their rules of access to the United States, and people had to produce passports and prove citizenship. A number of people could not do that. There were some very well publicized cases, as members know.

Another question I wanted to ask the member was whether he had an idea as to how many people would be affected by this particular bill. The member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out that there are perhaps 2.8 million people, I believe she said, living abroad. There are people working in our missions, working for NGOs, and many working for multinational corporations.

As a matter of fact, it becomes almost a lifetime occupation for some people to spend all of their working lives being transferred around the world and spending very little time in Canada until perhaps their retirement years. During that time, it is quite conceivable that children will be born outside of Canada and at a certain point will be found to be stateless.

The member for Trinity—Spadina talked about Senator Munson, with whom I had the pleasure of travelling to Washington recently, indicating that in his case he could potentially be in a situation where a grandchild of his would be a stateless person. Clearly, we have to look at this whole area and err on the side of inclusiveness, including all people who could potentially be affected by this type of legislation.

One only has to look back three years ago when we debated Bill C-37 in the House. I read through some of the speeches of the day and some of the background.

We are not talking about a really simple issue here. This is a very complicated issue. The average person is not going to while away the hours and days becoming an expert in immigration law. I would think that in some cases one would have to be a lawyer to sort through some of this stuff and to really understand it.

One of the previous members talked earlier about Bill C-37, the bill to amend the Immigration Act, which was introduced in the House and received first reading on December 10, 2007, the whole purpose of which was to address the issue of the so-called lost Canadians, the people who lost their citizenship through no fault of their own when they were mere babies.

These people thought of themselves as Canadians. They wished to participate in Canadian society, but either ceased to be citizens or never were Canadian citizens in the first place for various legal reasons. There were different reasons by and large in each one of the cases and each case presented a very compelling reason. Even the Prime Minister was involved in one of the cases to try to resolve the issue. In many cases these individuals were not even aware that they were not Canadian citizens until they applied for a certificate of Canadian citizenship or other documentation.

It might surprise some to know, and I was informed of this a few years ago, that even today a very small percentage of the population actually flies on an airplane. I forget what the actual number was but only 13% or 15% of people have actually flown but that number must be much higher now. A very large number of people in our society have not had occasion to board an airplane and fly to other countries. If an individual has no reason to travel, he or she would have no reason to consider asking for documentation. Only when a life event happens are people forced to get citizenship documentation and sometimes find out they are not able to get it.

It would be interesting for people watching today to know that there are at least four distinct legal groups of lost Canadians. The first group is made up of naturalized Canadians, those who subsequently lived outside the country for more than 10 years prior to 1967. The second group is made up of people born abroad to a Canadian parent before the current Citizenship Act came into effect on February 15, 1977. How is someone supposed to remember all of these facts, particularly if that individual happened to be born abroad?

The third group is made up of people who lost their citizenship between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977 because they or a parent acquired the citizenship of another country. The fourth group is made up of the second and subsequent generation of Canadians born abroad since the current Citizenship Act came into effect on February 15, 1977. As the member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out, we are talking about 2.8 million people living abroad.

I understand that my time is almost nigh. Suffice it to say that we support the bill and are prepared to send it on to committee.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 6:50 p.m.
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Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the debate on Bill C-467, which calls on the government to treat children born or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, as children born in Canada. That would mean making it possible to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada.

As my hon. colleague has said, the government supports the intention of Bill C-467, although we do have some concerns that the bill as drafted would not achieve its intended objective and would have unintended consequences.

Members who studied the issue of lost citizenship in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration know full well that citizenship is not something to take lightly or for granted. Studies and witness testimony over the issue led to us to the conclusion that legislation governing citizenship is by no means perfect and that we should truly appreciate the value of our Canadian citizenship.

Members will recall that in order to protect the value of citizenship and ensure that it could not be passed on to endless generations, Bill C-37 in the 39th Parliament introduced a first generation limit to citizenship. The limit is there to ensure that Canadians would have a connection to Canada. Bill C-37 also created an exception to this new first generation limit. The exception means that children born outside Canada to Crown servants are also citizens.

Without this exception to the fist generation limit, children of Crown servants would not be able to pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt abroad. This means that as long as a Canadian citizen is a Crown servant working abroad, any children the Canadian citizen has or adopts abroad are Canadian.

Generation after generation of parents working abroad as Crown servants are able to pass Canadian citizenship on to their children, but let us say Anna has a child while working as a Crown servant in England. Her child, Nicholas, is Canadian. When Nicholas grows up, if he decides to work as a Crown servant in India, any child he has or adopts while working as a Crown servant there would be Canadian, but if Nicholas decides he does not want to work as a Crown servant, his child, in other words Anna's grandchild, would not be Canadian. We aim to change that.

