Citizenship Act amendments come into force

Posted by admin on Apr 17th, 2009

The amendments to the Citizenship Act take effect today – the CCR’s information on some of the impacts can be found:

* CBC. Friday, April 17, 2009. As many ‘Lost Canadians’ gain citizenship, others are left in limbo

In a peppy YouTube video posted by the federal Citizenship and Immigration Ministry, a man awakes on April 17, 2009, to a once-austere bedroom now adorned in Canadian paraphernalia. Titled /Waking up Canadian/, it’s aimed at so-called “Lost Canadians” — people who, as of Friday, are finally citizens of the country they always thought they belonged to. The good news comes thanks to an amendment to the Citizenship Act that goes into effect for war brides and other disenfranchised residents who were stripped of their citizenship or were told they weren’t eligible.

For Dean Echenberg, who spent years fighting for the Canadian citizenship he lost when his father moved to the U.S. and became an American citizen, that video depiction is reality.

When Echenberg’s father died, the family moved back to Canada. Echenberg only found out about his rescinded nationality when he applied for a Canadian passport while studying at a U.S. medical school. “I was informed that I had been stripped of my Canadian citizenship. I was floored.”

His nationality was stripped under an old law that didn’t allow dual citizenship. That was revised in 1977, but it wasn’t retroactive.  “I’m a Canadian,” Echenberg told CBC News. “Always was, and now the government recognizes it.”

*’Fall between the cracks’*

But even though provisions in the legislation, what was known as Bill C-37, are a cause of celebration for some, others won’t benefit, and experts say the amendment may create another generation of lost Canadians.

“There’s a whole new group of people who are going to fall between the cracks as a result of these measures, in addition to some of the people who fell into the former category of lost Canadians,” said Sharryn Aiken, a law professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Aiken said the law prevents citizenship from being passed beyond first-generation Canadians in some cases. For example, a person born abroad to — or adopted from a foreign country by — Canadian parents can’t pass their citizenship on to their children if their child is born outside Canada.

It’s a change that has Laura Cameron of Kingston worrying about the future of her 10-year-old son, Arden. He was born in Cambridge, Britain, while Cameron was studying at the city’s university.

“What if [he] falls in love abroad?” she asked. “Do they move to the Paris airport and become members of the stateless class who live in airports? Good Lord, it’s just ludicrous.”

The changes for second-generation Canadians are “regressive, draconian and completely out of step with the times,” Cameron said.

Exceptions are made for children of parents working abroad with the Canadian Armed Forces, as federal public servants or in the service of a province.

But with an estimated 2.7 million Canadians living abroad, Aiken said, the Canadian government needs to rethink its definition of citizenship in a world where people increasingly identify with multiple backgrounds.

“I think it’s retrograde to suggest individuals can only have one loyalty and one country,” Aiken said.

*Government estimates questioned*

When the Citizenship Act amendments were announced in late 2007, then Citizenship and Immigration minister Diane Finley said they would resolve more than 95 per cent of the cases of Lost Canadians. The government said it was aware of about 450 Lost Canadians, but a CBC investigation found that as many as 200,000 people could be affected.

In the end, the amendments have failed to help several categories of Lost Canadians, including a group of Mennonites were apparently issued citizenship cards in error and some so-called war babies.

Jacqueline Scott was born in England in 1945 to a Canadian serviceman and a British mother, who later married and lived in Canada. Under the new legislation, war babies born out of wedlock only have a right to citizenship if they were born after 1947 — the year Canada first adopted its own citizenship law.

“My father fought for Canada. Why should they deny his daughter what really should be hers?” Scott said.

The Immigration Ministry sent her a letter dated Feb. 23, 2009, stating that the law when Scott was born didn’t permit her to get British subject status through her father because she was born out of wedlock (at the time, persons born in Canada were British subjects). So when Canadian citizenship was created two years later, her father obtained it but she was ineligible.

“They consider me to be, in this day and age, a bastard. It’s a horrible expression, but that’s how they still deem me. And I’ve been denied based on that,” Scott said.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney did not respond to CBC requests for an interview.

The problem of Lost Canadians was highlighted in a series of reports by CBC News in 2007 about how thousands of people were at risk of losing their citizenship due to outdated provisions in existing and former citizenship laws.

The issue gained importance after the United States started tightening border security in 2002, triggering a rise in Canadians applying for passports.

In 2006, Joe Taylor, the son of a Canadian serviceman and war bride who had been stripped of his nationality, fought and won for his right to citizenship. Though that ruling was overturned, the government later offered him citizenship.

Aiken said she expects the government could face more such court challenges as the changes to the Citizenship Act become more public.

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