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  Citizenship for children adopted abroad: welcome Bill C-14
Family Helper editor

(June 22, 2006)   Citizenship and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg has fulfilled a promise he made March 20, 2006 while speaking at a meeting of the Public Policy Forum in Toronto. He said the government would act "quickly" on extending citizenship to foreign-born adopted children, and act it did.
Monte Solberg
Monte Solberg

On May 15 Minister Solberg introduced Bill C-14, An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act (Adoption) in the House of Commons. See the text of the bill.

Bill C-14 will make it easier for Canadian parents to gain citizenship for their children adopted overseas. It would amend the Citizenship Act so that children adopted abroad by Canadians would not have to follow the usual immigration process ... they could get Canadian citizenship without first waiting to obtain permanent resident status.

The change brings the process more in line with the rule for children who are born to Canadians outside Canada -- they become Canadian citizens automatically. The difference for children adopted abroad by Canadians would be that citizenship is not automatic; the parents would still need to apply for citizenship in advance.

If the bill passes, a foreign-born adopted child would acquire Canadian citizenship as soon as the adoption is finalized, as long as the parents have applied for citizenship in the child's name before they leave home.

Solberg's Bill C-14 is in fact identical to Joe Volpe's Bill C-76 in the previous Parliament (see below), as a comparison of the text of each shows.

May 15 marked first reading for Bill C-14. It still has to pass second and third reading in Parliament, and the details of implementation need to be spelled out in the regulations. CIC has said that when writing the regulations it will consult members of the adoption community such as the Adoption Council of Canada.

The bill was still in clause-by-clause consideration by the House Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration when the House rose for summer recess on June 22, 2006. Committee discussion picks up again when parliament resumes in the fall.

Adoptive parents wondering how the bill will affect them should note that it applies only to adoptions finalized abroad, i.e. when the adoption is legalized in a court of that country.

In some countries parents take custody of children but don't immediately adopt them. Children from Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Philippines, South Korea and Thailand are not adopted abroad -- the adoption is finalized in Canada, in a provincial court. Such children would not acquire Canadian citizenship while still abroad.

What is their status? We have the following clarification from Mark Davidson, Director and Registrar of Canadian Citizenship, in an email to the Adoption Council of Canada on May 31, 2006. There is a category of child (FC-6, "child to be adopted in Canada") who enters the country as a permanent resident. Parents then legally adopt their child under provincial law. Once this has happened, the parents would apply for citizenship on behalf of their child, by using either section 5(2)(a) of the existing Citizenship Act or the rules of Bill C-14, once it comes into effect.

According to the news release from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the bill will also benefit adoptive parents who have citizenship applications in process. Once the legislation takes effect, if the adopted child is found not to be eligible for citizenship under the current law, CIC will assess the application under the new law.

Bill C-14 makes one provision specifically for adopters in Québec. Before CIC will approve a citizenship application from Québec parents who adopted abroad, CIC needs a letter stating "the adoption meets the requirements of Quebec law governing adoptions" from the Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale du Québec, which is the adoption authority in Québec.

The bill has the support of the adoption community. Sandra Scarth, president of the Adoption Council of Canada (ACC), said, "This is a major step forward for foreign-born adopted children and their adoptive families." In an article at the ACC web site, Ms. Scarth urged the public to help ensure the legislation is passed quickly, by writing to their member of Parliament and to members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

(Here's a short cut: you can find your MP using your postal code. Committee members are listed at the Parliament of Canada web site.)

More information is available from the Citizenship and Immigration Call Centre, 1-888-242-2100, or visit

Canadians may finally see much-needed reform in citizenship law. The current Citizenship Act dates from 1977. In recent years there have been four unsuccessful attempts to overhaul it: Bill C-63 in 1998, Bill C-16 in 1999, Bill C-18 in 2002 and Bill C-76 in 2005.

2005: Bill C-76

The previous attempt to change the Act was on Nov. 17, 2005. Then-Minister Joe Volpe introduced a bill in the House of Commons to amend the Citizenship Act. It would "reduce the distinction between children born to, and children adopted by, Canadian citizens outside Canada by eliminating the requirement that adopted children first obtain permanent residence status before becoming Canadian. Upon application, adopted children will be able to obtain citizenship after the adoption is finalized."

Less than two weeks later, on Nov. 28, Volpe's bill, along with all other pending legislation, died on the order paper as parliament dissolved in preparation for the federal election of Jan. 23, 2006.

The Volpe bill was titled Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption).

Under Bill C-76 children from other countries who are adopted by Canadian parents can apply for citizenship as soon as the adoption is finalized. Currently, it can take two years or more for children to become citizens, making it harder for them to go on trips abroad with their new families.

The issue of citizenship for foreign-born adoptees has been on the drawing board for years but has never made it into law because it has been lumped in with other changes to the Citizenship Act, some controversial enough to keep legislation from being passed.

So, instead, the Volpe bill sought to amend just the adoption provisions of the Act. Creating a separate bill to address the issue, instead of combining it with other immigration and citizenship matters, was calculated to enhance its chances of passage.

The Volpe amendment would speed up the process by which a child born abroad could gain Canadian citizenship through adoption by a Canadian. The child would not first need to get permanent residence before applying for citizenship (which parallels the requirement for children born abroad to a Canadian parent). A child could apply for citizenship as soon as the legislation came into force. The amendment provided that citizenship applications now in process would be finalized under the current law. If the adopted child is found not to be eligible for citizenship under the current law, CIC would assess the application under the new provision.

2002: Bill C-18

Bill C-18, the Citizenship Act, was introduced in the House on Oct. 31, 2002 by Minister Denis Coderre. It left many of the existing provisions on acquiring and renouncing citizenship intact, and improved on some, including in the area of adoption.

C-18 was much like its predecessors, C-16 and C-63. It provided that, for all adoptions after Feb. 14, 1977, a child adopted abroad becomes a Canadian citizen "upon application". The child would not first have to become a permanent resident, but the parents would still have to apply for citizenship on behalf of their child.

There were hopes that C-18 could become law in the fall of 2003, but it was not to be: the bill died at the end of the Second Session of the 37th Parliament, Nov. 12, 2003. It was not re-introduced in the Third Session, which was dissolved May 23, 2004.

C-18 had passed second reading in the House on Nov. 8, 2002. Deliberations would have continued at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, followed by third reading. As with all federal legislation, C-18 would have become law after passing both the House of Commons and the Senate and receiving the Governor General's Royal Assent.

1999: Bill C-16

Bill C-16, the Citizenship Act, was introduced by Minister Elinor Caplan in 1999 and got second reading on Mar. 23, 2000. It died on the order paper. (During 2000, the government re-introduced as Bill C-16 a Citizenship of Canada Act which died with the election in November 2000.)

The bill proposed to grant, upon application, citizenship to a child born abroad who was adopted by a citizen after Feb. 14, 1977. Children adopted internationally would not have to go through the landed immigrant process to become Canadian citizens.

1998: Bill C-63

Bill C-63, tabled by Minister Lucienne Robillard in 1998, died on the order paper.

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