Strengthening the Value of Canadian Citizenship Act

An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.


Jason Kenney  Conservative


Second reading (House), as of June 10, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to
(a) allow certain persons who would be citizens but for the death of a parent to become citizens;
(b) allow the grandchildren of Canadians who have served abroad in or with the Canadian armed forces, the federal public administration or the public service of a province, otherwise than as a locally engaged person, to be citizens by descent or, if the grandchildren are adopted, to be eligible for citizenship under section 5.1;
(c) clarify the rule that citizenship may not be acquired after the first generation either by descent or, in the case of an adopted person, by way of a grant under section 5.1;
(d) clarify that, in most cases, applicants for citizenship must be physically present in Canada for a specified period immediately before their application;
(e) provide for a new judicial process to revoke the citizenship of a person who has obtained, retained, renounced or resumed citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances;
(f) provide for the opportunity to seek, in the context of the new judicial process, a declaration of inadmissibility leading to the deportation of the person whose citizenship is revoked;
(g) provide for the regulation of third-party involvement in the citizenship process;
(h) expand the prohibitions with respect to grants of citizenship to include convictions for and ongoing criminal proceedings with respect to foreign offences, as well as sentences served outside Canada; and
(i) provide for new offences, increase penalties and amend the limitation period.
It also makes consequential amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.


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 and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 24th, 2023 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

York Centre Ontario


Ya'ara Saks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to speak to the motion to concur in the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, with regard to expanding the scope of Bill S-245, which seeks to address lost Canadians.

While the bill is well intended in its aim to address the remaining lost Canadians, as drafted, it falls short of correcting what I see as the key challenges on this file. As a matter of fact, it is something that I spoke to in our first debate on this bill when it came to the House.

Before outlining the concerns that I have with Bill S-245 as written, I will briefly touch on the circumstances that led to the emergence of lost Canadians. The requirements and complexities of the first Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947, and former provisions of the current Citizenship Act, created cohorts of people who lost or never had citizenship status. They are referred to as “lost Canadians”.

To address this issue, changes to citizenship laws that came into force in 2009 and 2015 restored status or gave citizenship for the first time to the majority of lost Canadians. Before the 2009 amendments, people born abroad beyond the first generation, that is, born abroad to a Canadian parent who was also born abroad, were considered Canadian citizens at birth, but only until they turned 28 years old. This is sometimes referred to, as my colleague mentioned previously, as the “28-year rule”. If these individuals did not apply to retain their citizenship before they turned 28, they would automatically lose it. Some people were not even aware they had to meet these requirements and lost their citizenship unknowingly. These people who lost their citizenship because of this rule are often referred to as “the last cohort of the lost Canadians”. Since we began this debate in the chamber, many of them have written to me and other members of the immigration committee.

To prevent future losses, the age 28 rule was repealed in 2009. At the same time, the law was changed to establish a clear first-generation limit to the right of automatic citizenship by descent. This means that, today, children born outside Canada to a Canadian parent are Canadian citizens from birth if they have a parent who is either born in Canada or naturalized as a Canadian citizen. Unlike the former retention provisions of the Citizenship Act, those children do not need to do anything to keep their Canadian citizenship. Those born in the second or subsequent generations abroad do not automatically become Canadians at birth. This first-generation limit is firm on who does or does not have a claim to citizenship by descent.

I would like to lean into this with a personal experience I have had with this, with my own two daughters. As is well known, I am a citizen of two countries, born Canadian but raised in Israel. At a certain point in my early adulthood, I chose to return to Israel to be with my family there. I got married and had my eldest daughter. She was born there, and upon her birth I applied for Canadian citizenship for her. Subsequently, we returned to Canada, in approximately 2008, and my second daughter was born here in Toronto, where we live today, in York Centre. She also obviously has Canadian citizenship, having been born here. However, if my eldest daughter chooses for some reason to live elsewhere in the world, such as in Israel, where she is currently living this year, and if she has children, my grandchildren will not be Canadian, even though she has lived here the majority of her life. Although her core ties to Canada are clear and well committed to, she has lost the ability to confer that citizenship onto her children as a result of the Bill C-37 change that was made under the Harper government in 2009. Ironically, if my younger daughter, who was born here, were to have children abroad, they would automatically be Canadian, as she would be able to bestow upon them what I was able to bestow upon her. Herein lie some of the problems we have been discussing as colleagues in this House.

I can appreciate the work of Senator Martin in wanting to narrow it down to a specific group of individuals, but, frankly, as my colleague from the Bloc said, this is about dignity, compassion, and a sense of heritage and connection that is being stripped away from many, so I will continue to talk about this. There are many people who are born abroad or adopted from abroad to a Canadian parent beyond the first generation. These individuals are not citizens, but still feel they have a very close tie to Canada, just like my daughter does, and also see themselves as lost Canadians.

Currently, these individuals can only become Canadian citizens by going through the immigration process. That is to say, they must first qualify and then apply to become permanent residents. Then after the required time, they must apply to become citizens. In some specialized cases, people born abroad in the second generation are eligible to apply for a grant of citizenship, but only in exceptional circumstances.

