Author: Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB
Last Updated On: June 30, 2024

Proposed Changes to Remove First-Generation Citizenship Rule

Canada first-generation citizenship rule

Seven-year-old Ryan was born in the United States to Canadian parents. His parents, both born outside Canada, live in Canada. His mother went into labour during a visit to the US, resulting in his birth there. Due to the first-generation rule, the Canadian government did not accept Ryan as a citizen. With proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, Ryan’s parents hope to regain his citizenship. His family eagerly awaits these changes, hoping to secure his rightful place as a Canadian citizen.

Understanding the First-Generation Rule

The first-generation rule restricts the transmission of Canadian citizenship to only the first generation of children born abroad to Canadian citizens. Introduced in 2009, this rule intended to maintain a meaningful connection to Canada for those acquiring citizenship by descent. Essentially, suppose a Canadian citizen is born outside Canada. In that case, they cannot pass on their citizenship to their children if they are also born outside Canada unless the Canadian parent is either a first-generation Canadian or works abroad for the Canadian government or a similar organization.

This rule affects families like Ryan’s, whose parents are Canadian citizens born abroad. Despite their strong ties to Canada, their child, born during a temporary visit to the United States, does not automatically receive Canadian citizenship. This has created significant challenges for many families, impacting where they can live, work, and raise their children.

Many have criticized this rule for creating the “Lost Canadians” class. A recent Ontario Superior Court decision declared this rule unconstitutional, noting that it unfairly discriminates based on national origin and perpetuates disadvantages for those born abroad to Canadian citizens​.

Please refer to my other article for a more detailed explanation of the first-generation rule and its implications.

Ontario Court Ruling on this Matter

In December 2023, the Ontario Superior Court ruled the first-generation limit on Canadian citizenship unconstitutional in Bjorkquist et al. v. Attorney General of Canada. The decision followed a case involving multiple families unable to pass citizenship to their children born outside Canada. Notably, Justice Akbarali found that this rule discriminated based on national origin, violating sections 6 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court stated the rule created a lesser class of citizenship. Consequently, children born abroad to Canadian parents faced significant disadvantages. These included difficulties in acquiring Canadian citizenship and barriers to returning to Canada. Of course, the ruling underscored the discriminatory nature of the policy and its negative impacts on affected families.

In a recent CTV News interview, I emphasized the decision’s significance. I stated, “The court’s decision is a step towards inclusivity and fairness in Canadian immigration policies.” This ruling aligns with Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism and diversity, reinforcing the value of citizenship for all Canadians, regardless of birthplace. Moreover, this ruling paved the way for the proposed changes in Bill C-71. These changes aim to address these issues and restore citizenship rights to those affected by the first-generation rule.

Bill C-71: Comprehensive Changes to the Citizenship Act

Bill C-71 introduces significant amendments to the Citizenship Act, aiming to address issues related to citizenship by descent and inclusivity.

Extending Citizenship by Descent

The new legislation extends citizenship by descent beyond the first generation. Previously, only the first generation born abroad to Canadian citizens could obtain citizenship. Now, children born abroad to Canadian parents, regardless of their generation, will automatically receive Canadian citizenship. Therefore, this change addresses families like Ryan’s, giving them rightful citizenship.

Substantial Connection Requirement

The bill introduces a substantial connection requirement to ensure a meaningful connection to Canada. Parents must demonstrate 1,095 days of physical presence in Canada before their child’s birth or adoption. This measure balances extending citizenship rights while maintaining strong ties to Canada.

Citizenship for Adopted Children

Bill C-71 also grants citizenship to children adopted abroad by Canadian parents, including those adopted before and after the legislation comes into force. Adopted children will enjoy the same rights as biological children, ensuring fairness and equality in citizenship.

Restoring Citizenship to Lost Canadians

The bill aims to restore citizenship to “Lost Canadians” and their descendants. These individuals lost or never acquired citizenship due to outdated provisions. The new legislation ensures they regain their rightful citizenship, promoting inclusivity and rectifying past injustices.

Simplified Renunciation Process

The bill introduces a simplified process for renouncing citizenship. This benefits individuals who need to renounce their Canadian citizenship, making the process easier and more respectful of their choices. Of course, this part of the bill has nothing to do with the first-generation rule. Rather, it addresses some deficiencies in the current Citizenship Act.

Implementation and Potential Changes

Bill C-71 may undergo modifications as it progresses through the legislative process. Lawmakers may propose amendments during readings and consultations. Consequently, the bill’s final version could differ from its initial draft, reflecting feedback and concerns raised during the process.

Timeline for Implementation

The government will implement the changes once the bill passes through all legislative stages and receives royal assent. This process may take several months as regulations and systems are updated to accommodate the new provisions. Considering a recent extension by the Ontario Super Court, I suspect the government will ask for more postponement and will eventually start the implementation in 2025.

Ongoing Support and Information

The government has promised to provide ongoing support and information to those affected by the new legislation. Guidance on applying for restored citizenship or meeting the new requirements will be available through official channels, ensuring eligible individuals understand their rights and necessary steps.

In conclusion, Bill C-71 represents a comprehensive effort to modernize the Citizenship Act. It aims to create a fair, inclusive, and reflective system of Canada’s values of diversity and equality.

Expert Guidance on Canadian Citizenship Applications

As a highly experienced, Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, I specialize in most aspects of Canadian immigration and citizenship processes. Whether you are navigating the current Citizenship Act or preparing for changes under Bill C-71, I can provide expert assistance. My comprehensive knowledge ensures that your application meets all legal requirements. I stay updated on all legislative changes and their implications, ensuring you receive accurate and timely advice.

Please contact me for professional guidance and support if you need help with your citizenship application or have questions about the new law. Alternatively, fill out the following form.

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    Al ParsaiAl Parsai, LLM, MA, RCIC-IRB
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    Adjunct Professor – Queen’s University – Faculty of Law
    Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
    Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada

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    Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB

    Al Parsai is a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University (Osgood Hall Law School). A respected member of CICC, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.