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Canada will reinstate citizenship rights to ‘lost Canadians’

Click to play video: 'Minister Miller introduces bill to restore citizenship to ‘Lost Canadians’'
Minister Miller introduces bill to restore citizenship to ‘Lost Canadians’
Minister Miller introduces bill to restore citizenship to 'Lost Canadians' – May 23, 2024

The federal government plans to restore the rights of “lost Canadians” by allowing Canadians born abroad to pass down citizenship, even if their children were also born outside the country.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller tabled legislation Thursday, which would reverse the “second-generation cut-off rule” brought in by the Conservatives in 2009.

“There’s no doubt that Canadian citizenship is highly valued and recognized around the world,” said Miller. “Not everyone is entitled to it. But for those who are, it needs to be fair.”

Under the new legislation, Canadian parents must show they have spent at least three years in Canada before the birth or adoption of their child to be eligible.

Click to play video: 'Why Canadian immigrants are leaving Canada'
Why Canadian immigrants are leaving Canada

“I think it’s a reasonable limit to what is a substantial connection to Canada,” Miller said. “This is a reasonable approach to something that was unreasonable.”

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Last December, an Ontario court found the “second-generation cut-off rule” was unconstitutional and had a disproportionate impact on women. It gave the Trudeau government until June 19 to amend the law.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan helped draft the legislation and spoke alongside Miller at Thursday’s announcement.

“I’ve talked to family members who’ve been separated from their loved ones because of this unjust law that Conservatives brought in 15 years ago,” she said.

Don Chapman, who coined the term “lost Canadians” and had to reapply for Canadian citizenship himself, called the proposed legislation “momentous.”

“It has huge ramifications,” said Chapman. This bill will be the first time in Canadian history that women achieve the same rights as men in the Citizenship Act.”

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper brought in the 2009 change to crack down on so-called “Canadians of convenience” stripping the children of Canadians born overseas of their automatic right to citizenship.

The move came after a backlash over the price tag to evacuate Canadian citizens from Lebanon during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. The operation cost taxpayers a reported $85 million.

Canadians living abroad sometimes can be a burden for the government in the sense that if we need to evacuate them, during an armed conflict, or if they come back to the country, to seek, healthcare and so forth,” said McGill political science professor Daniel Béland.

“But they are also, a potential source of economic prosperity because we know that diasporas all over the world play a major role in in national economies,” he added.

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The immigration minister was not able to say how many citizens will be added to Canada once the proposed changes come into effect, but said the 2009 law was “manifestly unfair”

Conservative immigration critic Tom Kmiec called Miller’s comments “disingenuous” and criticized the Trudeau government’s handling of immigration.

“Justin Trudeau has broken our immigration system and allowed fraud, chaos, and delays to run rampant,” said Kmiec in a statement to Global News.

— with files from Global News’ Mackenzie Gray, Jillian Piper and the Canadian Press

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