Turning back to Bill S-245, though it is well-intentioned as written, it does not address some of the remaining lost Canadians. Bill S-245 is targeting only the lost Canadians who lost citizenship because of the age 28 rule for those who were born abroad after the first generation and had already turned 28 years old and lost their citizenship before the law changed in 2009.

The bill as written excludes people who applied to retain citizenship but were refused. This is an issue because those who never applies to keep their citizenship would have their citizenship restored by the bill as written, while those who took steps to retain their citizenship but were refused would not benefit from this bill. Recognizing that the age 28 rule was problematic for all, it is my hope that the committee will consider amendments to restore the citizenship status of all those impacted by the former age 28 rule, which has since been repealed.

The committee heard compelling testimony from witnesses that precisely highlighted the problem with excluding one of the cohorts impacted by the age 28 rule. As I understand it, the committee for immigration also received dozens of written submissions from stakeholders both inside and outside of Canada. As a matter of fact, some of those stakeholders have also written to me in light of my previous interventions in the chamber on this matter. It would seem that there were many people watching Bill S-245 closely, like me, as parents. What is interesting is that almost all of the written submissions point out the challenges that exist for people born abroad in the second generation or beyond.

Given the call from stakeholders, I feel strongly that the committee should be empowered to at least consider solutions for some of the other people who consider themselves to be lost Canadians. This is the subject of today's debate. Does the House support the request from committee to expand the scope of the bill to see what could be done for the other lost Canadians? I think we must support this.

My story with my daughters is really not unusual for many of the constituents I represent in York Centre whose children go back and forth between Israel and get married here or in the United States. The Jewish community has very close cross-border ties, and these families, like many Canadian families, sometimes have some fluidity due to faith, culture or language and have other strong connections. They are watching this closely as well.

That is why I think we should be supporting this, because those who were born to a Canadian parent abroad beyond the first generation, including those adopted from abroad, are not Canadian citizens but feel they should be because they have a strong connection to Canada, similar to my older daughter. To address these other lost Canadians, the bill could be amended by introducing a pathway to citizenship for people in this exact situation.

I was really disappointed to hear about the reaction by Conservative members when the motion to expand the scope of Bill S-245 was presented at committee. They are, of course, entitled to their opinion, but rather than give serious or substantive arguments about why the scope should or should not be expanded, some members took the opportunity to make threats about what they would do if the scope is expanded. This is actually very disappointing. The member for Calgary Nose Hill stated: we really want to have the immigration committee all of a sudden drop into a broader review of the Citizenship Act? If we are opening up this bill beyond the scope of what is here right now, I will propose amendments that are well beyond the scope of this bill. There are a lot of things I would like to see changed in the Citizenship Act. I will come prepared with those things, and we will be debating them.

I really take issue with this approach. I am not a member of the committee so I do not know what confidential amendments the members have already put on notice for the bill, but the Conservative member for Calgary Nose Hill absolutely does not have that information. We do know that. When she made these comments, she was fully aware of what members were going to propose.

Furthermore, the member for Vancouver East was pretty clear in her comments on the motion that she was not trying to make changes to some completely unrelated section of the Citizenship Act. As a matter of fact, she said that today as well. It is quite something for a member to threaten to overwhelm committee processes by trying to propose amendments that are, in her words, “well beyond the scope”.

I am disappointed, and it is unfortunate that the Conservatives are closed off to the urging they heard from stakeholders and that all members heard at committee from witnesses. I am not alone in having been put off by that fact, and I want to read into the record a communication that I understand was sent to committee members after the motion to expand the scope was moved at committee last Monday. I think it has a lot of meaning for all of us listening to this debate today. It says:

Dear Members of the Citizenship and Immigration committee of the House of Commons,

First I would like to thank the committee for taking the time to reflect on and discuss Bill S-245. Although the current language of the bill will have no effect on my status as a Lost Canadian, I am hopeful that this bill will help to pave the way for a path to citizenship for myself and others who are lost.

My story is like that of many other Lost Canadians. I live a life unfairly exiled from the country that my mother lives in. She lives alone in Haida Gwaii, and as she grows older, I wonder how I should be able to care for her, when it is illegal for me to live in the same country as her. I will not at this time speak to the immense pain, suffering and grief I live with every day.

I am not writing to you to tell you another story of a Lost Canadian. I am here instead, asking that the language you use while discussing Canadian citizenship be more sensitive and fair to those with ancestral ties to Canada. I do not believe it is the members intention to further marginalize those Canadians who have been stripped of their ties to Canada and it is for that reason that I make this plea to you all.

Time and time again, when discussing citizenship and lost Canadians, House members use the words “immigrant” and “citizen” as if they are interchangeable. The intent of Bill S-245 has nothing to do with immigration, and everything to do with citizenship. As a Lost Canadian, when I am referred to in the same sentence as someone looking to immigrate I am astounded. I am heartbroken. Above all, I fear that if we are constantly grouped together with those individuals looking to immigrate to Canada, that we will never be seen for who we really are—individuals who have been unjustly stripped of our birthright to Canadian Citizenship.

