An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians)

Status

In committee (House), as of Nov. 16, 2022

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to permit certain persons who lost their Canadian citizenship to regain it.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

Nov. 16, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill S-245, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians)

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2022 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 3:15 p.m., pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill S-245 under Private Members' Business.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from November 4 consideration of the motion 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.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2022 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Jasraj Singh Hallan Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Madam Speaker, I will not take up too much time today. I want to thank all of my colleagues who rose and spoke in favour of Bill S-245. It is a very important bill. Although we all recognize that it pertains to a small number of people who want to become Canadian, it is very important that we get this done.

I want to again thank my Senate colleague, Senator Yonah Martin, as well as Don Chapman and many others, not only for advocating for this bill, but for their hard work and perseverance to get the bill to this stage today.

I want to say that Bill S-245 is very important for the many who were stripped of their citizenship because of administrative errors and government failures from the past, when all they wanted to do was renew their passports, but I will keep it short.

I encourage all my colleagues to support this. Let us get it to committee stage. Let us get it done.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2022 / 2 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasir Naqvi Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I enjoy being recognized as the member for Ottawa Centre, because those are the great people who have given me the opportunity to serve them in this place. As always, every single day it is an honour to represent my community.

I am thrilled to speak on Bill S-245. I heard the comments of members who spoke on it and I too speak in support of the bill. I am a proud Canadian and very much like my friend from Calgary Shepard, I was not born in Canada. I came from a country where my parents were also politically persecuted and had to find a new place to live where they could live freely. My family and I came to Canada in 1988 and one of the greatest attractions of Canada was the rights and freedoms that are protected in Canada, especially by virtue of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an incredibly important constitutional document that protects all of our rights.

I will be honest in saying that I stand here today with a heavy heart as a Canadian citizen, one day after, in my home province of Ontario, those rights were taken away from hard-working education workers by the invocation of the notwithstanding clause in back-to-work legislation by the provincial government, led by Premier Doug Ford. That is not the country my parents wanted to come to, where rights, in such a cavalier manner, could be taken away by the majority members of a Parliament. Rights are sacrosanct. They should always be protected. That is what makes us truly Canadian.

I want to give a big shout-out to all education workers across the province of Ontario who are picketing right now, demanding that their rights be restored so that there can be collective bargaining in a good-faith manner with the government, so that they can be in classrooms and so that all children can be in classrooms getting the best education they deserve from our system.

Bill S-245 is an important bill. As I mentioned earlier, I am supportive of the bill, but it really deals with a very small segment of “lost Canadians”, as has been described by other members, through the age 28 rule. There are many other new classifications of what I would say are lost Canadians as a result of changes that were made to the Citizenship Act in 2009.

The one that is really close to my heart, the one that I have heard about from quite a few constituents, is the rule that says that a child born outside of Canada after April of 2009 to a parent who is a Canadian citizen is not a Canadian citizen at birth if their parent was born outside of Canada and inherited their own citizenship because one of their parents was Canadian at the time of their birth. Imagine that. For example, I was not born in Canada but I became a Canadian citizen. If I became a parent again and that child was born outside of Canada, that child would not be entitled to Canadian citizenship. That creates a whole new set of lost Canadians, and it is something that we need to really look at and consider. That speaks to the first-generation limit that has been created in the Citizenship Act.

I want to tell a quick story, because I think it really brings into perspective what we are talking about. This is a story about somebody I know quite well, a close friend of mine who is a Canadian citizen. Her parents immigrated to Canada, became Canadian citizens, lived here, went to school here, worked here and just before this friend of mine was born, her mother went to her home country of Tunisia so she could have the support of her parents when she gave birth. This friend of mine was born outside of Canada in Tunisia.

However, in a matter of weeks, they came back to Canada, where their home was. Of course, my friend is a Canadian citizen. She lived here, went to law school here in Ottawa, worked here, and then, eventually, as many Canadians do, decided to go and work abroad.

She went to Europe. She went to England, where she got a legal job and where she met her future partner and got married. They live in France now and, in 2013 and, I believe, 2015, she had two daughters.

Unfortunately, although she is a Canadian citizen, she is unable to pass her Canadian citizenship to her two daughters, who were born after April 2009. In my view, that is a lost Canadian generation.

It is a first-generation limit that really needs to be addressed. I am sure that if we looked around in our respective communities, we would find many people in the same position. It is a situation that creates an unequal model of Canadian citizenship. Really, in essence, we are saying that a Canadian is not a Canadian by virtue of where they are born.

It is really of paramount importance, even now, because so many people who become Canadian citizens are immigrants. They are coming from different parts of the world. I am really excited that the Minister of Immigration, just a few days ago, announced that we will be bringing, by 2025, about 500,000 people per year into Canada, which is absolutely necessary. We are a big country with a small population base. We are growing, and we need more people.