Since early 2009 the government has heard from Crown servants and organizations representing them that it is unfair to penalize these children as a direct result of their parents' service to Canada. I absolutely sympathize with the need to recognize that Canadian families serving Canada abroad have a strong connection to Canada and should not be penalized for their service.

I agree with my colleagues that the private member's bill before us today is certainly well intentioned. After all, it proposes to treat children born or adopted abroad by Crown servants the same as children born in Canada so that they could pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt overseas.

As I have said, the bill does have some problems. For example, under this bill, children of Crown servants could not pass on citizenship to any children they may have or adopt abroad. Children of the original Crown servant working abroad who were born abroad to a Canadian parent would no longer have access to citizenship.

Children adopted by Crown servants who were born or naturalized in Canada would become citizens automatically without regard to the international obligations and requirements that aim to protect the best interests of the child, for example, to prevent child trafficking. Bill C-467 would propose to confer citizenship automatically to children adopted abroad by Crown servants who were born or naturalized in Canada.

The current act already allows anyone who is born abroad and adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a Crown servant, to apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respects international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdictions on adoptions.

Nevertheless, I am confident that we can achieve the intent of this private member's bill if we expanded the current exception that exists in the current act, so that children of Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside Canada.

I recommend that, by addressing these concerns together, this bill could have a positive impact on the children of Crown servants, including our military serving abroad.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 6:45 p.m.
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Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to have seconded this bill because it goes some way toward solving some problems that were created as a result of the adoption of Bill C-37 which came into effect in April 2009. Law making is sometimes extremely complicated and there are unintended consequences and we are seeing some here at different levels.

The first level which Bill C-467 presented by my colleague from Vancouver South addresses is the most urgent and most obvious one. It is the fact that people who have had children while serving their country abroad and whose children are now having children of their own, those children cannot be Canadian citizens. That is nonsense. The riding which I have the honour of representing is in Ottawa. One would expect there would be a number of people living in my riding and throughout the city who have served our country abroad in the Department of Foreign Affairs, for instance, and who are now in this situation.

I know two ambassadors who have had children while serving abroad. In the first case, one of his sons is now working in the private sector in a bank in Paris. He and his wife are going to have their third child. The first two children, from the same father and mother, are Canadian citizens, but the third one, if the child is born in Paris, will not be a Canadian citizen if born there. The third grandchild of the man who served his country abroad, born from the same parents, cannot be a Canadian citizen. It is nonsense. Another well-known ambassador who served this country with great distinction has a daughter in Great Britain who cannot have children who will be Canadian citizens.

That is the first obvious unintended consequence of Bill C-37 that has to be fixed. I applaud my colleague's initiative. I hope that even if the government seems to have some hesitation about some technicalities it is concerned with, that we can see our way to at least adopting that.

The second level of complication was brought up by the member for Trinity—Spadina and I concur with her. Canada as a trading nation has to consider going beyond this bill. I have legislation on the books, Bill C-443, which addresses that. It deals with the fact that there are a number of Canadian citizens working abroad, for the United Nations or its agencies and for NGOs, and heaven knows, we fund them through CIDA. These are honourable, respected NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières. A number of them are associated with religious groups. A number of Canadians are serving the interests of their country through these organizations and they are going to get caught in the same situation.

That is the second level of complication that I hope we will address some day. I hope the government is paying attention to this. Whether we can do it through amendments to this piece of legislation or not remains to be seen.

The third one is the very dramatic situation where we will be creating stateless children. That can be an incredibly complicated situation for anyone.

These are some of the unintended consequences of the legislation that came into effect last year which I believe have to be addressed. The first one is being addressed through the legislation proposed by my colleague from Vancouver South and I hope we will see fit to pass it quickly.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.
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Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am speaking today about Bill C-467 because I believe that it will correct a legislative error.

When the Citizenship Act was amended in 2008 through Bill C-37, the principle of restricting the transmission of citizenship by descent was included to ensure that Canadian citizenship was not passed on in perpetuity.

But in wanting to create an exception to restricting the transmission of citizenship for our military and officials who are overseas on a mission, we complicated matters. We created an exception to the citizenship exception that had just been passed. The goal was to maintain privileges for our citizens who have children overseas. However, as is often the case when a law is created or amended, unanticipated problems or gaps surfaced in the legislation.

Bill C-467 would remove the exception to the exception that was created and propose a new category of citizens in order to make the Citizenship Act fairer.

The law, in its present form allows our military and officials, who were themselves born abroad, to transmit their citizenship to any children they have when they are on a mission. However, rather than being considered citizens in good standing as though they were born here, these children have the status of Canadians born abroad, which does not allow them, in turn, to transmit their citizenship.