From an outside perspective it seems that the members inability to separate these two concepts—citizenship vs. immigration—while trying to address the issue being studied in bill S-245 is creating divisiveness over expanding the bill to make it fair and just for those of us who have been unfairly stripped of, or denied our birthright to Canadian citizenship.... It is disingenuine to speak of this as if it were an immigration issue. [Such language]...continues to reinforce the emotional damage and trauma we experience daily living in exile.

It goes on:

The intent of bill S-245 is to extend Canadian citizenship. To threaten amendments to Bill S-245 such as mandating in person citizenship ceremonies, is not only ridiculously out of scope for this bill, it is insulting to the masses of Lost Canadians simply looking to return home.

I understand that the complexities surrounding this issue of Lost Canadians and second generation born abroad Canadians make the situation difficult to understand. But until the members of this committee, those with the most influence on legislation regarding citizenship can themselves make the distinction between “Citizenship” and “Immigration” there will be no clear path forward for those of us who are lost.

So I beg of you. Lost Canadians are not immigrants. We are Canadians. The language used by the members should reflect that. The words spoken in this moment have much weight for those of us who are suffering. Please see us for who we are so that you may more fully open your minds and hearts, and let us in.... If you can see us as the Canadians we are then I believe this issue can be dealt with more clearly. This cannot be an issue where members let their views, beliefs or desires regarding—

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 24th, 2023 / 3:45 p.m.
See context


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

moved that the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration presented on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this important motion before the House, the concurrence motion.

What we are dealing with is essentially seeking authority from the House to expand the scope of Bill S-245. Bill S-245 is a Senate bill that is before the House to address the situation of those who are commonly known as “lost Canadians”. Bill S-245 would amend the Citizenship Act to allow Canadians who previously lost their citizenship due to the age 28 rule to regain their citizenship. The age 28 rule means that second-generation Canadians born abroad were subject to the laws of citizenship under the former section 8 of the Citizenship Act, which required them to apply to certify their citizenship before they turned 28 years old.

In 2009 the Conservatives repealed this section through Bill C-37. However, the legislation did not restore citizenship to those who lost their citizenship prior to 2009. This oversight created major problems for many Canadians, as they somehow could lose their citizenship status as they turned 28. Many of them actually did not even know that was the situation they were faced with. It was only when applying for their passport, for example, that they realized they had lost their citizenship.

Bill S-245 seeks to fix the age 28 rule. However, the rule does not address other situations where Canadians have lost their citizenship. The archaic provisions of the Citizenship Act have resulted in many other lost Canadians, and New Democrats seek to actually fix this problem.

Mr. Speaker, 14 years ago, Bill C-37 passed in this House and came into force, and as a result of that, many people lost their citizenship rights. In fact, it created a scenario where Canada's Citizenship Act, for this group of lost Canadians, in many ways was not charter-compliant. For decades some Canadians have found themselves even to be stateless due to a number of these archaic immigration laws.

In 2007, the UN's Refugees magazine listed Canada as one of the top offending countries for making its own people stateless. In 2009, as I mentioned, the Conservatives said that they were going to fix the lost Canadian issue with Bill C-37. Sadly, this did not happen. Worse still, the Conservatives created a brand new group of lost Canadians, and today we have an opportunity before us to fix that.

Bill S-245, the bill that was introduced by Senator Martin, is now before the committee for citizenship and immigration, and the bill aims to address this group of lost Canadians, lost due to the age 28 rule. I want to be very clear that the NDP wholeheartedly supports ensuring those who one day woke up and found themselves without Canadian status are made whole. This absolutely needs to be done. However, it is the NDP's strongest view that the scope of Bill S-245 is too narrow. The NDP wants to seize this opportunity to fix the lost Canadian issue once and for all.

Currently, there is a large group of Canadians who are deemed to be second-class citizens, due to the Conservatives' first-generation cut-off rule brought on by the Harper administration in 2009. Bill C-37 ended the extension of citizenship to second-generations born abroad. By stripping their right to pass on citizenship to their children if they were born outside of Canada, the Canadian government has caused undue hardship to many families. For some, it means separating children from parents. Some even find themselves stateless.

I spoke with Patrick Chandler. He is a Canadian who, while born abroad, spent most of his life in Canada. As an adult, he worked abroad, married someone from another country and had children. He was later offered a job in British Columbia. When he moved back to Canada, he had to leave his wife and children behind because he could not pass on his citizenship to his children. He had to go through an arduous process to finally reunite with them a year later.

There are many families being impacted in this way, and it is wrong. We should not put Canadians in those kinds of situations, yet here we are and that is what they have to suffer through. There are many families being impacted.

Another family faced with this situation is the family of Emma Kenyon. In fact, Emma lived here in Canada, as did her husband. However, they worked abroad and they met abroad. They had a child abroad. That child is stateless because neither Emma nor her husband has status in that country. They are now in a situation where they have a stateless child born to a Canadian. This is so wrong, and we need to fix this problem. Immigration officials said to them at the time that, before their child was born, they had a choice. They could actually travel back to Canada and have their child be born in Canada.

This, of course, did not make any sense. It was during the COVID period, when, basically, it was unsafe for her to travel. If Emma did travel back to Canada, she would be without a family doctor or a gynecologist to care for her pregnancy. None of that made any sense, but that is what she was told to do. Of course, she did not risk the birth of her child in that situation. She did not risk her own health either. As a result, her child was born abroad and is now in a stateless situation. It should never have been this way.

