What exactly does it mean to be Canadian?  The BBC has some interesting thoughts.  If I had to choose one word and one word only to define a Canadian, my choice would be … wait for it … nice.

A few years ago I had an interesting conversation with some Canadian friends – the conversation revolved around my son’s Canadian citizenship and what would happen if and when he has his own children.  Just recently, Canadian’s celebrated Thanksgiving and, connecting the dots, I realized that one thing my son should be thankful for is being Canadian because, unless he plans it properly, his children might not be.

Yep, turns out that an amendment to the Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect on April 17, 2009.  How does this impact my son?  Well, there is something called the first generation limitation which in effect means the following:

Since April 17, 2009, Canadian parents can only pass citizenship to their children born outside of Canada if, at the time of their birth:

  • one of the parents was born in Canada or
  • one of the parents became a Canadian citizen by being granted citizenship, also known as naturalization (except if the parent became a Canadian citizen using the citizenship process for intercountry adoption).

The government of Canada helpfully provided some scenarios.  Below is the scenario that applies to my son:

Lidia was born outside Canada to a Canadian parent. Lidia is a first generation born abroad Canadian Citizen.

While living outside Canada, Lidia gives birth to Paul. Paul’s father is not a Canadian citizen. Paul’s mother was born in the first generation outside Canada to a Canadian parent. Paul is therefore considered born in the second generation outside Canada and would not be entitled to citizenship by descent through his mother due to the first generation limit, unless his mother is working abroad as a serving Crown servant or his mother was born abroad because his mother’s parent was a serving Crown servant. In fact, this is the case: at the time of Lidia’s birth (Paul’s grandfather) worked outside Canada as a Crown servant, other than as a locally engaged person. This means that Paul is entitled to citizenship by descent through his grandfather.

How nice (and comical) that Paul is entitled to citizenship because he had a Crown servant grandfather.  Phew!  And hurray for Paul.

But the elephant in the room – that which no Government of Canada scenarios address – is the following:

What happens to Paul (and my son’s children) if none of the right boxes are checked?  Especially, if the country where one is born does NOT grant citizenship by birth place (like most of Europe, and in fact the world).  What then?  The only logical conclusion I can come up with is that Paul (and my son’s children) would NOT be entitled to Canadian citizenship, meaning (and this is the scary part) that they would be stateless, with no country to claim as their own,  no passport with which to travel, and no nationality. 

If I had to choose one word and one word only to define this Government of Canada change to the Citizenship Act, my choice would be … wait for it … asinine.

And, in breach of article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that:

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Hmmm, that’s not very nice.  However, I suppose the solution is simple, make sure you have enough money and time it right so you can get back to Canada in time to give birth.  If tickets back to Canada are too expensive, the backup plan can always be to fly to the United States of America where Paul (and my son’s children) can then become proud Americans.  This sneaky heretical ploy comes with the added bonus of adopting a cool national bird (an eagle instead of a goose).

All jokes aside.  Why? Why?  Why?  Can someone please explain the logical or rationale behind this change to the Citizenship Act because I know I can’t.  What I do know is that today’s world is becoming more and more globally connected and there must be thousands of people out there in a position similar to my son’s … and while complaining is easy perhaps I can actually try and do something about it.  What do you think?  Suggestions?  Ideas?  Next steps?  I am listening.