Canada news: Deadline to pass citizenship fast approaching

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller speaks before Question Period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 12, 2024. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

The federal government has only one week left to make crucial changes to the citizenship law in response to a court ruling last year.

Ontario's Supreme Court has not yet agreed to an extension of the looming deadline, the immigration authorities said on Wednesday. The NDP's attempts to push the legislation through the House of Commons have also failed.

If the Liberals' bill is not passed before next week's deadline, the minister will have to decide on individual citizenship cases himself, according to Immigration Minister Marc Miller.

“If it doesn't work, we're basically in no man's land. Basically, it's up to me to decide who is Canadian and who isn't. Of course, that shouldn't be up to a minister,” Miller said on Wednesday.

Last year, the court found that Canadians born abroad received lower levels of citizenship than Canadians born in Canada and gave the government a June 19 deadline to fix the problem.

Miller introduced a bill on May 23 that would allow Canadians born abroad to pass their citizenship to their children, and asked the court for an extension the following day.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan made two attempts to speed the bill through the legislative process by asking for unanimous consent from MPs, but the Conservatives voted no both times.

“We have no time to lose and must pass the law,” Kwan said at a press conference on Tuesday.

In 2009, the government of then-Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper changed the law so that Canadian parents living abroad could not pass on their citizenship unless their child was born in Canada.

Those who were denied access to civil rights as a result of the changes in the law are referred to as “lost Canadians.”

Kwan said the House of Commons Immigration Committee had already addressed the issue of “Lost Canadians” when it considered a Senate bill introduced by Conservative Senator Yonah Martin last year.

“We spent over 30 hours in committee debating Bill S-245,” Kwan said.

This bill was significantly amended by Kwan and the Liberal committee members to grant British citizenship to a wider range of people. However, the Conservatives considered the changes too drastic and did not return the bill to Parliament for a third reading.

The government's new bill closely follows the amended Senate bill and extends citizenship by descent beyond the first generation born outside Canada.

The law would automatically grant citizenship rights to children born since 2009 who are affected by the Conservatives' changes.

In addition, a new test would be created for children born after the law comes into force.

The government has no idea how many people will automatically be granted citizenship if the law is passed.

The bill is only in the first stages of the legislative process and MPs are expected to leave the House of Commons for the summer recess at the end of next week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2024.