I'm an adoptive parent and a past board member of the Children's Bridge Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Children's Bridge.
I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak here today on a subject that's very important to me, my family, and thousands of other Canadian families with adopted children from other countries.
Canada, of course, is a nation of immigrants. Haitian-born Michaëlle Jean came here as a child refugee some 40 years ago, and now serves as Canada's 27th Governor General. Countless other immigrants, whether famous or not, have made significant contributions to their adopted country. They've served in Parliament, started companies, taught in schools, created art, policed our streets, grown our food and infrastructure, and raised civic-minded families.
I too immigrated here from the United States in 1976. To me, Canada represented multiculturalism, equality, justice, multi-party democracy, progressive social policy, and a voice of reason in an increasingly hostile world. I worked as a journalist here for nearly 30 years, and in that time I have never regretted my decision to become part of this great country. But lately I have been troubled by some aspects of Bill C-37, which ostensibly and laudably restores citizenship rights to so-called lost Canadians, but also perhaps unintentionally creates two-tiered Canadian citizenship.
My Canadian-born wife, Pamela, and I have two daughters. Bridget, born in Toronto in 1990, who will be entering her second year at the University of Western Ontario this September, and Nina, born in Zhangjiagang, China, in 1998, who is a grade five student at Clinton Street Junior Public School in Toronto. Nina, thankfully, is not subject to Bill C-37, and has the same citizenship rights as her Canadian-born sister.
I'm here today to speak for the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of other children who will not be so fortunate.
When Canadians adopt internationally, they give their children their surname, their love, their emotional and financial support, and their citizenship. With the passage of Bill C-37, however, thousands of foreign adopted children become second-class citizens. Unlike their Canadian-born siblings and friends, they've been stripped of the right to pass on Canadian citizenship to their own children born or adopted abroad.
To make matters worse, this deplorable situation seems to hinge on the mere method by which these foreign adopted children acquire Canadian citizenship in the first place. One group of children who come to Canada on a permanent resident visa and subsequently obtain citizenship through naturalization are not subject to Bill C-37. In other words, they're considered first-class citizens with the rights that most of us here enjoy. However, a second group that acquires citizenship by grant through direct route, the most popular method since December 2007, are subject to Bill C-37. In other words, they become second-class citizens with no right to pass on their Canadian citizenship to future generations born or adopted abroad.
My question is, why? What possible reason could the framers of this bill have to distinguish between these two groups of adopted children? Commenting on the intent of the bill, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, has stated that the government wants to limit the right of citizenship to “those people who have some kind of enduring presence or commitment to Canada”.
If so, what's the evidence that the second group of children, the foreign adopted ones who acquired citizenship through the direct route, will not have an enduring presence or commitment to Canada? Are they more likely than other Canadians, such as Liberal Party of Canada Leader Michael Ignatieff, to live abroad for vast periods of their lives? Are they less likely than other Canadians, such as the 40% or so who don't even both to vote in federal elections, to be committed to this country?
I'd like to remind the committee that many countries, including China, revoke the citizenship of a child upon foreign adoption. If these adopted children are not Canadian, then what are they? Their only national allegiance is to their adopted country.
I've come here today to respectfully ask you to right this injustice. In attempting to bolster the value of Canadian citizenship, Bill C-37 diminishes the rights of many foreign-adopted children. In so doing, it tarnishes Canada's international reputation as a champion of human rights.