Bill C-467 would make these children full-fledged citizens with the same rights and privileges as the children of the military and officials born here and posted here.

When the government amended the Citizenship Act to restrict the transmission of citizenship, it maintained that the provision would ensure that Canadian citizenship is not transmitted indefinitely to individuals who have no ties to Canada. Although I believe that there should be nuances in this rule, I agree with the general principle.

Given the employee-employer relationship of these two parties, it is obvious to me that, for this category of citizens, their right to citizenship does not have to be proven because it is explicit. Consequently, their children should be considered as though they were born here—even if they were born abroad—just like children adopted from abroad, who now have this recognition.

That is exactly what the member for Vancouver South wants to achieve with this bill.

Here is a simple example to illustrate what I am talking about. I was born in Vietnam and adopted in 1974. I now have a Quebec birth certificate, which is my legal identification in Quebec. However, when I renew my passport, I have to send my Canadian citizenship card, not my Quebec birth certificate, as do all people born in Quebec.

I was adopted in 1974, long before the law was changed to allow children adopted from other countries to obtain citizenship upon arriving in Canada. If I were a member of the armed forces, any grandchildren of mine born abroad would be stateless. That situation is unacceptable.

In this case, my Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, has five children, including one born abroad when he was Quebec's delegate general in Japan. That child will not have the same status as his four children born here.

This is an example that illustrates the need for this bill. The current citizenship criteria, which are essentially based on birthplace, seem to me to be outdated in these cases, just like the discrimination against parents who adopted children abroad in my time. The flaws in the system should be corrected by the bill my colleague has introduced.

With globalization and international labour mobility, more and more government employees, members of the military and other people will be going abroad to work.

Moreover, the Bloc Québécois has long been calling on the government to introduce exit controls for non-citizens, but the Conservatives have consistently refused. They recognize the problem, but refuse to take action.

Clearly, Bill C-467 does not correct the whole problem, because it only focuses on government employees. I feel we are going to have to take a much broader approach and review the principle of restricting transmission of citizenship by descent.

We support this amendment, but I want to say that this bill will not completely fix the flaw in the current Citizenship Act.

However, it does give vital recognition to people working for the government abroad.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 6:20 p.m.
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St. Catharines Ontario


Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-467, brought forward by the hon. member for Vancouver South.

This private member's bill stems from the passage, in the 39th Parliament, of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-467 calls on the government to treat children born to or adopted overseas by Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel and federal and provincial public servants, as children born in Canada such that they would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they may have or adopt outside Canada.

First of all, I would like to commend the member for Vancouver South for his commitment to this issue, and I would like all hon. members to know that the government supports the intention of Bill C-467. However, we have some technical concerns with the bill in its current form, as it does not achieve its intended objective and would have, as the member points out, some unintended consequences.

Nevertheless, I am confident that we can address these concerns together, with the co-operation of our parliamentary colleagues. The bill will have a positive impact on the children of Crown servants and our military serving abroad.

I would like to share with my hon. colleagues a very brief overview of Bill C-37 and the reasons that led us, as a government, to restore citizenship to lost Canadians and to include a clear limit on citizenship by descent.

Members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will recall many witnesses who testified three years ago this spring as they shared their love for this country as proud citizens. They shared their dismay and their frustration when they described how it felt to discover that their citizenship was not, in fact, recognized by the law.

The public outcry was enormous, and that is why the government corrected the legislation. When Bill C-37 came into effect a year ago, it restored or gave citizenship to most people who were known as lost Canadians. Changes to the law restored or granted citizenship to the vast majority of those who lost or did not have it due to outdated provisions in previous legislation.

The changes meant that people who became citizens when the first Citizenship Act came into force in 1947, and people born or naturalized in Canada after 1947 and subsequently lost their citizenship, would reacquire their citizenship unless they formally renounced it or had it revoked because of fraud. Foreign-born persons adopted by Canadians between January 1, 1947 and February 15, 1977 would also be eligible to apply for citizenship. Complex rules that required some citizens by descent to take steps to apply to keep their citizenship were simply eliminated.

The new law also set a limit on citizenship by descent to the first generation born abroad. That was done to uphold the value of Canadian citizenship by requiring a real and concrete connection to Canada.

Hon. members will also recall debate of Bill C-14 in 2007 and the steps Canadians adopting foreign-born children had to take before their children could become Canadian citizens.

International adoption is a complex process, as we all know, involving many layers of approval by both provincial and territorial governments in Canada and by the federal government of the country where the child lives. In many cases, adoptions must meet the requirements of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

With the passage of Bill C-14, parents of foreign-born adopted children were able to apply directly for citizenship for those children without first having to go through the steps of applying for permanent resident status. It was a clear and bold reaffirmation of the values and principles that define our identity, our country, and the notion of the Canadian family.

