In 2007, the UN's Refugees magazine listed Canada as one of the top offending countries for making its own people stateless. In 2009, the Conservatives promised to fix the issue of lost Canadian citizenship with Bill C-37. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Worse still, the Conservatives created a new group of lost Canadians.

Currently, a large group of Canadians are deemed to be second-class citizens due to the Conservative government's first-generation cut-off rule, introduced by the Harper administration in 2009. Bill C-37 ended the extension of citizenship to second-generation Canadians born abroad, causing undue hardship for many families. Some families are even separated, and some individuals are left stateless.

I spoke with Patrick Chandler, a Canadian citizen who spent most of his life in Canada but was born abroad. As an adult, he worked overseas, married someone from another country, and had children. He was later offered a job in British Columbia, but when he moved back to Canada, he had to leave his wife and children behind because he could not pass on his citizenship to his children. He had to go through an arduous process to reunite with them a year later.

Many families are being impacted in this way, and it is unjust. Canadians should not be put in such situations, yet many are suffering through them.

Since being assigned as the NDP Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Critic, I have been advocating to resolve the issue of Lost Canadians, including tabling a Private Member’s Bill in 2016.

CBC National: Parents applaud push to close citizenship gap for foreign-born adopted children

The committee introduced an amendment, championed by Kwan, calling for the creation of a test to determine if a potential Canadian has a "substantial connection" to Canada.

The test written into the amendment states that the potential Canadian has to live in the country for 1,095 days — the equivalent of three years.

The committee also introduced a second amendment saying that any current first-generation citizen born abroad with a "substantial connection" to Canada can pass on their citizenship to their kids born abroad, provided those citizens were born after the 2009 law was adopted.

CPAC: Jenny on Citizenship Rights for Second-Generation Canadians and Lost Canadians


NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan discusses amendments she will be moving at the House of Commons immigration committee on a policy related to citizenship rights of second-generation Canadians born abroad. She is joined at the news conference on Parliament Hill by Randall Emery (founding director of the Canadian Citizens Rights Council), Don Chapman (founder of the Lost Canadians Society), Sujit Choudhry (immigration lawyer representing lost Canadian families), and Emma Kenyon (an individual who was impacted by the citizenship policy). In 2009, Stephen Harper's Conservative government passed Bill C-37, which ended the rights of individuals to pass on Canadian citizenship to their children born abroad. Kwan will table amendments to Bill S-245, which was sponsored by Senator Yonah Martin and passed by the Senate in May 2022. Senator Martin's bill amends the Citizenship Act to permit certain people who lost their Canadian citizenship to regain it. (April 17, 2023) (no interpretation)

MEDIA RELEASE: NDP moves amendments to fix the issue of “Lost Canadians”

Kwan will table amendments to an immigration Senate Bill S-245 to reverse this discriminatory law against second generation Canadians born abroad and their descendants. 

“I have met many lost Canadians whose lives have been turned upside down because of this unjust policy that creates different classes of Canadian citizens,” added Kwan. “New Democrats are committed to ensuring second generation Canadians and their descendants born abroad attain their right to citizenship.”

Toronto Star: Is the government doing enough to help these ‘lost Canadians’?

Opposition MP Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic, said the citizenship law has been amended so many times with exceptions layered with exceptions that the regime has become so complex and it’d be much simpler and better just to bring in a brand new act.

“It was the conservatives who actually took out the passing on of citizenship to future generations, so there is a reluctance for them to get into this because they have to admit that they were wrong,” said Kwan.

“It’s a mystery to me why the Liberals wouldn’t want to fix it, other than to say that the Liberals are true to form, always says the right thing but they can never follow up with action.”

HANSARD: Addressing the issue of Lost Canadian

Madam Speaker, for decades some Canadians have found themselves to be stateless due to a number of convoluted immigration laws. Some have found themselves all of a sudden losing their Canadian status and they do not know why.
In 2007, the UN listed Canada as one of the top offending countries for making their own people stateless. In 2009, the Conservatives said they were going to address this issue with Bill C-37. In fact, Jason Kenney was the minister of immigration then. Sadly, Bill C-37 did not properly address the lost Canadians issue. At the time, even Conservative minister Diane Finley acknowledged that Bill C-37 would not fix all of the cases of lost Canadians.
In fact, Jason Kenney created a brand new set of problems. For the purposes of this discussion, I will not get into the issues of how the Conservatives eliminated people's right to appeal when the government revoked their citizenship. I will simply focus on the issue of lost Canadians.

CBC: Can new legislation help 'Lost Canadians' be found again?

But there's another category of Lost Canadians the new legislation won't address.

The "second-generation cutoff" is a rule under Bill C-37 that permanently denies the first generation born abroad the ability to automatically pass on citizenship to their children if they are also born outside Canada. 

It also eliminated the ability to gain citizenship by showing a "substantial connection" to Canada. Now those second-generation children have to be sponsored by their parents to come to Canada as permanent residents, then apply for citizenship like any other immigrant.
Critics say it has created two classes of Canadian citizenship — one for Canadians born in Canada and one for those born abroad. 

"What's discriminatory about the Citizenship Act is that there is no way that people can rid themselves of this second-class status, no matter how close and deep their ties to Canada are," said Sujit Choudhry, a constitutional lawyer in Toronto representing seven families living in Canada, Dubai, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, who are all affected by this rule. 
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