Bill C-71

Bill C-71: Extending Canadian Citizenship by Descent Beyond the First Generation

On May 23, 2024, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) unveiled Bill C-71, a landmark legislation aimed at extending Canadian citizenship by descent beyond the first generation. This bill is set to revolutionize the way citizenship is granted to children born abroad to Canadian parents. Additionally, it covers children adopted by Canadian parents outside of Canada. The introduction of Bill C-71 marks a significant shift towards inclusivity and fairness in the Canadian citizenship process.

Key Provisions of Bill C-71

Automatic Citizenship for Children Born Abroad

One of the most notable features of Bill C-71 is the automatic granting of Canadian citizenship to children born abroad to Canadian parents, even if the parents themselves were born outside Canada. This move is designed to rectify the limitations imposed by the first-generation rule, which previously restricted citizenship to only the first-generation born abroad.

Citizenship for Adopted Children

The bill also extends Canadian citizenship to children adopted abroad by Canadian parents, beyond the first generation. This provision ensures that adopted children have the same rights and privileges as biological children when it comes to acquiring Canadian citizenship.

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Restoring Citizenship to “Lost Canadians”

Bill C-71 aims to restore citizenship to “Lost Canadians”—individuals who lost or never acquired citizenship due to outdated provisions in previous citizenship laws. This includes anyone born abroad to a Canadian parent in the second or subsequent generations before the new legislation comes into force. By addressing these historical injustices, the bill seeks to provide these individuals with the citizenship they rightfully deserve.

Requirements for Parents

Under the new legislation, Canadian parents born abroad who wish to pass on their citizenship to their children must meet specific residency requirements. They must have spent at least 1,095 days (approximately three years) in Canada before the birth or adoption of their child. This requirement ensures that parents have a substantial connection to Canada, reinforcing the value and significance of Canadian citizenship.

Impact on Families and Individuals

The introduction of Bill C-71 is poised to have a profound impact on many families and individuals with ties to Canada. The current first-generation limit has led to numerous challenges for families, affecting decisions on where to live, work, and raise children. By extending citizenship beyond the first generation, the new legislation addresses these concerns and fosters a sense of belonging among Canadians living abroad.

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Statements from the Minister

The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, emphasized the importance of these changes. He stated, “The current rules generally restrict citizenship by descent to the first generation, excluding some people who have a genuine connection to Canada. These changes aim to be inclusive and protect the value of Canadian citizenship. We are committed to making the citizenship process as fair and transparent as possible.”

Historical Context

The first-generation limit on citizenship by descent was introduced as a legislative change in 2009. This limit meant that Canadian citizens born outside Canada could not pass on their citizenship to their children also born outside Canada. However, legislative changes in 2009 and 2015 restored or granted citizenship to many “Lost Canadians” who had lost it or never received it due to outdated laws. Despite these changes, some individuals still faced restrictions, which Bill C-71 aims to eliminate.

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Legal Background

On December 19, 2023, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the first-generation limit is unconstitutional. The Government of Canada chose not to appeal this ruling, acknowledging the adverse effects of the law on Canadian families with children born abroad. This legal context underscores the necessity and urgency of Bill C-71.

Moving Forward

The passing of Bill C-71 will mark a new era in Canadian citizenship law. It reflects Canada’s commitment to inclusivity, fairness, and the recognition of genuine connections to the country. For those affected by the current restrictions, this legislation offers hope and a pathway to reclaiming their rightful citizenship. Bill C-71 represents a significant step towards a more inclusive and equitable Canadian citizenship process.

By extending citizenship by descent beyond the first generation and restoring citizenship to “Lost Canadians,” the legislation addresses long-standing issues and reinforces the value of Canadian citizenship. As the bill progresses through Parliament, it brings with it the promise of a brighter, more inclusive future for Canadians worldwide.

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