Families are so frustrated with these archaic immigration laws, especially with the stripping of the rights of immigrants having children born abroad. Those rights were stripped because of the Conservatives’ Bill C-37. Families are now taking the government to court to address this inequity. The Conservatives deemed first-generation Canadians born abroad to be less worthy and less Canadian, even though many had grown up in Canada. The implications are so serious that people are taking the government to court.

At the citizenship and immigration committee, when the opportunity arises, I will be moving amendments to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else. The NDP amendments would ensure that first-generation, born-abroad Canadians would have the right to pass on their citizenship rights to their children based on a connections test. They would also retroactively restore citizenship to persons who have not been recognized as citizens since the second-generation cut-off rule was enacted in 2009.

The same principles would apply to adoptees as well. We need to make sure that individuals and families that adopt children are not going to be caught in this bad situation. For those who do not wish to have citizenship conferred upon them, upon notification to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, these changes would not apply to them.

This will mean that people like Patrick, whom I mentioned, and people like Emma and her family would not have to suffer the challenges they face as a result of Bill C-37’s stripping of their rights.

In addition to the amendments related to the first-generation cut-off rule, I will also be moving amendments to symbolically recognize those who died before citizenship was conferred upon them. For example, many of Canada's war heroes fought and died for Canada. However, they were never recognized as Canadians. The NDP amendments would also honour them and recognize them as citizens, retroactive to birth.

The situation with what I call “war heroes” is this. The first Governor General of Canada, in 1867, right after Confederation, said that Canadians were a new “nationality”. However, according to Canada's immigration laws, Canadian citizenship did not exist prior to January 1, 1947. That means that no soldiers who fought and died for Canada in battles like Vimy Ridge or D-Day are deemed to be Canadians.

Bill C-37 was supposed to fix this, but it did not happen. Don Chapman, who has fought for so long on the issue of lost Canadians and trying to rectify those concerns, indicated that “the government has confirmed they're leaving out all the war dead [pre-1947]. So, the war dead in Canada were really just British. We might as well just scratch the Maple Leaf off their headstones.”

Symbolically recognizing those who fought for Canada and ensuring that they are recognized as citizens would have zero implications, no legal consequence whatsoever or liability for the government. It is really a strictly symbolic gesture, and it is an important one, especially for family members of loved ones who fought and died for Canada. I see some of these family members on Remembrance Day every year. Many veterans went to war and fought for Canada, and never came back. We should remember them as Canadians.

Beyond this, there are a couple of other categories of lost Canadians, who, due to one of the discriminatory rules, such as the gender discrimination rule that existed in Canada, were not recognized as citizens. The NDP's amendments would aim to fix that as well. Suffice it to say, there are long lists of people who have been hurt by this set of rules, and successive governments have said they would fix it. However, it never came to be. Now we have a chance to actually do that work. It is important we do that work now.

I fear that the Conservatives would not support this effort. At committee, when the senator and the sponsor of the bill were before us at committee to talk about this bill, the Conservatives indicated they wanted to just ensure the bill would be left as is and address only the 28-year rule, not deal with the other categories of lost Canadians. To me, that is wrong. Their argument is that it is too complicated, that we do not have time and that if the matter goes back before the Senate, then an election might be called and the bill might just die. That is, of course, if the Conservatives want that to happen.

We could actually work together, collaboratively, to say that we are going to fix this problem once and for all, for lost Canadians. We want to make sure that people like Emma Kenyon, whose child was born stateless, would never be in that situation. We could actually make that happen by amending the bill.

I know that Conservative members, even their leader, would say that they support the immigrant community and that they are there for them. If they are there for them, first, I would say that Bill C-37 should never have stripped of their rights the immigrants who became Canadians, such as myself. If I had a child born abroad, my child should have citizenship conferred upon them. The Conservatives took that away. We have a chance today to fix that, to say that immigrants, such as myself, would be able to have the same rights as those who were born in Canada, and be able to pass on their citizenship rights to their children born abroad.

To be sure that there is a connection between individuals like that, we could put forward a connections test, such as, for example, having been in Canada for 1,095 days. This happens to be the same number of days required, through the Citizenship Act, for people getting their citizenship. We could put in provisions like that to ensure there is a clear connection between them and Canada. There is no reason to say that we are not going to do any of this and that we are just going to strip them of their rights and not recognize them. Let us fix this once and for all.

April 17th, 2023 / 4:15 p.m.
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Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Madam Chair, hopefully it's not a personality conflict and a political issue, because I want to commend what Mr. Kmiec said about Senator Martin. I have had the opportunity to work with her over the past many years because she's from British Columbia, and I have seen her working across party lines and being very reasonable. I certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for her.

I hope Madam Kwan had discussions with her as well before she brought this amendment. On the other hand, what Madam Kwan is saying about Bill C-37 hit home. You know, I remember those days. There was much uproar in the community. My own brother is a Canadian citizen working for a Canadian company. His son was born outside of the country, and it hit us at home as well. Certainly, when it comes to Bill C-37, which was passed in 2009 under that government, it was not a perfect bill either. That left many Canadians out.

