Thank you, Chair.
I will present a short deck to you and then we'll be very happy to answer your questions. The experts are here with me today, so hopefully we'll be able to do that.
I am delighted to be here today to talk about Bill C-14, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption). I would like to explain the proposed amendments.
Bill C-14 is the culmination of many years of work involving stakeholders, members of Parliament, standing committees, and Parliament as a whole. This is a redesigned, modern piece of legislation that reflects Canada's national and international obligations.
The content of today's presentation is as follows: the purpose of the amendments, a summary of the bill; information with respect to who is eligible; certain criteria to be met with respect to adoption; adult adoptions; the review process; a brief discussion of the coming into force of the legislation; and a comparison between the current Act and what is proposed in the bill.
As regards the purpose of the amendments, the proposed legislation would facilitate access to Canadian citizenship for foreign-born children adopted by Canadian citizens. It would reduce the difference in treatment between children adopted by and children born to a Canadian parent outside Canada.
Under the proposed amendments to the Act, children adopted by a Canadian citizen would be able to acquire Canadian citizenship as soon as the adoption was finalized.
Now I have a few words on the summary of the bill.
The bill would allow any person adopted outside Canada after February 14, 1977, by a Canadian parent to become a Canadian without first having to become a permanent resident. Adoptive parents may still choose to sponsor their child through the immigration process. And you may ask why. For example, this may occur if the adoptive parents are concerned about the child losing his or her nationality of origin should the child's country of birth not recognize dual citizenship.
Adoptive persons would no longer have to meet the citizenship grant requirements of permanent residents seeking citizenship, including, where applicable, residence, language, knowledge, and oath of citizenship.
To respond to charter concerns, all adopted persons would no longer be prevented from acquiring citizenship for any criminality or security issues. The reason for this is to reduce the difference in treatment between children born to and those adopted abroad by Canadians. Adopted persons cannot be subject to prohibitions. This is a matter of equity. Children born to Canadians outside Canada are also not subject to these prohibitions. Also, making a distinction between persons based on age may also raise charter concerns; for example, having prohibitions apply to adoptive persons who are 18 and older, but not those under 18.
The proposed criteria for adopted persons seeking citizenship reflect the criteria listed in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and regulations.
Who is eligible? As soon as the provision comes into force, any person residing in or outside Canada who is adopted abroad by at least one Canadian parent after February 14, 1977, can apply for citizenship under this process. The provision is available to persons adopted after this date because this is the date the current act came into force. Children born outside Canada to a Canadian parent after that date are citizens.
Persons not eligible: neither parent is a Canadian citizen at the time of the adoption; and it is not a full adoption, that is, a simple adoption or guardianship.
Slide 6: I'll say a few words on children adopted in Canada. Some countries, as you may know, do not allow adoptions or do not allow people who are not their citizens to adopt a child from their country. Other countries may only allow a guardianship arrangement to allow the child to leave the country and enter Canada with the intention of being adopted in Canada. IRPA contains a provision to allow a child to be sponsored and enter Canada as a permanent resident with the intention of being adopted in Canada by the sponsor.
If there is an intention to adopt the child, until the adoption is completed in a province or territory, the child is not considered to be adopted. The proposed provision would only apply to children who have not yet been adopted and who enter Canada with the intention of being adopted. It is important to note that immigration recognizes a broader set of relationships for sponsorship purposes than the relationship recognized for citizenship. Citizenship only recognizes the parent-child relationship. Until the adoption takes place, the legal relationship between adoptive parent and adopted child does not exist. Once the adoption is completed, application for citizenship is possible.
At the same time, the adoption must meet certain criteria: first, the adoption of a minor must be in the best interest of the child; there must be evidence of a genuine parent-child relationship, it must meet the legal requirements of the country of adoption and the country where the adoptive parent resides, and finally, it must not be an adoption of convenience.
Adoption of adults must meet the above criteria, with the exception of “the best interests of the child”, and be approved once it has been established that a genuine parent-child relationship existed prior to the child turning 18, and at the time of the adoption.
I will cover a few of these criteria for you in slide 8.
The adoption must be in the best interests of the child. CIC will check that there is evidence that an approved home study has been completed and that the child has undergone a medical exam for the purpose of providing the prospective adoptive parents with information about the medical condition of the child. An application will not be refused for a medical condition.