All of those people who will come as immigrants to Canada are born somewhere else, and many of them may end up, after becoming Canadian citizens, living somewhere outside Canada. They may have families there and may want, of course, to come back to Canada. We need to make sure those children, who are born of parents who were born outside Canada, remain Canadian citizens.

It is creating an unequal model of Canadian citizenship and Canadian identity that needs to be resolved. It is also, arguably, a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by virtue of sections 15 and 6 of the charter.

By having this rule in place and not rectifying it, we are also marginalizing women, in particular, who are Canadian citizens who may not have been born in Canada. Many of these women go outside Canada for professional reasons, because they want to work in different parts of the world, which is fantastic, because we Canadians are known to travel the world, to live in other parts of the world and to contribute to the well-being of this great planet that we are part of.

By having this rule, though, we are basically asking these women to put their careers on hold and come back to Canada in order to have children.

I really want to say that Bill S-245 is a step in the right direction, but it is only resolving a very small part of the problem. There are some other glaring holes in the Citizenship Act by virtue of the first-generation limit rule.

We need to look at those rules in a holistic manner so we can truly give expression to the idea that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”, which I fundamentally believe is one of the greatest strengths of Canada. Our diversity and our inclusive society exist because we have this really well-defined pathway to citizenship. When people come to Canada as immigrants, they come fully knowing that if they meet certain rules and requirements, they will have the opportunity to become Canadian citizens and contribute fully to this great country.

We undermine their capacity and we treat them unequally if we have different rules by virtue of, as an immigrant, where they were born. That is something we need to rectify. I look forward to working with members in the chamber to fix these rules so that, truly, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2022 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

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

November 4th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

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

November 4th, 2022 / 1:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, since these are the last speeches before we go spend a week in our ridings and many members have already left the House to go be with their families and constituents, I would like to commend all those stalwart members who are sticking it out to the end. There are not very many of us, judging by the number of empty spaces there were in the parking lot this morning and by how easily I was able to find an EV charging station. There are very few of us here this Friday, but I would say that what we are lacking in numbers, we are making up for in quality.

The last thing we are talking about today before leaving for our last week in our ridings before Christmas is Bill S‑245. I do not really have any kind of an inside scoop to share since my colleague from Lac‑Saint‑Jean already announced just two weeks ago that the Bloc Québécois would be supporting this bill. I like to contradict my colleague from Lac‑Saint‑Jean from time to time just to tease him, but I will limit my teasing to his clothing choices rather than a bill that has such a significant impact on some people's lives. In short, I will also be supporting Bill S‑245.

I think my colleagues have already realized that the Bloc Québécois does not tend to be overly partisan. If a bill is good for Quebec, we vote for it, no matter who introduced it. If it is not good for Quebec, we vote against it. We always explain the reasons for our decision.

Bill S-245 does not really fit in that framework. It is about Canadian citizenship. It affects people who may live in Quebec, our constituents, but it also affects people who may live elsewhere in Canada or even elsewhere in the world. This bill is fundamentally connected to a person's right to Canadian citizenship. While it may seem a little counterintuitive for a Bloc member to defend Canadian citizenship, the principle I am defending today in supporting Bill S‑245 is that no one should have their citizenship arbitrarily taken away just because they have reached the not particularly venerable age of 28.

I would like to start by outlining the contents of this bill and its purpose, but I also want to offer two brief editorial comments about this bill's predecessor, Bill S‑230, and the immigration file in general because no bill should ever be analyzed in a vacuum without context and broader considerations. If we take too narrow a view of this bill in debate, we are likely to miss opportunities to improve not only this bill but also future bills.

Now back to Bill S‑245. What is this bill all about? Bill S‑245 seeks to close a gap, a loophole in the Citizenship Act. The bill concerns a small group of Canadians who lost their Canadian citizenship or have actually become stateless due to government policy changes over time. This small group of Canadians is called “lost Canadians”, and there are about 100 to 200 of them.

Here is a little background information. The federal Parliament passed its first citizenship legislation in 1947, but it was flawed from the beginning. Citizenship was not considered a guaranteed right at the time, but rather a discretionary power of Parliament. For instance, although it was set out that the children of a Canadian parent would also be Canadian, under this system, when the responsible parent took the citizenship of another country, his or her children lost their Canadian citizenship.

Furthermore, the legislation provided that children born abroad would receive citizenship only if their parents registered them within two years of their birth. It also included an obligation for these children to be domiciled in Canada on their 24th birthday if they were born to a Canadian parent who was born outside Canada. This meant that many individuals, even if they lived in Canada for part of their lives, may have unknowingly lost their citizenship status.

Finally, the legislation discriminated against certain children based on the circumstances of their birth. In order to have Canadian citizenship under the law, a child had to be born to married parents. The main purpose of the 1977 amendment was to simplify the citizenship regime. Once again, however, the amendments were far from perfect.