If we look at it this way, there is a fair chance to have further conversations.

March 27th, 2023 / 5:40 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

It's not necessarily the case that we can't shepherd this through. If there's the political will to do so, we can do so. I heard comments about bureaucrats and bureaucrats do their thing, but what happened here with lost Canadians is this. Under Bill C-37 it was the politicians of the day who stripped the rights of Canadians of passing on their citizenship with the second-generation rule cut-off. It's the politicians who did that.

Here we have a situation where we have an opportunity to make changes for the better, to restore the people who've had their rights taken away. Should we not take every chance to make them whole, as was indicated through the impact of the families and how children have been impacted and left languishing because they've lost their rights and been rejected? Should we not take every opportunity, right now, to actually make them whole and to address this question?

March 27th, 2023 / 5:35 p.m.
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Founder and Head, Lost Canadians

Don Chapman

This should be a birthright and it has nothing to do with immigration. By the way, when they did take away rights, that goes against what's called the Interpretation Act, which says you cannot obliterate rights, and that's what happened in Bill C-37.

March 27th, 2023 / 5:35 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses.

I want to make a distinction about lost Canadians versus immigrants. With lost Canadians, we're talking about when Bill C-37 came in and took away the right of passing your citizenship on to your descendants for second generation born and on. It's the loss of those individuals' birthrights. Immigrants are people like me, who immigrated to Canada, and through the naturalization process became a citizen.

I just want to hear from the witnesses on the distinction between those two things. What are we talking about here when we're talking about lost Canadians? Are we talking about people's birthrights that have been taken away from them?

The question is to both Mr. Chapman and Mr. Emery.

March 27th, 2023 / 4:40 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you.

Yes, the form of the bill in its current state does not address it. Of course, what would be required would be amendments to the bill to address those properly.

I get it. We can always wait and wait, but as we wait people's lives are being destroyed.

I know, Mr. Hallan, that you would not want people's lives destroyed and that you would want them to be able to be united with their loved ones. Some of them are separated from their loved ones right now and are unable to come to Canada, because they are immobilized because of the bill changes from C-37. We would want to fix that expeditiously, one would assume.

I want to turn for a moment to this bill on the age 28 rule. The age 28 rule also meant that for people who applied before age 28 but were denied because they were not able to meet the residency rule due to the grant process and the residency rule, those people's lives have been destroyed. This bill does not—

March 27th, 2023 / 4:35 p.m.
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Senator, British Columbia, C

Yonah Martin

We have our laws as is because of previous bills such as Bill C-37 and Bill C-24. What you're talking about is not captured in the bill that is before us. I won't comment on what makes more sense or not, but rather say that, for this specific bill, it's really addressing those who are captured by the age 28 rule. I ask the committee to support the bill.

March 27th, 2023 / 4:20 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you.

Of course, luckily, we will actually have experts who will come after this panel. Don Chapman, as you mentioned, has spent his entire life, virtually, fighting for this issue. He has actually brought, to share with all of us, this nifty little thing to tell us all about it. The matter, of course, has actually been looked at by committee at different times, with Bill C-37, Bill C-24 and so on. This has been debated over and over again.

What we do know is that there is a group of citizens who lost their “Canadianness” because of Bill C-37 repealing their right, so we need to make them whole. In fact, as a result of that, a group of Canadians are suing the government at the moment. As we speak, people's lives are being destroyed because of being separated from their loved ones. They can't come to Canada to live their lives.

I appreciate that we have time, but really we don't because people's lives are being impacted. I feel the urgency of the families who want to bring this forward.

What I'm hearing from you, though, is that you don't object to trying to fix this. Therefore, I certainly hope we at the committee will try to do that, because I think it is important to try to fix things so that people's lives are not being destroyed.

With respect to the age 28 rule, with the amendments you have brought forward there are still a couple of gaps, which the officials indicated when they presented to us last week. If the committee members were to bring amendments to fix those gaps for the age 28 rule, would you have any objection to that?

March 27th, 2023 / 4:05 p.m.
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Senator, British Columbia, C

Yonah Martin

As I read the Evidence from last week's committee, I saw the issues that were raised by the officials. The official was asked on what basis the application may have been denied with regard to those who applied to get their citizenship after the adoption of Bill C-37. There were several reasons that applicants were denied Canadian citizenship. The officials you heard from were not able to quantify what those exceptions were or why people were excluded decades ago.

For me, I would say that focusing on those who did not realize that they could apply, on the age 28 rule and on those who had not yet applied.... With regard to those who did and were rejected, those reasons could be serious. We don't know what they are. I'm not sure that we should open that door. I would just say that, if we adopt it as is, it would cover those who have been impacted by the age 28 rule.

March 27th, 2023 / 4 p.m.
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Senator, British Columbia, C

Yonah Martin

Thank you for the question.

Yes, this is the second iteration of the bill. The first one, Bill S-230, died on the Order Paper. I don't even remember the year, but it was a few years ago. This is the second attempt, and it has reached this committee. I'm very pleased we are here, at this stage, and I thank all members for their attention to this bill.