As part of the citizenship process for children destined for Canada, CIC visa officers will request confirmation from the province or territory where the adoptive parent resides to confirm that the province or territory approves the international adoption, or has no objection, as the case may be. This process will reflect what already happens under immigration and refugee protection regulations, and it acknowledges provincial-territorial jurisdictions in adoptions.
Slide 9: genuine parent-child relationship. The adoption must have created a genuine parent-child relationship that permanently severs legal ties to the child's biological parents. Simple adoptions and guardianships do not meet this requirement, but may qualify for permanent residence. As you may recall, I said earlier that some foreign countries do not allow or provide for full adoptions to take place in their country. They may allow the child to leave the country and enter Canada with the intention of being adopted in Canada. So the adoptive parents will still have to sponsor their child through the immigration process, in cases where the adoption is going to take place, and/or be finalized, in Canada.
Slide 10: legal adoption. The adoption must be completed in accordance with the laws where the parent resides and the laws where the adoption took place. For parents residing in Canada, the province or territory must confirm that the adoption is valid and that it meets Hague Convention standards. Included is a special provision recognizing the unique adoption provisions of the Quebec Civil Code. Uniquely, Quebec law does not finalize an adoption until the child is residing in Quebec, even if a full adoption takes place outside Canada. Without this provision, children destined for Quebec would have to go through the immigration process to enter Canada, because they would not have access to the provisions in Bill C-14 until after they arrived in Quebec and after the adoption was recognized by the Quebec Superior Court. This provision must be in the act, not in the regulations, to allow access to citizenship for children destined for Quebec.
For adoptions where the families are remaining abroad, the decisions of the country of adoption and the country of residence of the parents will be respected. Where the foreign authorities do not require home studies or medical examinations, this provision will provide CIC authority to request such evidence.
Slide 11: adoption must not be undertaken primarily to gain immigration or citizenship status, or the primary purpose of acquiring privilege or status under IRPA or the Citizenship Act. Essentially this refers to adoptions of convenience, which would be refused. Officers are given the delegated authority to grant citizenship to foreign-born children adopted by Canadian citizens because they have the necessary knowledge and experience to assess foreign adoptions. This is how we will make sure that adoptions of convenience do not happen.
Slide 12: adult adoptions. Persons who are adopted when they are 18 years of age or older at the time of the adoption will be eligible for citizenship under this provision, providing there is a parent-child relationship that existed before the person turned 18 and at the time of the adoption.
The adoption must also meet other criteria, including that the adoption was legal and met the applicable requirements as to where it took place and where the adoptive parents reside; that it created a genuine parent-child relationship; that it not be subject to the “best interests of the child” criterion, because after the age of 18 you're considered not to be a child; and that it not be an adoption of convenience.
An example of where this might occur is when the child is residing with a foster parent before the age of 18 and, only later when the child is an adult, it is decided to make the parent-child relationship permanent through adoption. Including adult adoptions is necessary for charter reasons.
There will be a review process, which is explained on slide 13. Applicants whose application is refused by a citizenship officer may apply for judicial review. This is the same review mechanism available for other negative decisions rendered by the minister or his delegate under the Citizenship Act. If the judicial review is negative, failed applicants would also have access to the Federal Court of Appeal and, with leave, to the Supreme Court of Canada. Other applications for which the minister or delegate is a decision-maker are those for the grant of citizenship for children under 18 and the issuance process for citizenship certificates; that is, proof of citizenship.
Delegated citizenship officers determine who is and who is not a citizen under the act. A judicial review would allow the court to review the reasonableness of the decision of the visa officer, who would be acting as a citizenship officer. Currently, a full appeal to the Federal Court on fact and law is not available in either the citizenship or immigration context. From a policy perspective, giving full appeal rights to the Federal Court to one group creates an inequity. The same can be said for giving access to the IAD for refused citizenship applications for adopted children.
Slide 14 deals with coming into force. The provisions will come into force after the regulations and adoption are completed and on a date to be set by the Governor in Council. This means that applications can be submitted on or after the date the provision comes into force. Adoptive persons who have an existing application for citizenship when the provision comes into force can be assessed under the new provision.
Finally, slide 15 compares the current and proposed legislation. Under the current act, you would have to apply for permanent residence for the adopted child; and if qualified, the child would enter Canada as a permanent resident. Under the proposed Bill C-14, it would then become the same: an application for Canadian citizenship; if qualified, granted citizenship; and then entering Canada as a Canadian citizen.
That's the end of my presentation. We'd be very happy to answer your questions.