Although the new legislation did away with the requirement to file an application for a child within two years of their birth and stopped discriminating between children born to a married couple and those born to a common-law couple, it continued to differentiate between children born to a Canadian parent who was born in Canada and those born to a Canadian parent who was born abroad.

Under the 1977 legislation, Canadians who were second-generation or more and were born to parents who were born abroad were required to submit an application in order to keep and confirm their Canadian citizenship.

The legislation required these Canadians to apply by their 28th birthday or they would automatically lose their Canadian citizenship. One of the problems was that, having repealed the requirement for parents to register their children before they turned two, the government no longer had a list it could use to inform the citizens in question that they needed to confirm their citizenship before their 28th birthday. Some of these people who were born abroad returned to Canada, grew up here, worked here, raised a family here, and paid taxes here, all while oblivious to what they needed to do before their 28th birthday in order to avoid losing their citizenship.

Some criticized the government for not doing enough to publicize this requirement both here and abroad, so that citizens would be aware that their citizenship could be taken away. It is said that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but that does not mean that a citizen must be familiar with all existing laws. Immigration laws are particularly impenetrable.

In short, many people born while the 1947 law or the 1977 law was in force were at risk of losing their citizenship at some point in their lives without even being notified. They might only find out when they applied for a passport. They are the ones who came to be called the lost Canadians.

This situation came to light largely through the efforts of Don Chapman, a former United Airlines pilot who brought their plight to the attention of the public. Don Chapman discovered that he had lost his citizenship when his father had emigrated to the United States. He demonstrated that this problem affected many Canadians, even some as well known as Roméo Dallaire, and forced the government's hand.

If we think about it, these people suffered the same fate as those whose citizenship is revoked, which happens only if someone committed fraud, made a false representation or knowingly concealed information material to an immigration or citizenship application. This same extreme punishment was being meted out to people who had committed no offence whatsoever.

To remedy the situation, Canada adopted a series of legislative reforms in 2005, 2009 and 2015. Those three attempts notwithstanding, some people still slipped through the cracks. Despite being reformed three times, the act still requires people born between February 15, 1977, and April 16, 1981, to reapply for citizenship before they turn 28.

I am confident that this bill will pass unanimously, and at this point I would like to offer my first editorial comment on the bill's background. In the last Parliament, an identical bill, Bill S‑230, was passed unanimously in the Senate, but it did not have time to get to the House because the government called an election in the summer.

When the election was called, what I told my constituents who complained about the cost of the election, which members will recall was estimated at over $600 million, is that there were even more serious but lesser-known costs associated with the election and that was the cost of all the work that was done on a whole pile of bills in the House and committee that ended up being for nothing. Unfortunately, Bill S‑245 is another glaring example of that.

My second editorial comment is about the government's management of immigration in general. As we see here, many reforms were necessary to solve the problem and many citizens have been left in the dark for years. Nothing has changed, and the machine is still broken.

Despite all that, the government is announcing that, because of the labour shortage, it wants to increase the number of newcomers to 500,000 a year, when it is already incapable of managing passports, when applications for permanent residency are piling up and taking forever to be processed, and when it is almost impossible to get a work permit in 12 to 13 months.

When I ask businesses in my riding what would really help them with their workforce issues, the answer is not for the government to add 500,000 people to the waiting list. The answer is for the government to start managing the applications that are already in the pile more effectively.

Simply put, there is no shortage of problems for the immigration department to fix, and Bill S‑245 addresses one of them.

I would like to conclude by humbly inviting the government to finish the work of fixing and improving the immigration department before even considering getting involved in any new project.

The House resumed from October 20 consideration of the motion 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.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2022 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to second this important bill that is being sponsored by my colleague, the member for Calgary Forest Lawn.

Bill S-245 is one key step towards ensuring the inclusion of Canadians as citizens who have fallen through the cracks due to a gap in legislation. This group, commonly called the lost Canadians, is actually one that I was nearly a part of, so I feel that I am uniquely placed to be able to speak about this issue from a first-hand point of view.

I would like to thank my colleagues for their work on this file. This issue has been championed by many over the years, not just by politicians, but also by advocates for the affected individuals and families. Most Canadians are completely unaware that this has even been an issue, aside from those who have been directly impacted by it. I know when I talk about this subject to my friends, they look at me strangely as if they have no concept of what I am talking about.

I deeply appreciate the efforts that have been made in the political sphere to close up this gap and to ensure that everything possible is done so that no more Canadians fall through the cracks and become lost going forward.