The lost Canadians issue is decades old. As I said, I came across an individual, Don Chapman, with whom, I'm sure, some of you also met. He's quite a champion, because he was a lost Canadian. From that point of view, he has been very tireless. I've been educated through my meetings with him and in looking at some of the details of how we have groups of individuals who became lost and who need to be reinstated.

There are other categories of lost Canadians, for sure. To look at that separately would require government legislation, perhaps—other bills put forward. I know there have been piecemeal attempts in the past as well. For this specific bill, I decided to start with a very small cohort. It made sense, as they had already turned age 28 by the time Bill C-37 came into effect. Therefore, even though it was grandfathered to those who hadn't yet turned 28, those who did were left out.

That seemed like a natural group to address first. I looked at all the other categories, but this one seemed, I'd say, the least contentious or most obvious. That's why, I think, in the Senate, with my Senate colleagues, and before committee, the first time around, we didn't have any officials raising concerns. They just couldn't answer how many people would get captured, should this bill be adopted.

We don't know the exact numbers. The officials before the committee, last week, attempted to answer some of that. That's why it's very focused. I hope this committee and the House can get behind this bill. We are very close.

March 27th, 2023 / 3:55 p.m.
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Yonah Martin Senator, British Columbia, C

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Good evening, colleagues.

It's a honour for me to speak to you about this Senate public bill. Bill S-245, formerly Bill S-230, is an act to amend the Citizenship Act to permit certain persons who lost their Canadian citizenship to regain citizenship. The bill is about a group of Canadians. I say, “Canadians”, but they are lost Canadians until we are able to reinstate their citizenship rightfully.

I am a proud, naturalized Canadian. I was born in South Korea and first arrived in Vancouver in 1972. I became a citizen five years later. I understand the value, the symbolism and the importance of our citizenship. I come to you today humbly as a naturalized Canadian and someone who came across this important group of lost Canadians and their plight. I know that there are other groups as well, which I have learned, and I've been able to work on them with Don Chapman, who is here as one of the witnesses today. I know that he is a true champion of lost Canadians.

This Senate bill addresses a specific gap in the Citizenship Act to capture a group of Canadians, or lost Canadians, who lost their status or became stateless because of changes to policy.

In 1977, the Citizenship Act added a new provision that applied only to second-generation Canadians born abroad on or after February 15, 1977. In order to keep their citizenship, these individuals had to reaffirm their status before their 28th birthday. This law was passed and then forgotten. The government never published a retention form. There were no instructions on how an individual would reaffirm their Canadian citizenship, and those affected were never told a retention requirement even existed.

In 2009, the Citizenship Act was amended by Bill C-37. It was one of the first government bills that I had a chance to study as a member of the committee that studied Bill C-37. This change saw the age 28 rule repealed entirely. Canadians caught up in the age 28 rule but who had not yet reached the age of 28 were grandfathered in. However, what I didn't fully realize at that time was that Bill C-37 did not include Canadians who were born abroad between 1977 and 1981, essentially those who had already turned 28 before the passage of Bill C-37 in 2009. Today the age 28 retention rule still remains in effect only for those second-generation Canadians born inside a 50-month window from February 15, 1977, to April 16, 1981, those who had already turned 28 when that age 28 rule was repealed through Bill C-37.

Many of these individuals were raised in Canada from a young age. They were born abroad. Some, like me, came to Canada much younger, such as at two months of age. They went to school in Canada, they raised their families in Canada, and they worked and paid taxes in Canada, yet they turned 28 without knowing that their citizenship would be stripped from them because of the change in policy from that previous bill I spoke about. Bill S-245 will allow these Canadians to continue their lives without fear, knowing that they are valued and supported by reinstating them as Canadians.

Again I would like to acknowledge the work of Don Chapman, a tireless advocate and champion for lost Canadians who will appear before you later today.

Colleagues, Bill S-245 received unanimous support in the Senate, and today I invite your support of this bill here in the House of Commons committee.

I would also like to acknowledge MP Jasraj Hallan, the sponsor of the bill in the House of Commons, and thank him for his work and dedication to helping lost Canadians and to this bill, which will reinstate citizenship to a group of lost Canadians who have always been Canadians and rightfully deserve to be given back their citizenship.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention MP Jenny Kwan, who has also been a tireless champion on this particular issue.

Thank you, colleagues.

March 20th, 2023 / 4:10 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Thank you to the officials for being here today.

For sure, this Citizenship Act is a complex file, with so many changes over the years that amendments brought to the table often require amendments to the exception to the exception and so on. It's extremely confusing.

From my perspective, first off, I'd like to say that we have before us Bill S-245, and I want to acknowledge and thank Senator Yonah Martin for bringing this before us, because it gives us an opportunity to look into this issue and see how we can fix some of the problems. Maybe it will never be possible to fix all of the problems, but I think it will be important and incumbent on all of us to do our very best to try to fix as many problems as possible.

I appreciate the briefing in terms of your highlighting some of those areas. On the question around unintended consequences, I'd like to probe a little bit deeper into this issue around other countries, where, if you were to confer citizenship to the individual, it might cause them a heap of trouble, because in whatever country they might be in they may not be allowed to, for example, have dual citizenship.

