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ADOPTION NEWS CENTRAL
Canadian law denies citizenship to children of foreign adoptees
BY ROBIN HILBORN, Family Helper editor
(Jan. 29, 2009) Canada is about to get a curious law: it grants Canadian citizenship to foreign children adopted by Canadians abroad but takes it away from their children, if they happen to be born outside the country.
It used to be that children adopted in other countries had to enter Canada as family-class immigrants, get a permanent resident visa, then apply for citizenship -- an obvious discrimination.
All seemed well when changes to the Citizenship Act took effect in December 2007 -- those born outside Canada and adopted by a Canadian became citizens at the time of adoption. See "New law makes it easier for children adopted abroad to become citizens".
Now comes an amendment, Bill C-37. As of April 17, 2009, it would limit citizenship to the first generation born abroad -- so the son of your adopted child from China would not be a Canadian citizen, if the son were also born abroad.
Put another way, a child born in another country will not be a Canadian citizen if her parent was also born abroad to, or adopted by, a Canadian parent.
This places a burden on foreign adoptees a generation hence: making sure they are not abroad when their kids are born, if they want them to have citizenship. It also means that pregnant Canadians should avoid giving birth anywhere outside Canada.
Discrimination has returned: the children (if born abroad) of some citizens are treated unequally, just because their parent was born abroad.
Commentator Douglas Chalke suggests that adoptive parents avoid the new law and use the old route of applying for a permanent resident visa for the child, then applying for Canadian citizenship after the child is landed in Canada.
Why should citizenship be diluted for those born abroad?
Here is how Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Minister Jason Kenney explained it in the National Post (Toronto) on Jan. 22, 2009: "The new law will ... ensure that future generations of Canadians have a real connection to this country and that citizenship is not passed down endlessly through generations living outside Canada. With few exceptions, the ability to acquire citizenship by descent will be limited to people born in the first generation outside Canada."
But international adopters are not breaking their attachment to Canada. They are building their family in Canada, not perpetuating a lineage of false citizens abroad.
The inequality could be solved easily: make an exception to the Bill C-37 regulations for adoptive parents who have obvious settled connections with Canada.
Exceptions already exist: the regulations don't apply to those born to a Canadian parent working abroad for the Canadian Armed Forces or the federal or provincial civil services. For them, citizenship is automatic at birth even though the person is a second-generation Canadian born abroad.
ADOPTION COMMUNITY REACTS NEGATIVELY
CIC unveiled Bill C-37's proposed regulations on Dec. 22, 2008, to universal negative reaction in the adoption community.
-- On Jan. 26, 2009 the Adoption Council of Canada (ACC) launched a "Call to Action" objecting to the loss of citizenship rights for some internationally adopted children. It urged concerned parents to contact their local member of Parliament. Get an M.P.'s address using your postal code. You may also direct your concerns to the Minister: The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Ottawa ON K1A 1L1, Minister@cic.gc.ca.
-- Douglas Chalke of Sunrise Adoption in North Vancouver BC covered the issue in detail in "How the 2009 Citizenship Law Applies to Adopted Children". He advises those thinking of adopting to ignore the advice of immigration officials. "Do not use the new direct citizenship route for children adopted overseas. Only use the old route of applying for a permanent resident visa for the child, and after the child is landed in Canada apply for Canadian citizenship. This child will have a Class A Canadian citizenship."
As a solution he suggests "an exception to the new law if the adopted child lived in Canada for a certain unspecified period of time. In other words, the child would start with Class B Canadian citizenship, and if the child eventually qualified by living in Canada for a certain period of time, they would graduate to Class A Canadian citizenship."
(Mr. Chalke uses "Class A" to refer to full-rights citizenship; "Class B" is the new, lesser-rights citizenship.)
For more interpretations of this story, see:
Jan. 16, 2009. "Critics fear two-tier citizenship". National Post (Toronto). By Glen McGregor, Canwest News Service.
Jan. 22, 2009. "Citizenship minister responds". National Post (Toronto). Letter. CIC Minister Jason Kenney responds to the Jan. 16 article. He says the law will "ensure that future generations of Canadians have a real connection to this country and that citizenship is not passed down endlessly through generations living outside Canada."
Jan. 26, 2009. "Complex citizenship laws anger adoptive parents". By Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail (Toronto).
For the government view of the issue, see:
Jan. 9, 2008. Legislative Summary. Library of Parliament.
Dec. 12, 2008. Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. By the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, in the Canada Gazette. Proposed federal regulations in Bill C-37 prevent children born to or adopted by Canadians outside the country from passing citizenship on to their children if they are also born abroad. This "protects the value of Canadian citizenship for the future".
The Citizenship Act was previously amended in June 2007 by An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption), S.C. 2007, c. 24, formerly Bill C-14.
In early 2007, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration started a study on the loss of Canadian citizenship. The Committee's November 2007 Report on the Loss of Canadian Citizenship contained 13 recommendations.
The resulting Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, aimed to help the so-called "lost Canadians" who lacked citizenship for various legal reasons. It got first reading in the House of Commons on Dec. 10, 2007, passed third reading on Feb. 15, 2008, received royal assent on April 17, 2008 and will come into force on April 17, 2009.
One group of lost Canadians are second-generation born-abroad Canadians -- those born abroad to a Canadian parent who was also born abroad.
The current Citizenship Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-29 came into effect on Feb. 15, 1977. It states that a person who was born outside Canada after Feb. 14, 1977 and who derived Canadian citizenship from a parent, who was also born outside Canada and who derived Canadian citizenship from his or her parent, ceases to be a citizen on his or her 28th birthday unless the person has applied to retain citizenship, and either resided in Canada for a year before applying or established a substantial connection with Canada.
Bill C-37's proposed regulations were published on Dec. 22, 2008, with comments allowed until Jan. 11, 2009.
One regulation of Bill C-37 affected those adopted abroad -- it prevented Canadians from passing down Canadian citizenship to their offspring born abroad after one generation. That is, it amends the Citizenship Act so that people born outside Canada to a Canadian parent who was also born outside Canada do not acquire Canadian citizenship. One exception is given to those born to a Canadian parent working abroad in for the Canadian Armed Forces or the federal or provincial civil services. For them, citizenship is automatic at birth even though the person is a second-generation Canadian born abroad.
The criticism of Bill C-37, for adoptive parents, is that it limits citizenship by descent to the first generation born abroad to a Canadian parent. It cuts off citizenship-by-descent after the first generation of Canadians born abroad.
The benefit, as the government sees it, is to end the possibility of Canadian citizenship being passed down indefinitely to people who have little or no connection with Canada.
The problem is that some people will not be Canadian citizens at birth even though they and their parents have a substantial connection with Canada -- for example, children adopted abroad and brought home to Canada by their parents.
This defect is noted in the Library of Parliament's Legislative Summary,
prepared Jan. 9, 2008.