Liberals propose automatic citizenship for children born to Canadians abroad

Children born to a Canadian parent outside the country will automatically get Canadian citizenship, so long as the parent has spent three years in Canada.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced proposed changes to Bill C-71 to amend the Citizenship Act that would introduce automatic citizenship by descent past the first generation, even if both the parent and child were born outside of Canada.

“The current rules generally restrict citizenship by descent to the first generation, excluding some people who have a genuine connection to Canada. This has unacceptable consequences for families and impacts life choices, such as where individuals may choose to live, work, study, or even where to have children and raise a family,” said Miller during a speech in Ottawa on Thursday.

Miller said that under the new legislation children born “abroad to a Canadian citizen who was also born outside of Canada will be a Canadian citizen from birth” as long as the parent can prove that they have a “substantial connection to Canada.”

“As long as a Canadian parent who was born outside of Canada has accumulated three years of time spent in Canada before the birth of the child, they will be able to pass down their citizenship to their child,” said Miller. 

“These changes aim to be inclusive and protect the value of Canadian citizenship, as we are committed to making the citizenship process as fair and transparent as possible.”

Legislative changes made to the Citizenship Act in 2009 by the previous Conservative government added a first-generation limit to citizenship by descent, meaning a Canadian parent could pass on citizenship to a child born outside of the country as long as they were either born in Canada or became a naturalized citizen prior to their child being born. 

However, the newly proposed legislation would allow for citizenship to be extended by descent beyond the first generation.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice declared that the first-generation cap was unconstitutional last December, a decision that was not appealed by the federal government because it agreed with the ruling.

The new legislation also aims to address the issue of what the Liberals call “Lost Canadians,” people who either lost their citizenship or were never given it due to outdated legislation. 

“These changes will address most, if not all, of the Lost Canadians and their descendants, seeking to regain their citizenship. The changes also address the status of Canadian descendants who were subject to the first generation limit,” Miller said.

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