Proposed Amendments to the Citizenship Act
The Lost Canadians group proposes the following amendments to the Citizenship Act. They are intended to tidy up some of the loose ends left by Bill C-37 of 2008. They are written in plain language, with no cumbersome cross-references to other provisions of the Act or to other statutes.
- New section: Citizenship as a right
Citizenship lawfully acquired is the right to full and equal partnership in the fortunes and the future of Canada.This amendment echoes a sentence in the speech of Paul Martin Sr. on second reading of the Canadian Citizenship Bill (House of Commons, April 2, 1946). It would effectively recognize citizenship as a legally protected status, not a privilege. The words ‘lawfully acquired’ are intended to exclude cases where citizenship was acquired by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.
- New section: Application
This Act is to be construed and applied in a manner that complies with
(a) the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and
(b) international human rights instruments to which Canada is signatory.
This amendment is intended to ensure that the Act is administered in a manner that respects the constitutional rights of Canadian citizens and meets Canada’s international obligations, including those under the 1961 U.N. Convention on Reduction of Statelessness. The wording of paragraph (b) corresponds with paragraph 3(3)(f) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
- New section: Citizenship before 1947
(2) A person who at any time between July 1, 1867 and December 31, 1946 was
a. born or naturalized in Canada; or
b. a British subject neither born nor naturalized in Canada who had acquired Canadian domicile; or
c. born outside Canada to a parent who was a person to whom paragraph (a) or (b) applies and was a British subject at the time of the birth; or
d. a woman who had acquired British nationality by marriage to a British subject to whom paragraph (a), (b) or (c) applies,
and did not cease to be a British subject by renunciation or revocation under any law then in force in Canada, is deemed to have been a citizen for the purposes of this Act, whether or not that person was living on December 31, 1946.
(3) A person who was
(a) deprived of the status of British subject or Canadian national by virtue of any Order in Council made under the War Measures Act before January 1, 1946; and
(b) deported to Japan before January 1, 1947,
is deemed to have remained a British subject or Canadian national, and to have been a citizen on January 1, 1947.
For their ultimate sacrifice, these ordinary, yet extraordinary men, of the British dominion fought for the first time as the citizens* of one country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Vimy Ridge, April 9, 2017.
*Speaking in French, the Prime Minister said, ‘les citoyens d’un seul et même pays’.
Subsection (2) would effectively recognize those who served Canada in both World Wars as Canadian citizens, not just as British subjects. The amendment is retrospective and would not affect the status or the rights of anyone now alive. (Note on paragraph (d): Before 1947 a married woman’s nationality was linked to her husband’s. An alien woman who married a British subject automatically acquired British nationality.)
Persons who lost British nationality before 1947 by renunciation or revocation (but not by marriage or by acquiring another nationality) are excluded.
Subsection (3) would correct the injustice done to the 4,000 Japanese-Canadians who were stripped of their citizenship and deported to Japan in 1946.
- New section: Citizenship by descent
(1) A person born outside Canada before April 17, 2009, to a parent who was a citizen born outside Canada in the first generation, is a citizen. (2) A person to whom subsection (1) applies is deemed never to have been subject to any requirement to register as a citizen or to apply for retention of citizenship before April 17, 2009.
(3) For avoidance of doubt, this section applies to a person born to a parent who was recognized as a citizen under any amendment to this Act made by S.C. 2008, c. 14 or S.C. 2014, c. 22.
This amendment deals with people who are citizens by descent; i.e., those born outside Canada to a Canadian parent. Subsection (1) gives citizenship to the second generation born abroad before April 17, 2009, including those who were subject to the age-28 retention rule in section 8 of the Act as it read on April 16, 2009, but unknowingly lost their citizenship because they were unaware of the rule. Subsection (2) would repeal the age-28 retention rule retroactively. Subsection (3) would make it clear that subsection (1) applies to a person whose Canadian parent was recognized as a citizen retroactively through Bill C-37 of 2008 or Bill C-24 of 2014. The parent would be deemed to have been a citizen on the date of the person’s birth.