Of course, conferring citizenship automatically in this way was done before. It was done under Bill C-37, it was done under Bill C-24 and so on. Somehow it was dealt with in those previous scenarios. I get it that times might have changed. There might be more people living globally, but nonetheless the premise of that has not changed.

Can you advise us on how officials addressed those issues back then? Why was it okay then to confer citizenship without these concerns of unintended consequences, but now it is a key concern?

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
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Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, today I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-245. I want to extend my thanks to my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois who just spoke.

The New Democrats vote in favour of policies that are good for Canadians and will, of course, oppose those that do not. This is one of the bills that the New Democrats do stand in favour of.

This bill would fix a very old problem in Canada that has contributed to the pain and suffering of families on a really basic question of who they are and of their identities. It is a shame that our country has done this, and it is now time that we remedy it. However, the bill must go much further.

Indigenous people in Canada have long welcomed folks from other parts of the world so that they may find refuge, peace and prosperity here in our lands. That has been the promise of indigenous people to others for generations. However, that promise is foregone and broken when policies, particularly of this place, break that solemn commitment and force people into the worst states they can imagine. Sometimes they are deported or, worse, pass away.

Today we are talking about those lost Canadians, individuals who have been stripped of their Canadian citizenship because of arcane provisions. That is not to say this bill would fix all of Canada's immigration problems, of which there are many. It is simply a fix for an amendment that took place in 1977.

The Prime Minister has said, “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” However, this is sadly not the reality for lost Canadians. Our laws continue to enforce a tiered approach to citizenship. According to the United Nations, Canada is a leading offender of making citizens stateless, and this is simply unacceptable.

It is long past time for Canada to right these wrongs by fixing our laws so that nobody is forced to once again lose their Canadian citizenship. Bill S-245 is a step in the right direction. It is a step that the New Democrats have called for and fully support. However, this legislation leaves many behind and does not go far enough. What we need is to fix the issue of lost Canadians once and for all.

Bill S-245 seeks to fix the long-standing issue of the age 28 rule. What is the age 28 rule? The age 28 rule was introduced, as I mentioned, in 1977 in the Citizenship Act, and it meant that second-generation Canadians born abroad had to reaffirm their citizenship status before their 28th birthday. It seems simple enough, but here is the catch: The government never published a retention form. It also never instructed those individuals that they had to reaffirm, and those affected were never told a retention requirement even existed, which is a shame.

Imagine someone who has been a Canadian citizen for their entire life. They shop in grocery stores in their community, send their kids to school, go to community plays and do all the things that everyone else in the community is doing. However, terribly enough, they are sent away to a police station and are informed they no longer have citizenship. This in fact happened here in Canada.

In 2015, Pete Giesbrecht of Manitoba was sent to the police and informed that he had just 30 days to leave the country or he would be deported. This caused shock and disbelief. Even when reading the words today I am shocked. He had carried his citizenship for 29 years and had lived in Canada since he was seven years old. However, because he was born in Mexico to Canadian parents who were also born abroad, the age 28 rule applied.

To regain his citizenship, his Canadian-born wife sponsored him and spent thousands of dollars on legal fees. No one should ever have to go through this. However, because of convoluted and arcane provisions in the Canadian immigration laws, people in this country have been unjustly stripped of their citizenship, an injustice that must end.

New Democrats have raised this issue for years, but successive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to address the issue. The Conservatives have even managed to make the situation worse. The Conservatives said they were going to fix this issue when they were in government and introduced a bill entitled Bill C-37 over a decade ago. The bill did remove the age 28 rule. That was very good, but it was not applied going forward. Therefore, it did not allow Canadians who had already lost their citizenship to regain it. Those who turned 28 prior to 2009 were simply left behind.

When Bill C-37 was introduced, the Conservatives had an opportunity to help lost Canadians and fix this problem, the problem we are debating here today. However, the bill failed to close the gaps in our laws for thousands. Even worse, it created a two-tier system of citizenship, with second-generation born Canadians losing their ability to pass on citizenship to their children altogether. It was a shame. This is simply discriminatory and wrong.

In fact, today's legislation is the subject of a charter challenge calling on the government to change these discriminatory practices. Bill S-245, as presented, would leave these Canadians behind again. New Democrats will be putting forth amendments to finally address these outstanding issues, and I call on my colleagues and members of the House to look at these amendments and to truly help us fix this system and to stop the second generation cut-off so that second-generation Canadians born abroad can continue to pass on their citizenship to children, a very basic part of their family's identity and reunification.

There are also war heroes who have been left out. The first Governor General of Canada in 1867, right after Confederation, said that they had just created a new nationality called Canadian citizenship, yet according to Canada's immigration laws, Canadian citizenship did not exist prior to January 1, 1947. That means no soldiers who fought and died for Canada in battles like Vimy Ridge or D-Day are Canadian. Bill C-37 failed to fix this. In reference to Bill C-37, Don Chaplain said, on February 7, 2014, “And the government has confirmed they’re leaving out all the war dead [pre-1947]. So, the war dead in Canada were really just British. We might as well just scratch the Maple Leaf off their headstones”. It would be fitting to recognize these hero soldiers as having been Canadian soldiers, especially when, in law, they were.