The Canadian identity is one that comes with many implications and connotations, almost all of them being overwhelmingly positive. Canada is known across the world for many things, and one of the most common things is the kindness of our citizens and a willingness to help out whenever it is needed. This alone makes me proud to be a Canadian, and I feel strongly that my citizenship in this country has actually become a very formative part of who I am as a person and how I view my community and those who live within it.

Canadian citizens have rights and responsibilities which date back over 800 years to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 in England, and they are as follows: freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of speech and of the press; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association. These rights that every Canadian citizen is entitled to are key factors when looking at what exactly encompasses a Canadian identity.

As a citizen, I know that I am protected by the rule of law in this great country, and that gives me a sense of security and peace of mind as I go about my day-to-day life. For many Canadians who have been left in limbo due to gaps in legislation like the one Bill S-245 is addressing, they may not have this security, and many would not even know it until they went to renew a passport or other federal document.

Imagine someone living their entire life believing without question that they are a Canadian citizen, only to find out much later on that they are not, or that their citizenship has been rescinded through no fault of their own. I know that I would be devastated to think that the only country I have known as home does not see me as a citizen, despite having a career, paying taxes and participating in activities that make up the very fabric of a Canadian identity. This is precisely what has happened to what we call the lost Canadians, who, through a gap in legislation, were not included in changes that were made to try and address this issue.

In 1977, under the new Citizenship Act, 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 martial status. If, however, the Canadian parent was also born abroad, the child had until the age of 28 to apply to retain their citizenship, and if they did not, their citizenship would be stripped from them.

Section 8 of the Citizenship Act read:

Where a person who was born outside Canada after February 14, 1977 is a citizen for the reason that at the time of his birth one of his parents was a citizen by virtue of paragraph 3(1)(b) or (e), that person ceases to be a citizen on attaining the age of twenty-eight years unless that person

(a) makes application to retain his citizenship; and

(b) registers as a citizen and either resides in Canada for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the date of his application or establishes a substantial connection with Canada.

This law was passed, and then it seems it was forgotten. There was no follow-up from the government, and no process or instruction was released on how a person could go about reaffirming their citizenship. No forms were created for this. In fact, those who were affected were never even told that a retention requirement existed. This was a massive oversight that eventually led to a number of Canadians becoming stateless without their knowledge.

I was nearly one of those lost Canadians. I am eternally grateful that my father found out about this and contacted me so that I could take the necessary steps to ensure that I would not lose my status.

Again, I cannot imagine the dismay I would have felt if I only realized after trying to obtain or renew my passport that I was no longer considered a citizen of the only country that I have ever known. I was lucky that I was born before the set dates that were put in this additional legislation, but so many who have found themselves in this circumstance were not. This issue needs to be remedied as soon as possible.

One of the reasons I wanted to speak to this bill is that I recall what I went through in 1977 when this issue first came to light for me. What I experienced is not even close to the struggles that the majority of lost Canadians went through.

When I first encountered and heard about this legislation in 1977, I was a young student at the University of Waterloo. I heard about how I might be losing my citizenship if I did not do a whole bunch of paperwork, provide documents and get things all straightened out. As a youngster at that age and not understanding politics, legislation or any of those kinds of procedures, it threw me for quite a loop, especially as I was more concerned about getting my degree. It made me start to wonder what was going on and why it was going on. It was very distracting.

I was born in England to two Canadian parents who were posted overseas. My father was serving this country as a member of the military, so of course my mother was there with him during their time in Britain. That probably does not seem like a big issue. People hear that and say that someone born to two Canadian parents should be able to have citizenship through that avenue.

The problem is that my father was born in India to two Canadian parents. Therefore, when this legislation in 1977 came out, it put a panic in me due to the fact that I could be considered a second-generation Canadian, depending on how that was interpreted. That put a lot of fear into my mind as to what I had to do and the steps I had to take to figure out this whole situation. I was forced to deal with a bureaucracy that I did not understand and did not feel I had the time or wanted to get involved with. I had no idea where to go or whom to talk to, and there was no information that was easily available for me to figure it out and get answers as to what extent it impacted me.

At no point during this time did a bureaucrat or government employee say that I did not have to do this. My perception was that, after 1977, the Government of Canada put out that, by the age of 28, I had to determine whether I was going to reaffirm my Canadian citizenship. If I had forgotten to do that, I could have been in a situation where I lost that citizenship. Unfortunately, many of those lost Canadians had to deal with that exact situation. Furthermore, I was away at university and my mom and dad were not close to me. The reality is that I had to recognize that I was born before the dates proposed and at that time I did not. Lost Canadians lost their citizenship without even knowing because they likely never even saw or heard of the legislation until some time well after the fact when they were applying for a passport.

I know I cannot use props in the House, but I do have a citizenship card that I would like to read from, which I have kept in my wallet for 40 years. On this citizenship card, is my picture and, yes, I did have hair. It has my age and a number, and it has my height, my sex and my eye colour. On the back, it says, “Certificate of Canadian Citizenship”. It has my name and it says:

This is to certify that...is a Canadian citizen under the provisions of the Citizenship Act and as such is certified to all the rights and privileges and is subject to all the duties and responsibilities of a Canadian citizen.