This amendment would not extend citizenship beyond the second generation born abroad, or to any second-generation born abroad on or after April 17, 2009. We believe, however, that the one-generation rule for citizenship by descent should be reviewed. Already it has resulted in several cases of children born stateless outside Canada to Canadian parents since 2009. There is every reason to believe that there will be more such cases in the future.
- Citizenship of minors
Section 5 of the Act is amended by adding the following, after subsection (1.05):
(1.06) The Minister may enter into an agreement with the government of a province or territory to facilitate the granting of citizenship to minors who are
(a) in the care or guardianship of a child protection agency; and
(b) permanent residents who are eligible for citizenship.
(1.07) It is the responsibility of the Minister to inform permanent residents of the importance of applying for citizenship for themselves and their children as soon as they become eligible.
This amendment is intended to ensure that no child who grows up in Canada as a permanent resident ‘falls through the cracks’ and becomes vulnerable to deportation after reaching age 18, as in the case of Fliss Cramman.
- Additions to section 12: Right to evidence of citizenship
Section 12 of the Act is amended by adding the following:
(3) Every citizen is entitled as a right to evidence of citizenship.
(4) The right to evidence of citizenship is not subordinate to any government policy, including the national security policy of Canada or any other state.
(5) Evidence of citizenship issued or provided by the Minister under this section is acceptable for all purposes of record within the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada.
This amendment would guarantee the right of every citizen to evidence of citizenship.
Two more issues, things that were not addressed above:
- In current law, all naturalized Canadians are deemed to have been born in Canada for purposes of passing citizenship to their children, with one exception. A very small number of Lost Canadians got their citizenship restored through the immigration process- first becoming landed immigrants and then taking the oath of citizenship. These Lost Canadians, because they were naturalized, are not “deemed to have been born in Canada.” for purposes of passing citizenship to their children. Absent this, then Naturalized Canadians have more rights than some Canadian-born citizens. Tiered citizenship still exists. Needed is a statement in the Bill covering Lost Canadians, something like: “All naturalized Canadians are deemed to have been born in Canada.”
- For first-generation born abroad Canadians, the worst case is that their children, if born outside Canada, are stateless. The best scenario (still unacceptable) is that Canada denies their born-abroad children basic rights like attending school or getting healthcare (all violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). As it is now, naturalized Canadians are deemed to be born in Canada for purposes of passing on citizenship (except Lost Canadians who got their citizenship restored through the naturalization process. Section (1) above corrects that problem, making all naturalized Canadians equal when it comes to being able to confer citizenship to their children). Current law also says that immigrants qualify for citizenship once they’ve lived in Canada for three years. That satisfies IRCC’s “substantial connection” requirement. The problem, is that first-generation born abroad Canadians have no way to prove a “substantial connection,” and thus can never confer citizenship to their children, even if they grew up in Canada, remained in Canada for decades, or even became Prime Minister of Canada. We propose all first-generation born abroad Canadians, once they’ve been in Canada for three years, are deemed to have amassed a “substantial connection,” and hence, exactly like immigrants Canadians, they will be deemed to have been born in Canada for purposes of passing on citizenship. This would apply to their 2nd-generation born-abroad children, just as long as those children were born after the first-generation parent had satisfied IRCC’s “substantial connection” requirement. A model for this legislation could be the New Zealand example. Again, the citizenship of the child is dependent not on where they were born, but rather on the “substantial connection” of the parent.
HOT OFF THE PRESS
The Lost Canadians: A Struggle for Citizenship Rights, Equality and Identity
When Don Chapman was six years old, he was stripped of his Canadian citizenship, thanks to an arcane provision of the Canadian Citizenship Act. Years later, he was stunned to discover the fact, and thus began his David-and-Goliath battle to change Canada’s archaic citizenship laws.