Mr. David Tilson, Q.C., M.P.
Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to present the Government’s
response to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration’s report
entitled Review of the Subject Matter of Bill C-37, An Act to Amend the
Citizenship Act, Enacted in Second Session of the 39th Parliament, which
was tabled in the House of Commons on June 25, 2009.
I would like to
thank the Committee members for their work on this report. I am pleased to
respond comprehensively on behalf of the Government to the Committee’s comments
The Government appreciates
the Committee’s work on citizenship. Moreover, it welcomes the Committee’s
future consideration of citizenship issues.
Honourable Jason Kenney, PC, MP
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
As a remedy to
situations of loss of citizenship, a subject studied in the past by the
Committee, the Government implemented Bill C-37 on April 17, 2009, which was
passed a year earlier with unanimous support by Parliament. The Bill was a
broad and generous legislative solution to resolve many problems that had
arisen due to outdated provisions in current and former citizenship
legislation. Citizenship was restored or given to:
- Persons who became
citizens when Canada’s first citizenship act took effect on January 1, 1947
(including people born in Canada prior to 1947 and war brides) and who then
lost their citizenship;
- Persons who were born in
Canada or who became Canadian on or after January 1, 1947, and who then lost
- Persons born abroad to a
Canadian on or after January 1, 1947, if not already a citizen, but only if
they are the first generation born abroad.
A clear objective of
Bill C-37 was to achieve greater simplicity and transparency in citizenship
laws as well as to preserve the value of citizenship by ensuring it could not
be passed on endlessly to generations of Canadians living outside of Canada.
In order to achieve these objectives, Bill C-37 limits citizenship by descent
to people born in the first generation outside Canada.
The Committee recommends that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration
and Multiculturalism, pursuant to subsection 5(4) of the Citizenship Act which authorizes him to grant citizenship,
ensure that the consideration of cases that were not resolved by the
implementation of Bill C-37 be completed as quickly as possible.
Bill C-37 was
implemented on April 17th, 2009 and resolved most lost Canadian
cases, automatically restoring or giving Canadian citizenship to many who lost
or never had it.
Bill C-37 upholds January 1st, 1947 as the date Canadian citizenship began as a legal status.
This date was therefore used to establish the timeline on the Bill’s
retroactive legislative correction to loss of citizenship. Persons who did not
become citizens when Canada’s first citizenship act came into force on January 1st, 1947 did not benefit from Bill C-37.
In seeking passage
for Bill C-37, the Government indicated that, given the variety of
circumstances, it would examine each case on its merits and, where warranted,
use the discretionary authority to grant citizenship.
subsection 5(4) of the Citizenship Act, the Governor in Council (GIC)
has the discretionary authority to direct the Minister to grant citizenship to
any person to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services
of an exceptional value to Canada.
responds positively to recommendation one and affirms its commitment to
finalize cases where persons have applied for a discretionary review under
subsection 5(4) of the Citizenship Act. The Government is processing
these cases as quickly as possible.
Since 2007, 184 lost
Canadian cases have been approved by the GIC for a discretionary grant of
citizenship. This includes 104 in 2007, 69 in 2008 and 11 in 2009. As Bill
C-37 resolved most cases of lost Canadians, this has reduced the need for
persons to request consideration under subsection 5(4). The total number of subsection
5(4) grants for 2009 to date is 26 which include lost Canadians and others.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada grant children adopted abroad by Canadian parents ordinarily residing in Canada the same legal status as children born in Canada.
proposes to modify the application of the first generation limit on passing on
citizenship by descent for children born abroad and adopted by Canadians. Currently,
Bill C‑37 considers such children to be the first generation born
abroad. Under this recommendation, the ability of such persons to pass on
citizenship would mirror that of those born in Canada. This recommendation would require a legislative
amendment, and would also include a residence test for an adoptive child’s
parents, to determine whether they are ordinarily residing in Canada. Unfortunately, a residence requirement is difficult to administer and enforce in
the absence of exit controls to verify residence.
If children born abroad and
adopted by a Canadian parent have children outside Canada, those children would
not be citizens at birth unless their other parent was born or naturalized in
Canada or one of their parents is working overseas as a Crown servant. Likewise,
if the child who was born abroad and adopted by Canadian parents wishes to
adopt a child born outside Canada, their child would not be eligible for a
grant of citizenship under the direct process for adopted persons unless the
child is eligible through their other parent.
Children born abroad and
adopted by Canadians have two possible paths to citizenship going forward. The
first option is to obtain permanent resident status for the child and then
apply for citizenship once the child is living in Canada. The second option
would be to pursue a direct grant of citizenship on behalf of the adopted child
so that the child obtains citizenship before moving to Canada. Under the first option the child would have the same ability as a child that was
born in Canada to pass on their citizenship. Currently both options are
available to parents and it is a choice that is best left to parents to address
their unique circumstance. To disseminate information on options available,
CIC, as part of the implementation efforts, used a wide variety of channels to
spread the word on the new law, including building a new web landing page and
reaching out to federal partners and provinces and territories to request that
they use their channels to inform clientele of the citizenship changes.
The Minister of Citizenship,
Immigration and Multiculturalism is seized with this matter and has requested
that the Department review the implementation of Bill C-37 with regard to the
concerns expressed by adoptive families on how best to address this matter.
The Committee calls upon the Government of Canada to allow the
transmission of citizenship by descent to children born abroad to a Canadian
parent, provided that the Canadian parent resided in Canada for a specific
period of time, as established through legislation, before the child was born.
Recommendation three proposes
to legislatively amend Bill C-37’s first generation limit on citizenship such
that citizenship by descent would be permitted beyond the first generation in
cases where the child’s parent had spent a minimum number of years in Canada. In other words, recommendation three proposes legislative criteria for determining eligibility to citizenship through a residence connection.
One of Bill C-37’s aims was
to eliminate such criteria. The lost Canadian issue partly arose due to the
complex and unintended consequences of applying connection-to-Canada criteria
over time. Both the previous 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act, and the
current 1977 Act (prior to Bill C-37’s amendments) included conditions that had
to be satisfied by persons born abroad to Canadian parents, in order for those
persons to become or to maintain their status as Canadian citizens. These
conditions, for example, included the requirement to demonstrate an attachment
to Canada, primarily through residence, and by way of an application. The
retention rules were both difficult for impacted persons to understand and
complicated to administer and enforce (in the absence of exit controls to
verify residence), and stakeholders asked that these rules be replaced with a
clear and transparent approach. Persons who failed to meet the retention rules
lost their citizenship, some without even realizing it. Bill C-37’s solution
was to replace these rules with one simple transparent rule that Canadians
could easily self-assess; recommendation three contradicts this intent.
Accordingly, the Government does not support this recommendation.