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2005-27

AMENDMENTS TO THE CITIZENSHIP ACT

OTTAWA, November 17, 2005 — Today, the Honourable Joe Volpe, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, introduced two bills in the House of Commons to amend the Citizenship Act. The current Act has been in place since 1977.

“Today’s amendments are an important first step in our efforts to ensure Canada’s Citizenship Act continues to reflect present day realities,” Minister Volpe said. “The changes we are proposing will help strengthen the integrity and fairness of the system.”

The two bills support the Government of Canada’s commitment in the Speech from the Throne to modernize Canada’s Citizenship Act and respond to the concerns expressed by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. The amendments will make important changes to recognize adopted children and ensure foreign criminal offences are properly considered in citizenship applications.

With respect to adoption, the proposed provision will reduce the distinction between children born to, and children adopted by, Canadian citizens outside Canada by eliminating the requirement that adopted children first obtain permanent residence status before becoming Canadian. Upon application, adopted children will be able to obtain citizenship after the adoption is finalized. Requirements will ensure that the adoption is legal and the best interests of the child are protected.

Foreign charges and convictions are currently not a bar to obtaining Canadian citizenship. The proposed foreign criminal prohibitions provision will, with respect to foreign offences, prevent people from acquiring citizenship if they are currently serving a sentence, have been convicted of a serious crime in the last three years or are currently charged with a serious offence. However, the Minister may use his discretion to waive a prohibition on compassionate grounds.

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For further information (media only):

Stephen Heckbert
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
(613) 954-1064

Greg Scott
Spokesperson
Media Relations
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
(613) 941-7028

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BACKGROUNDER
CITIZENSHIP BILLS

Modernizing the Citizenship Act

As a first step toward modernizing the Citizenship Act, the Government of Canada has tabled two bills. Should they receive Royal Assent, the proposed legislation would help update the current law that dates back to 1977. These bills help modernize our citizenship rules and processes, and address gaps in the current legislation.

Canada’s first citizenship legislation came into effect in 1947 and was replaced when a new law was enacted in 1977. Since then, inconsistencies have become apparent.

The two amendments are based on previous legislative proposals and consultations: Bill C-63, introduced in Parliament in 1998, Bill C-16, introduced in 1999, and Bill C-18, introduced in 2002. The two amendments also respond to the recommendations made recently by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

The citizenship bills include two important changes

Introducing comprehensive citizenship legislation is a priority for the Government of Canada, and these two important amendments are an effective means to get the process under way. These two amendments concern changing the process for children adopted outside Canada by Canadian citizens and adding prohibitions to citizenship for criminal activity outside Canada.

1. Citizenship through adoption

Under the proposed legislation, a foreign child adopted by a Canadian citizen could be granted citizenship without any permanent residence prerequisite. This provision is intended to reduce the distinction between children born to and children adopted by Canadian citizens outside Canada. The adoption must be a legal adoption and in the best interests of the child in order to be recognized for citizenship purposes. These requirements are intended to help prevent child trafficking or abduction. Under the current legislation, a foreign child adopted by a Canadian must obtain permanent residence before applying for citizenship.

  • The proposed legislation will eliminate the permanent residence requirement for children adopted outside Canada by a Canadian parent, unless the parent chooses to go through the immigration process or the adoption is to take place in Canada.
  • The requirements for adopted children will no longer resemble those for immigrants wishing to acquire citizenship, but will more closely resemble those for children born outside Canada to a Canadian parent.
  • Adopted children will not be subject to criminal or security prohibitions, just as children born to Canadians outside Canada are not subject to these prohibitions.
  • Upon application, adopted children will be able to obtain citizenship after the adoption is finalized.

Adoption applications in process

Should this amendment receive parliamentary approval, pending citizenship applications for children adopted outside Canada by a Canadian parent will be finalized under the current process. If the adopted child is found not to be eligible for citizenship under the current provision, CIC will then assess the application under the new provision.

Should this legislation pass, children adopted by a Canadian parent may apply for citizenship under the new provision as soon as the legislation comes into force.

2. Foreign criminal prohibitions

Under the current legislation, people who commit crimes outside Canada are not barred from acquiring citizenship. The proposed legislation would prohibit persons from acquiring citizenship if they have been charged or convicted with offences outside Canada that, if committed in Canada would prevent them from becoming Canadian citizens. It will prevent people from acquiring citizenship if they:

  • are currently serving a sentence;
  • have been convicted of a serious offence in the last three years; or
  • are currently charged with a serious offence.

Convictions and charges outside Canada will be assessed on the basis of their Canadian equivalent. The new prohibitions include a provision specifying that outstanding foreign charges will not be prohibitive to citizenship if the Citizenship and Immigration Minister is satisfied that there are compassionate grounds to waive the prohibition.

Transitional provision for foreign criminal prohibitions

Should this legislation pass, foreign criminal prohibitions will apply to all pending cases and new applications equally. An applicant will not be granted citizenship or be permitted to take the oath of citizenship if the person:

  • is currently serving a sentence;
  • has been convicted of a serious offence in the last three years; or
  • is currently charged with a serious offence.

Where the person is charged with a serious offence, the Minister may waive the prohibition on compassionate grounds.

ENQUIRIES

The CIC Call Centre can provide further information on the proposed legislation. Please call: 1 888 242-2100 (toll-free anywhere in Canada)

Visit our Internet site for up-to-date information on the proposed citizenship legislation: (http://www.cic.gc.ca).