I say that because I have had to have that card and my brothers do not have that card. They did not have to have it. There are many lost Canadians who do not have that aspect because they never even had the opportunity to do that.

This is something that is very unfortunate and it is why this legislation is so necessary. We need to recognize these lost Canadians and get them back the citizenship that they deserve and they are entitled to. The time period that this bill addresses is roughly 50 months. The affected individuals need to have the understanding and reassurance that they are respected Canadian citizens despite this gap in the legislation.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, for decades some Canadians have found themselves to be stateless due to a number of convoluted immigration laws. Some have found themselves all of a sudden losing their Canadian status and they do not know why.

In 2007, the UN listed Canada as one of the top offending countries for making their own people stateless. In 2009, the Conservatives said they were going to address this issue with Bill C-37. In fact, Jason Kenney was the minister of immigration then. Sadly, Bill C-37 did not properly address the lost Canadians issue. At the time, even Conservative minister Diane Finley acknowledged that Bill C-37 would not fix all of the cases of lost Canadians.

In fact, Jason Kenney created a brand new set of problems. For the purposes of this discussion, I will not get into the issues of how the Conservatives eliminated people's right to appeal when the government revoked their citizenship. I will simply focus on the issue of lost Canadians.

How did Bill C-37 not effectively deal with the age 28 issue with lost Canadians? When the government of the day did away with the age 28 rule with Bill C-37, in its wisdom it only applied it going forward. As such, those who turned 28 before 2009 were left behind. That means they remained as lost Canadians.

Affected Canadians caught up in this did not even know their citizenship was cancelled somewhere between 11 years and 15 years ago. For many it only came to light when they applied for something that required proof of citizenship, such as a Canadian passport. In some cases, because of Canada's archaic immigration laws, they discovered they were stateless. Others were faced with deportation, even though they were Canadians in every way prior to turning 28. It is just absurd.

I have met many lost Canadians whose lives have been turned upside down because of these unjust laws. Imagine someone who has lived all their life as a Canadian, has voted in elections, and one day wakes up to be told they no longer are Canadian.

I had the pleasure of meeting Byrdie Funk a number of years ago. She was caught up in this. She is a third-generation Canadian and had to fight this. It took her almost a decade to regain her citizenship, not because the law was changed; she had to shame the government to give her a special grant and to give her citizenship back.

Bill S-245 would fix this age 28 rule, and that is a good thing. However, this bill does not address the other issues for lost Canadians. Through Bill C-37, the Conservatives ended the extension of citizenship to second-generation Canadians born abroad, effectively creating two classes of Canadian citizenship. Preventing Canadians born abroad from passing their citizenship to their children if they were outside of Canada means the breaking up of families.

In the case of Patrick Chandler, when he was offered a job in British Columbia, he moved back to Canada, but he had to leave his wife and his children behind. That is the reality he was faced with as a second-generation Canadian who was born abroad. This is just plain wrong.

In another situation, a woman named Victoria Maruyama received her Canadian citizenship through her father as an immigrant from Vietnam. At 22, she moved to Japan to teach English and met her husband, a Japanese national. Her children were born in Japan, and as a result, they do not have citizenship through her, even though she had moved back to Canada. This is their reality.

In another situation, Gregory Burgess, a first-generation Canadian, and his wife, a Russian Canadian, were on a work visa in Hong Kong. Their child was born there and now their son is stateless. They tried to get their son Canadian citizenship, but the Government of Canada would not allow Mr. Burgess to pass on his Canadian citizenship to his baby. The government told them to apply to Russia, to get Russian citizenship through the mother. It is true. The government told them this right now, when there is a war that Putin is waging against Ukraine, an illegal war. It is unbelievable.

The message here is clear. Somehow, second-generation born-abroad Canadians are less worthy. These Canadians lost their ability to pass on their citizenship to their children. That is no thanks to the Conservatives and to Jason Kenney through Bill C-37.

Even though Bill C-37 was meant to fix the lost Canadian issues, many of the issues were not fixed, even though, in another situation, then ministers Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander had both asserted that Canadians were all British subjects prior to 1947.

That means that war heroes who fought for Canada are deemed British subjects, even though in 1943, for example, the Department of National Defence gave them documents indicating that they would be fighting the war as Canadians, as citizens of Canada. That is what was in the documents handed to those soldiers. The Conservatives would not recognize that.

Those war heroes have been left out as Canadians. They have been left behind. Some have passed on, but we should honour them and recognize them and their families. They were very much a part of Canada and should be recognized as Canadians.

