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Sunday, June 23, 2024
Sunday June 23, 2024
Sunday June 23, 2024

Government bill to restore citizenship rights for ‘Lost Canadians’

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Bill C-71 aims to reverse 2009 legislation and grant citizenship to canadians born abroad and their children

Immigration Minister Marc Miller introduced a significant bill on Thursday, aiming to restore citizenship rights to ‘lost Canadians.’ Bill C-71 seeks to allow Canadians born abroad to pass their citizenship to their children, a right previously removed by a 2009 change under Stephen Harper’s government.

This bill marks a historic move, addressing past injustices and extending citizenship by descent beyond the first generation. Don Chapman, a notable “lost Canadian,” has campaigned for this change for decades. He described the bill as a “historic” step that could even enable Hollywood stars like Academy Award winner Gene Hackman, whose mother was Canadian, to gain Canadian passports.

Chapman, born in Canada, lost his citizenship when he moved to the United States as a child. He only regained it as an adult. The introduction of Bill C-71 follows an Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruling last year, which declared it unconstitutional to deny Canadians born abroad the right to pass their citizenship to their foreign-born children. The federal government faced a June 19 deadline to amend the law.

During a press conference in Parliament, Minister Miller highlighted the adverse impacts of the current rules on Canadian families. He noted that these rules influence where families can live, work, study, and raise children. “There’s no doubt that Canadian citizenship is highly valued and recognized around the world. Not everyone is entitled to it. But for those who are, it needs to be fair,” Miller stated.

Bill C-71, supported by the NDP and Green Party, proposes that a parent born outside Canada can pass their citizenship to their foreign-born child if they have spent at least 1,095 days in Canada before the child’s birth. The bill also extends this provision to adopted children born abroad, provided the Canadian parent has lived in Canada for at least three years before adoption.

Furthermore, the bill would grant citizenship to those born outside Canada before the bill’s enactment if their parent was a Canadian citizen, regardless of whether the parent spent 1,095 days in Canada. This aspect aims to address cases of individuals who may have lived abroad their entire lives.

The bill seeks to reverse the 2009 legislation aimed at addressing so-called “Canadians of convenience.” This term emerged after Canada spent over $80 million evacuating 15,000 citizens from Lebanon during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. The rule change led to numerous Canadians working abroad being unable to pass on their citizenship to their children, creating a category of “second class citizens,” as described by NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan.

Kwan criticized the Conservatives for delaying similar efforts through filibustering a private member’s bill intended to restore citizenship rights to ‘lost Canadians.’ The 2009 rule change also affected “border babies” born just across the U.S. border and Indigenous children from communities straddling the border, denying them Canadian passports despite living in Canada.

Kathryn Burton, a First Nations Canadian born in the United States but raised in Cape Breton, expressed her support for the bill. Under current rules, she could not pass her Canadian citizenship to her sons, Graydon and Miles, born abroad like her. Burton, who resides in Boston, shared that her sons’ citizenship applications were initially rejected but have since been granted.

“You will see them at the next citizenship event waving and saying that they are proud and rightful citizens – and not lost. Trust me: I find them every morning doing something that they shouldn’t be doing like wrestling!” she remarked at the press conference.

Chapman acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the number of new citizens the bill would create but emphasized that many ‘lost Canadians’ already live in Canada.

Analysis:

The introduction of Bill C-71 represents a significant policy shift with various implications across economic, sociological, and legal dimensions. This legislation aims to rectify past injustices by extending citizenship rights to children of Canadians born abroad.

Economically, the bill’s passage could boost Canada’s talent pool by reintegrating individuals who have maintained strong ties to the country despite living abroad. The potential influx of citizens, including professionals and skilled workers, could enhance Canada’s labour market and contribute to economic growth. Additionally, by recognizing the contributions of Canadians abroad, the country strengthens its global diaspora ties, which can translate into increased international collaboration and investment.

Sociologically, the bill addresses the issue of ‘second class citizens,’ ensuring that all Canadians, regardless of where they are born, have equal rights. This move aligns with Canada’s values of inclusivity and fairness. The bill’s provisions for adopted children further reinforce Canada’s commitment to family unity and the importance of maintaining cultural and familial connections across borders.

From a legal perspective, Bill C-71 corrects a policy deemed unconstitutional by Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice. By ensuring that Canadians born abroad can pass their citizenship to their children, the bill upholds the principles of equality and justice. This legislative change also prevents future legal battles and reinforces the government’s commitment to upholding constitutional rights.

Moreover, the bill addresses historical grievances, as seen in the case of ‘lost Canadians’ like Don Chapman. By restoring their citizenship rights, Canada acknowledges past errors and takes concrete steps to rectify them. This legislative change not only restores rights but also provides emotional and psychological relief to individuals who have felt marginalized by previous policies.

Politically, the bill’s introduction highlights the current government’s dedication to rectifying past injustices and promoting inclusivity. The support from the NDP and Green Party indicates a broad consensus on the issue, reflecting a unified commitment to justice and fairness. However, the bill also reignites debates about national identity, citizenship, and the responsibilities of the Canadian government to its citizens abroad.

In conclusion, Bill C-71 represents a pivotal moment in Canadian immigration policy. By restoring citizenship rights to ‘lost Canadians’ and extending these rights to their children, the government addresses economic, sociological, and legal concerns. The bill reinforces Canada’s commitment to fairness, inclusivity, and constitutional rights, ensuring that all Canadians, regardless of their birthplace, are recognized and valued.

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