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New Canadian Citizenship Rules To Come Into Effect In April

by David Cohen

Over the past several years, the Government of Canada has been reviewing its citizenship laws, which are considered quite liberal, compared to other countries’.  Bill C-37 was created in response to these deliberations and will go into effect on April 17, 2009.  Under the new law, certain individuals who lost their citizenship will regain it.  Others will receive Canadian citizenship for the first time.  The most significant change, however, is to the regulations for granting of citizenship to children born abroad to Canadian parents.

One of the main purposes of Bill C-37 is to restore Canadian citizenship to the tens of thousands of Canadians who have had their citizenship denied or unknowingly allowed it to expire because of several little-known particularities of Canada’s Citizenship Act.

The proposed legislation restores citizenship to anyone born in Canada or who became a Canadian citizen on or after January 1, 1947 (when the Citizenship Act was created), and then lost their citizenship.  This includes war brides who have not yet become Canadian citizens.

Some of the people who will have their citizenship reinstated are children who were born abroad to Canadian parents; or they are children born in Canada but whose parents later became citizens of another country.  Also receiving citizenship under the new law are foreign-born family members of Second World War veterans, who were granted citizenship when they moved to Canada after the war, but later lost it because they were not aware that it subsequently needed to be reaffirmed.

The new law will retroactively rectify these past problems.

Moving forward, however, citizenship laws will become more restrictive for children of Canadians born abroad.

Canada grants citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil.  If Canadian citizens give birth abroad, their children are automatically accorded Canadian citizenship as well.

Previously, these Canadians born abroad could pass on their citizenship to their children, grandchildren, and so on, regardless of whether the children were born in Canada or not.

The new law restricts this citizenship by descent.  Now, if first-generation Canadians (those born in Canada) give birth to their children in another country, they can still pass on their Canadian citizenship.  However, if second-generation Canadians (those born to Canadian parents abroad) have children in another country, these children will not qualify for Canadian citizenship.

Essentially, Canadian citizenship by descent will only be accorded to first-generation Canadians living abroad.

Second-generation Canadians can only pass on their citizenship to their children if they give birth in Canada.  If they give birth abroad, their children will not be accorded Canadian citizenship.

This means that second-generation Canadians will not possess the same citizenship rights as those born in Canada.  This has garnered considerable criticism.

Canada has a vibrant and valuable expatriate community around the world, which proudly represents the country.  Critics say that this new law would discourage Canadian citizens from settling abroad.

About The Author

David Cohen is senior partner at the Canadian immigration law firm of Campbell Cohen and has been practicing Canadian immigration law for almost 30 years. He graduated from Montreal's McGill University, Faculty of Law, and is a member of the Quebec and Canadian Bar Associations as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Most recently, he was appointed a governor of the Fondation du Barreau du Québec. David Cohen is managing editor of the Canadian Immigration Newsletter, a monthly publication with readership of more than 150,000 subscribers. He also moderates a web-based public discussion forum, which covers topics relating to Canadian migration and settlement.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.