Others were being discriminated against because of their age, gender and family status. Another individual, a Surrey resident, Jackie Scott, who was born in 1945 to a Canadian veteran and a British woman, was repeatedly denied citizenship despite having lived for decades in Canada. She was raised in Canada, effectively, and voted as an adult, and yet when she applied for her citizenship certificate in 2005, to her shock, she was told that she was not a Canadian. She had to launch a lawsuit against the federal government before the government would even take action to address the situation. Even though she voted previously and pretty well lived all of her life in Canada, she found herself, all of a sudden, without citizenship.

I could go on with a list of issues. I should note that when asked about lost Canadians in opposition, the now Prime Minister said that Minister Kenney needed to understand that the principles of Canadian citizenship need to be administered with compassion and openness, and that he simply was not addressing these Canadian issues.

The Liberal government had a choice to fix this problem and it did not do it, not since the 2015 election. That is why there are so many people who have lost their citizenship and now are lost Canadians. This needs to be fixed once and for all.

We need to address this issue. I have tabled a private members' bill to this effect. We can take that bill and work from there. We can make amendments to this bill, if they are not deemed to be out of scope or deemed to be out of order.

We do need to fix the lost Canadian issue. We have seen the havoc that it has created in people's lives and it needs to stop.

I want to thank all of the advocates, including Don Chapman, Randall Emery and so many others who have been fighting for Canada to right these laws and do away with these unjust discriminatory practices in our immigration laws.

Let the lost Canadians be recognized now.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, even though I do not always agree with my colleagues from the other parties who sit here in the House, I tend to avoid getting into partisanship. I think I am even transpartisan, and often being transpartisan allows me to do my work properly for the people of my riding, who, since 2019, have allowed me to proudly represent them in my corner of the country, Lac‑Saint‑Jean.

Today I will speak not only for Quebeckers, but also for a good number of Canadians whose files at IRCC have fallen through the cracks for far too long.

Today, as the Bloc Québécois critic for immigration and citizenship, I want to talk about Canadian citizenship. Yes, members heard me correctly, because this affects everyone here. More specifically, I want to talk about Bill S‑245, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. It is a continuation of Bill C‑37, which was unanimously passed in the House.

That is an example of cross-party co-operation. First, I want to quickly explain what this bill is about for those who are watching at home. Bill S‑245 seeks to correct a historic injustice by allowing Canadians who lost their citizenship because of past changes to the Citizenship Act or little-known regulations to regain it. We are talking about children of Canadian parents who were born abroad and who had their citizenship revoked simply because they failed to meet the requirement to apply to retain their citizenship before the age of 28, which is absolutely ridiculous.

These are people we now refer to as “lost Canadians”, those who were stripped of their citizenship because of an often little-known but truly ridiculous provision. According to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration's estimates, there are still between 100 and 200 people who have still not regained their citizenship. They are referred to as “lost Canadians”.

This bill corrects an oversight in the 2009 act, which missed a golden opportunity to do away with the requirement for people to apply to retain their citizenship when they turned 28. In fact, the main message of Bill S-245 is that we should be giving citizenship back to all of the people who lost it because of provisions in previous Canadian laws that were overly complex, unfair, sexist or even racist.

At the risk of ruining the surprise, I will say right away that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill S‑245. If we think about it, this bill is perfectly in line with what our contemporary vision of citizenship should be. Once citizenship has been duly granted, it should never be taken away from an individual, with some exceptions. Only a citizen can freely renounce his or her citizenship.

Like all parties in the House, the Bloc Québécois supports and defends the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states that “all are equal before the law”. In fact, citizenship is an egalitarian legal status given to all members of the same community. It confers privileges as well as duties.

In this case, the Canadian government has failed its citizens. This is a matter of principle. I do not believe I am alone in thinking that it is profoundly unfair that, even in 2022, people can lose their citizenship for reasons that they probably do not even know exist. These provisions are from another time, a time long ago when there were questionable ideas about what it meant to be a citizen of Canada. Time has remedied the situation and, if the reforms of the past have not been instructive enough, then politics must weigh in.

As we know, the process for recovering citizenship is much too complicated. There is no denying that the federal bureaucracy is not exactly super-efficient when it comes to handling immigration, refugee and citizenship files. I believe we have said quite a lot about this since returning to the House in September.

Just how slow is the government? The act was reformed in 2005, again in 2009 and yet again in 2015. How many reforms does it take? Many citizens were overlooked every time the act was reformed: men and women, soldiers' wives and children, children born abroad and members of first nations and Chinese-Canadian communities. The government did not do a good enough job of fixing the act, so these people were left out in the cold.

Let us look back in history. Don Chapman, a retired United Airlines pilot, fought to bring the plight of these citizens to the public's attention. Don Chapman discovered that he had lost his Canadian citizenship when his father immigrated to the United States. Thanks to his astute demonstration that this was a problem affecting many Canadians, including Roméo Dallaire, he was able to force Parliament to remedy the situation and pass the suite of legislative reforms before us today.