It is time that we truly address the backlog of over 1.8 million applications. It was just mentioned in this debate that, when we are talking about immigration in Canada, we have to take a sympathetic and compassionate approach to ensure families and communities, and particularly children, are protected. When we talk about making sure our immigration system is robust and strong, it also means looking at and addressing the issues of the past. These hundreds of Canadians who no longer have their citizenship deserve to have the dignity that comes with being Canadian, and that includes the protections of our Constitution and our charter.

To be a Canadian citizen is truly a blessing, and one that indigenous people for generations have fought to ensure is a right that is strong and recognized. This has to be protected for all persons, and particularly those lost Canadians who continue every day to struggle without these basic human rights.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise to speak. Some issues I really enjoy having the opportunity to talk about because I can relate them to my constituency. In this case, I can relate it not only to my constituency, but to having been a former critic of citizenship and immigration for the Liberal Party when it was in opposition as the third party and being very familiar with Minister Kenney, even though I was not around when he made that specific change.

I want to share a few thoughts. One is directly on the issue before us and another on citizenship in general.

The member across the way gave a personal experience, and that is great. We can really learn a lot when members share personal stories of how something affected them. I appreciated what my colleague from York Centre had to say. It really makes the issue relatively simple to understand.

Let us say the member for York Centre, a Canadian, has a child in Israel. Two years later, that child lives in Canada with the member. The member then has a second daughter, who is born in Canada. The only difference between her two daughters is that one spent the first two years of her life in Israel. Imagine that her two daughters are growing up and, for whatever reason, maybe one of them decides to leave Canada and spend some time in Paris, a wonderful city no doubt. If it happens to be the member's first daughter and that daughter has a child in Paris, that child would not be a Canadian citizen, whereas if her second child were to move to Paris and have a child, that child would be a Canadian citizen.

That is not necessarily an anomaly. A number of those situations have arisen because of legislation, which has already been referred to, Bill C-37, that the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper brought in and passed. Many people are in that position and, sadly, as the former speaker just highlighted, would not even know it. They would be going along in their own way thinking they are Canadian citizens until a day when maybe they need to communicate with the federal government, perhaps about a passport or some other issue that would require citizenship, and then it might come to the surface that they are a second generation and, therefore, should not have Canadian citizenship. The Canadian citizenship would then be taken away.

I do not think anyone among us would deny the opportunity for the member for York Centre's first-born daughter to move to Paris and spend a few years or however long there. Not having her child classified as a Canadian citizen would be unfair.

In looking at the legislation today, it is interesting, but we need to recognize that ministerial discretionary authority is already in place. I could not say with 100% certainty how all-encompassing it is, but from what I understand, there are dozens of cases of lost Canadians that the minister is able to deal with. I am very encouraged by that because I was not aware of that happening when I was the critic for immigration and citizenship for the Liberal Party when it had third party status. I know for a fact that over the last couple of years, citizenships have been granted to lost citizens.

Is there a way this can be improved upon? That is why we are having this debate today and there will be another hour of debate. Suffice to say that I generally believe that individuals inside this chamber understand and appreciate the importance of Canadian citizenship. As the member quoted, he has his own citizenship card. Many, possibly all of us, in terms of the pandemic, have had the opportunity to see that sense of pride that immigrants often display during citizenship courts.

Canada is a country that is very dependent on immigration. In my own home province of Manitoba, the population would have decreased if it were not for immigration to our province in the last 15 years. Immigrants have built our country. We need to have well thought-out policies and a system of fairness, a system that ensures that permanent residents become citizens.

I enjoy it when I have an opportunity to participate in citizenship courts. I remember, very vividly, a young lady being sworn in of Filipino heritage with a Canadian flag wrapped around her as they sang the national anthem for the very first time as a Canadian citizen. It brings tears to the eyes of many when we witness that. Citizenship is the greatest thing that we can provide. People will wear the Canadian flag with pride when they travel to Europe or other countries around the world as Canada is seen as the greatest country in the world to live. We might all be somewhat biased.

These are the types of issues that come up when we think of citizenship and everything that is acquired. I go back to the residents of Winnipeg North, with many first generation immigrants participating in those citizenship courts. Virtually every weekend I am meeting with permanent residents who I know some day will become Canadian citizens.

It takes 1,095 days to become a Canadian citizen. That means three years. There is a bit of a calculation. Technically, it is a minimum of three years in the last five years from the moment when one puts their application in that one has to reside in Canada. There are some issues even within that. I have brought up the issue, for example, of long-haul truck drivers, ones that drive back and forth between Canada and the United States. I want to ensure that people, and families in particular, are provided that opportunity to get citizenship because I have seen the value of that. I understand and appreciate Canada's diversity. It is second to no other country. I want to make sure that we get it right.

We have to ensure the integrity of the citizenship process. That is, in fact, priority one for me in recognizing how important it is that lost Canadians are, in fact, being provided the opportunity to have that citizenship as quickly as possible. That is why I believe in ministerial discretionary authority. If there are examples that members have, they should not hesitate to bring up those examples with the minister in question, no matter what happens in terms of debate on this particular piece of legislation. We all want to make sure that the people who are entitled to have it should have it. There are examples that I think we really need to work through.