The goal of fixing imperfect legislation with the passage of Bill C-37 and Bill C-14 was essentially to simplify the complex rules on Canadian citizenship.

The private member's bill before us today is certainly well intentioned, and we once again praise the member for Vancouver South for his constructive efforts. In the coming weeks, we look forward to addressing the technical issues that would otherwise prevent this bill from achieving its rightful objective.

The government recognizes the commitment and sacrifices that Crown servants and their families posted abroad make to this country.

I am sure that hon. members would also agree that any children born to Crown servants working abroad should not be penalized by not being able to pass on citizenship to any children they may have or they may adopt abroad as a direct result of their parents' service to this country.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no question that Crown servants abroad, including our military, have a connection to this country and we are confident that the changes proposed by Bill C-467 are consistent with the intent of Bill C-37.

There are a few issues with this bill that need to be examined. For example, the bill attempts to extend access to citizenship to the grandchildren of Crown servants by adding a new provision for children born abroad or adopted by Crown servants.

At the same time, it proposes to repeal a section of the act that currently allows all children born to a Crown servant outside Canada to be Canadians, regardless of the generation in which they were born outside Canada.

Similarly, right now, anyone born abroad or adopted by a Canadian parent who was born in Canada, whether or not that parent is a Crown servant, may apply for a grant of citizenship. The criteria for such a grant respect international obligations that are there to protect the best interests of the child and that respect the provincial jurisdiction on adoptions. Under Bill C-467 as it stands now, children adopted by Crown servants would no longer have to apply for a grant of citizenship, which could indeed be problematic.

Nevertheless, I am sure that all members would agree that the bill has a worthwhile objective and that, as Canadians, we should support our Crown servants posted abroad, especially and including military families, and recognize their sacrifice, their commitment and their strong connection to Canada.

That is why I am confident the intent of Bill C-467 can be achieved by expanding the current exception that exists under the law to ensure that the children of Crown servants, including Canadian Forces personnel, like children born in Canada, would be able to pass citizenship on to any children they have or adopt outside our country.

To ensure that the good intentions of Bill C-467 are achieved, I look forward to working co-operatively in the coming weeks with the member for Vancouver South, and all members, toward some constructive amendments.

We have a committee that is currently working on Bill C-11, the balanced refugee reform act. We are working our way through it. As members know, it is never easy at committee to come to a consensus on absolutely everything. I believe that bill is going to come back to this House, is going to be supported and is going to be passed. For the first time in decades we will have strong and positive change to our refugee act.

At the same time, I think the committee, with all four parties represented there, can come to some common agreement on the bill. The member has a critic who certainly has an open ear and a colleague who has an open ear to ensuring that we do what is right at committee.

I anticipate that we can do the same with this bill. I look forward to the day the member has the opportunity to present at committee and work with us on what I think will be amendments, necessary amendments nonetheless, that would ensure there are no unintended consequences with respect to this bill and the impact it would have on Canadians born abroad.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

May 26th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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St. Catharines Ontario


Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I just want to get some clarification on the end part of the mover's statement.

For us, the intent of this private member's bill is important. Going to committee obviously means that there will be some amendments made to the bill to move it back to the House for third reading. I really would like him to clarify that the intent of Bill C-37, which was enacted a couple of years ago, is something he supports and that this private member's bill actually gets at an area that we need to pay attention to and obviously make an addition to. That is the scope of his bill, and that is what he would like to have come to committee. It is based on nothing outside of that.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

March 8th, 2010 / 2:45 p.m.
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Calgary Southeast Alberta


Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, the member does herself a disservice with that kind of demagoguery.

This government, Parliament and the Liberal Party adopted Bill C-37 in the last Parliament to correct the Citizenship Act to welcome back to Canadian citizenship hundreds of thousands of lost Canadians.

It eliminated discrimination in the 1947 act on grounds of gender, which is why Don Chapman said that it ends 140 years of discrimination against women and children.

If the hon. member is against the changes that were made, why did her party support them without amendment?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

March 8th, 2010 / 2:40 p.m.
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Calgary Southeast Alberta


Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, we dealt with that during the last session of Parliament. We introduced Bill C-37, which received the support of all opposition parties and eliminated the discrimination previously found in the Citizenship Act.

This is what Don Chapman, spokesperson for Lost Canadians, had to say about it:

“This ends today”, the introduction of that bill, “140 years of discrimination against women and children on Canadian citizenship”.

I should add that, when the Liberals were in power, they did nothing to resolve the lost Canadians issue. They supported the solution set out in the bill during the last session of Parliament.