Bill S-245 seeks to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. I would also add one thing. Every time we check, the government backlog is worse. It seems to me that it would be a good idea to prevent problems from occurring in the first place and making us wait once again for the federal machinery to make things right.

What does it mean to “make things right” in this case? It means ensuring for once and for all that the constituents in our respective ridings get what belongs to them. It is not right that in 2022, 17 years after the first reform to correct the situation for lost Canadians, we are not getting anywhere. In a situation like this, it is up to the government to offer a solution to the individuals to regularize their status so that they can have their dignity for once and for all, like every other citizen.

Whether this bill affects hundreds of claimants or thousands makes no difference to me. It is a matter of principle. In no way does that stop us from taking action for the good of the people we are fortunate to represent and who put their trust in us. I will say it again: It is a matter of principle.

At the risk of repeating myself, I would like to conclude with this. Most of the time when I have the opportunity to speak in the House, it is about suggestions that come from the opposition. I think we are all on the same side when it comes to helping people, and rightly so. When the government listens to us and we all work together, it usually results in better programs.

As parliamentarians, we must tackle the problems facing our constituents with a great sense of duty, and we must set partisanship aside to do so. The people of Lac‑Saint‑Jean, whom I have had the honour to represent since 2019, along with all Quebeckers and Canadians, must be considered on an equal footing.

The situation facing the so-called “lost Canadians” should never have happened. I will say it again: Citizenship must be equal for all. Let us make one last reform, once and for all. We have to get it right this time, for reasons of equality, justice and principle, but also simply because enough is enough.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2022 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Ya'ara Saks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-245, seeking to make amendments to the Citizenship Act and address concerns raised on past citizenship.

I would first like to extend my thanks to Senator Yonah Martin for her advocacy and for bringing forward this bill, as well as its predecessor, Bill S-230. I would also like to thank the member for Calgary Forest Lawn for sponsoring this bill and giving us a chance to speak about it in the chamber.

In 1977, Canada introduced a new Citizenship Act to replace the one from 1947 and amend our citizenship rules. It maintained that individuals born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent or grandparents were citizens as well. However, as was the case since 1947, there were conditions.

Canadians born abroad in the second generation or beyond had to file an application to retain their citizenship. The 1977 act required these Canadians to do so before they turned 28 years old. Failure to do so meant they would lose their Canadian citizenship automatically on their 28th birthday.

The legislation also made another critical administrative change. Canadians who had children abroad no longer had to register their children born outside of Canada for their children to qualify as citizens. This change, removing the requirement for registration of births abroad, meant the government did not collect the names of children born overseas to Canadian citizens. It also meant there was no list of Canadians born abroad in the second generation or beyond who needed to take steps to retain their citizenship.

Some of these individuals born abroad ultimately moved back and grew up in Canada, totally unaware that they had to take steps to retain their citizenship status before their 28th birthday, and because the government did not have a list of who was affected, there was no way to inform a born-abroad Canadian citizen in advance or prompt them to take the steps they needed to take in order to retain their citizenship before they turned 28 years old.

It has been noted that the government of the day could have made more information available in Canada and abroad so that Canadians with children born abroad were aware and could know they needed to take action. When these children turned 28, if they had not taken the required steps, they automatically lost their citizenship and may not have even known it.

The issue of automatic loss of Canadian citizenship for those born abroad in the second generation or beyond would come up only when something would trigger a review or a confirmation of their citizenship. In certain cases, they found it when they applied to work overseas, sought a military commission or a security clearance, or even just applied for a replacement citizenship certificate.

In 2009, the Citizenship Act was amended to address this issue and simplify the rules around citizenship. The 2009 amendments removed the requirement to apply to retain citizenship by age 28 for those born abroad to a Canadian parent in the second generation or beyond.

At the same time, the Citizenship Act replaced those rules with a first-generation limit, something that is quite personal, as I explained here to the member. It is a citizenship by descent, which meant that automatic Canadian citizenship by descent could be passed down for only one generation by a Canadian parent who was either born in or naturalized in Canada.

This first-generation limit remains in place today. Children born to a Canadian parent outside of Canada in the first generation are automatically Canadian citizens from birth. However, children born abroad to a Canadian parent in the second generation, where the Canadian parent was also born abroad or beyond are no longer automatically Canadian. As I mentioned, in families like mine, suddenly not everyone is equal, and this is why discussion, debate and careful thought are really needed on this bill as we go on through the evening.

Citizens like my daughter can apply to come to Canada and become citizens through our immigration and citizenship programs. The 2009 changes also ensured that anyone who was born after the 1977 legislation but had not yet turned 28 when the changes took place was allowed to maintain their status, was not required to file an application, and remained a Canadian citizen.

