Critics denounce citizenship bill measures

Posted by admin on Apr 10th, 2008

Richard Foot. Canwest News Service. Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Conservative government came under fire Thursday for new measures that would deny citizenship to children born outside the country whose Canadian parents were also born abroad. Limiting citizenship to only the first generation born abroad will do serious harm to Canadian families, and render countless numbers of young children stateless – especially in an age of increasing global mobility, said Donald Galloway, a law professor at the University of Victoria.

Galloway was testifying Thursday before a Senate committee examining Bill C-37, a series of proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act aimed at resolving the embarrassing and long-standing problem of “Lost Canadians.”

The Lost Canadians include about 30,000 war brides and their children who followed Canadian soldiers home to this country after the Second World War.

The group also includes roughly 100,000 Canadians who were quietly stripped of their citizenship after moving to the U.S. with their parents.

The majority of these people unknowingly lost their citizenship, or never received it, thanks to a series of quirky and poorly understood rules in Canada’s archaic citizenship laws that date back to 1947.

In December, the Conservatives introduced Bill C-37, aimed at retroactively restoring citizenship to about 170,000 people, or 95 per cent of all the lost Canadians.

Although widely applauded, the bill remains contentious because it refuses citizenship to anyone who is the second or subsequent generation to be born abroad in a family with Canadian ancestry.

At present, children born outside the country to Canadian parents are automatically granted citizenship, but must declare or affirm their citizenship before the age of 28 if they want to maintain it.

Bill C-37 would scrap that requirement, and allow the first generation born abroad automatic citizenship without having to later affirm it.

But it would also deny automatic citizenship to subsequent generations born outside the country.

Children of parents working outside Canada for the government or the Armed Forces are exempted from the rule.

Still, said Galloway, “There will be many others who will be hurt by this,” including employees of international aid organizations, university professors, scientists and businesspeople who spend their careers working around the globe.

“It’s important to recognize that we’re not in a stable world anymore, where people do not move,” he said. “People move all the time.”

He also said women will suffer more than men.

“Women who are engaged in international work will have to plan their pregnancy to return to Canada. Women who are looking after their parents in Florida will have to return to Canada to give birth.”

Liberal Senator Lucie Pepin also warned that, “Some people with Canadian ancestry could become stateless,” particularly in countries where birth itself is not a sufficient condition of citizenship.

Immigration Minister Diane Finley defended the measure, saying Canadian parents can still bring their foreign-born children into the country as landed immigrants, and later apply for citizenship.

But for families who choose not to reside Canada, “the legacy of Canadian citizenship should not be passed along by endless generations living abroad,” said Finley.

“We must protect its value by ensuring that citizens have a real connection to this country. To do otherwise would be to sell our citizenship short and would not be fair to all of those who have come to Canada and made it their home.”

Bill C-37 has been passed by the House of Commons and awaits approval from the Senate. If it becomes law, its changes are not expected to take effect until spring 2009.

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