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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On being a Canadian

Like many of you, I was born in Canada, to two Canadian parents. I hold a Canadian passport. Ditto for the captain, ditto for our son. I guess we take our citizenship for granted; it has never occurred to me that there could ever be any threat to the citizenship of my family, including those yet to be born.

However, last year I learned of the dilemma facing my friend Leslie's family -- in particular, her daughter Jane, then pregnant with her first child, Zoë. The problem? Little Zoë has been denied Canadian citizenship. I shall not attempt to present the issue to you in my own words; rather, Leslie has given me permission to share the following with you, which she published early today on her blog. It bears repeating here. Everyone should read this.

Dear Members of Parliament and Other Interested Parties.

I have been following the recent debate on amending the Citizenship Act. The goal is to correct an unfortunate and unforeseen consequence of the revisions introduced in Bill C-37. Let me explain the situation whereby my granddaughter has been denied Canadian citizenship.

My daughter, Jane Moran, was born in 1977 while I was studying abroad at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. She became a Canadian citizen because my wife and I are Canadian citizens. She was issued a Canadian passport by the Consulate in Geneva. Jane could not have become a citizen of Switzerland or any other country.

My wife and I have never been citizens of any other country. We descend from a long line of Canadian citizens going back many generations. In my wife’s case, the majority of her Canadian ancestors settled in Lanark, Ontario in the 1820s. In my case, my earliest ancestors settled in Quebec in 1665. One of Jane’s grandfathers (my father) died in a tragic airplane crash while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1946. Jane’s maternal grandfather was Assistant Deputy Minister of the Department of Trade and Commerce. Every one of Jane’s eight great-grandparents were Canadians. I mention this only to show that Jane is a genuine Canadian citizen with strong ties to Canada. She is fiercely proud of her citizenship, and her Canadian heritage, as she should be.

Our family returned to Canada in 1978 when I took up a position as a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto. Jane was raised in Mississauga. She went to public school in Canada, she graduated from a Canadian high school. She graduated with an Honours Physics degree from McGill University.

After her undergraduate degree, Jane went to the University of North Carolina where she completed a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. She then took up a position in Brussels, Belgium. Her daughter (my granddaughter) , Zoë, was born on January 5, 2010. Zoë’s father is an American citizen.

According to the new Canadian law, Zoë cannot be a Canadian citizen unless she becomes one through naturalization when she returns to Canada. Fortunately, she will not be stateless because the United States of America was happy to grant her citizenship through her father. This seems unfair, especially since the family plans to live in Canada and not the United States of America.

My daughter, Jane, has never been a citizen of any other country but she cannot pass on Canadian citizenship to her daughter because she just happened to be born when my wife and I were temporarily living abroad while I completed my studies. If it were not for that inconvenient fact, my granddaughter would be Canadian. Ironically, a Canadian who was born in another country but became Canadian by naturalization, would not be in the same situation. Any child born abroad to a naturalized Canadian would also be Canadian. Any child born abroad to a Canadian born in Canada would also be able to pass on Canadian citizenship.

The effect of the law is to create several different classes of Canadian citizen based on criteria that do not make sense. I believe my daughter’s rights as a Canadian citizen are being infringed upon. Fortunately, the problem can be easily rectified by a simple revision of the Citizenship Act.

I appreciate the effort by Mr. Ujjal Dosanjh (Member, Vancouver South) to rectify the problem by introducing Bill C-467. But that bill will not help my daughter or many of the others who find themselves in a similar situation. You are undoubtedly aware of several stories that have appeared in the press. Bill C-467 will only help children born to employees of the Canadian government or members of the armed forces.

I think Bill C-397, tabled by Ms. Olivia Chow (Member Trinity-Spadina) will be more helpful since it appears to repeal the second generation restriction altogether. If so, that will allow my granddaughter to come and visit us under a Canadian passport rather than under a passport from a foreign nation.

There are some excellent provisions in the amendment passed under the previous government (Bill C-37), especially the provision concerning the "Lost Canadians." I applaud the government for taking steps to correct that particular injustice. Unfortunately, in attempting to correct another problem—that of children born abroad to Canadian citizens with no connections to Canada—Bill C-37 inadvertently deprived a number of babies of their right to become Canadian. If Parliament still wants to limit the passing on of Canadian citizenship by citizens born abroad then there are two ways to accomplish that goal without hurting Canadians such as my daughter (and others like her). Those ways are: (1) make an exception for those Canadian citizens who are not citizens of any other country, or (2) impose a residency requirement (seven years?). Canadian citizens who are born abroad but who have lived in Canada for some length of time should still be able to pass on Canadian citizenship to their children born abroad. That will make them equal to naturalized Canadians.

Please make every effort to ensure that an appropriate amendment to the Citizenship Act is passed as soon as possible. Make sure it covers Canadians such as my daughter and my granddaughter, and make sure it is retroactive. I look forward to the time when my granddaughter can become a Canadian citizen. Will it be in time for her to come home for Christmas?

Professor Laurence A. Moran, B.Sc.(Hon), Ph.D.

I am Canadian. Speaking as a citizen, I have no qualms about Zoë and all the children like her being granted Canadian citizenship. Indeed, I am shocked that they would not. And speaking as both a citizen and a mother, Zoë should come home this Christmas as a Canadian citizen. How about it, Mr. Harper? You wanted to be the leader of our fine country and you obtained that. This is the time to show leadership and throw your support behind all these children who should be Canadian citizens (and therefore future taxpayers...and voters). Now is the time for common sense and goodwill. Even Ebenezer Scrooge and The Grinch came through when it counted. What about you?


Don Chapman said...

You mentioned "The goal is to correct an unfortunate and unforeseen consequence of the revisions introduced in Bill C-37." As the leader of the Lost Canadians (, I can assure you that Jason Kenney was forewarned. These "consequences" were not "unforeseen." I warned the Conservatives time and time again that this would happen. Since Jason Kenney became Citizenship Minister he has refused to talk with me- preferring ignorance over knowledge. That was two years ago! The fix is easy- not just for 2nd-generation born abroad children, but for all the remaining Lost Canadians. The problem is that there has been little political will to correct the deficiencies, and very little media coverage to hold the politicians accountable. Listen to yesterday's broadcast on Voice America:
-Don Chapman

Leslie Jane Moran said...

Thanks Lennie. It's good to know that when citizens are informed they are outraged by the inequities in this bill. Larry and I will endeavor to do all that we can to correct it.

Diane O. said...

This is ridiculous. As an American I'm outraged that we "give away" citizenship simply because someone was born in the USA. I'm specifically refering people that came to the US illegally. Any children born to them while in the US is automatically a citizen. This is the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

In this case, Canada has taken it too far in the other direction. Someone that is a Canadian citizen (but born elsewhere) shouldn't have to justify that their children deserve Canadian citizenship.

martha brown said...

I was appalled when I read this on Leslie's blog!

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