In 2009, and then again in 2015, the government introduced a number of amendments to the Citizenship Act to restore citizenship to groups of people who had lost their citizenship or who had never become citizens in the first place because of the rules in the first Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947, which we now recognize was discriminatory.

These people are known as the “lost Canadians”. Between 2009 and 2015 approximately 17,500 individuals came forward and were issued proofs of Canadian citizenship related to the amendments to the act.

From the 2015 amendments, another 600 cases came forward and received proof of their Canadian citizenship as a result. However, there is a remaining group of those who refer to themselves as lost Canadians. Those are persons born outside of Canada in the second or later generations who had already turned 28 before the 2009 changes and had already lost their citizenship due to the old rules that required them to apply to retain their Canadian citizenship before their 28th birthday.

We know this has impacted those who were born abroad in the second generation between 1977 and 1981, but there is no way to tell for certain how many people make up this cohort. We do know it is a limited group. It does not impact anyone born after 1981. Those Canadians could not have yet turned 28 before the 2009 legislation was passed. It does not include anyone born before February 1977, when the changes were made to set the 28-year-old retention requirement. It is only a limited group of people who were born between February 1977 and April 1981 and did not take the steps to retain their citizenship before turning 28 years old and were born abroad to a Canadian parent in the second or subsequent generation.

Bill S-245 represents a remedy for this group of lost Canadians. However, a possible solution already exists for this group. The Citizenship Act provides the minister with the discretionary authority to grant citizenship on a case-by-case basis. It is used to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional nature to Canada. To date, IRCC has granted citizenship to approximately 130 individuals affected by the former age 28 rule through this use of the minister's special discretionary authority. The department receives an average of 35 to 40 requests per year related to the former age 28 rule.

As members of this House review Bill S-245, I believe it is very important that they take the appropriate time, effort and care. Anyone who has spent time in the chamber can likely recall reviewing issues, omissions or oversights that can come from legislation that was drafted with good intentions, but where amendments that were missing a critical detail or consideration led to unintended consequences, such as in my own family.

In particular, on the issue of lost Canadians, history has shown us that making hasty changes can lead to the creation of new cohorts of people who may subsequently consider themselves lost Canadians. As lawmakers, we should ensure that legislation addresses the problem and does not create a bigger issue than the one we are already trying to solve. The legislation seeks to address such an issue. For example, bestowing citizenship on individuals who live in another country descended from a Canadian and who never sought to be a Canadian may create unintended problems for them. I note that the bill includes a simplified renunciation process as a result, which would be a very important element to have in place.

We should put in the required effort to get this right. I encourage the members of this House to be thorough and thoughtful in their work and to speak with legislative experts, department officials and citizenship experts. We should be looking carefully at how the legislation needs to be written and do our homework so that there are no unintended consequences. Rather than compounding one problem with a new one, I hope the House can work together to maintain the integrity of our citizenship system.

Once again, I would like to thank Senator Martin for bringing this bill forward and advocating for lost Canadians, who we all agree should be brought back into the Canadian family. I hope the senator, the member for Calgary Forest Lawn and all members of the House can work together to resolve some of the challenges.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2022 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating my colleague from Calgary Forest Lawn. I really enjoy working with him.

The bill before us today, Bill S‑245, seeks to correct an injustice for people who did not deserve what happened to them. It is rare for a Bloc Québécois member to rise in the House on a matter involving Canadian citizenship. We are more likely to rise in the House on a matter involving Quebec citizenship. That will happen one day, I guarantee it.

The matter before us today is Bill S-245. An injustice occurred. IRCC is in the process of correcting it, but is this not proof once again that IRCC is taking far too long to correct the injustices? Is this not proof that IRCC has grown far too big, that there is a problem, that there is sand in the gears or water in the gas?

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2022 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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.

Citizenship ActRoutine Proceedings

June 15th, 2022 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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 first time.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to move first reading of Bill S-245, an act to amend the Citizenship Act with regard to granting citizenship to certain Canadians.

I first want to thank my friend, Senator Yonah Martin, for her leadership on this file and for introducing this bill in the other place, where it passed unanimously.

It is an honour to sponsor this bill here in the House and raise awareness of lost Canadians. These are Canadians who had citizenship before they turned 28, but because of a bureaucratic mistake, they lost their Canadian citizenship and the rights that come with being a Canadian citizen. While many amendments have been made to the Citizenship Act to restore citizenship to lost Canadians, there still remain many Canadians who have been left without citizenship.

I want to thank my colleague and friend, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain, for seconding this bill, and my colleagues who have already indicated their support for this very important bill. I hope that all members in this place will also unanimously support Bill S-245 and restore citizenship to lost Canadians.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)