On January 22, 2024, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced that the federal government will not be challenging a decision made by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice rendering the “first generation limit” provisions in the Citizenship Act unconstitutional.
What is the “First Generation Limit”?
The “first generation limit” is a provision of the Citizenship Act that was passed in 2007 by the Harper government. The “first generation limit” provided that children born abroad to Canadian citizens beyond the first generation generally do not acquire Canadian citizenship automatically at birth. This meant that children born abroad to Canadian parents—who themselves were born abroad—were not automatically considered Canadian citizens. This law came as a result of public outcry in 2009, when then the Harper government spent approximately $94 million to bring 15,000 Canadian citizens out of Lebanon following the war in 2006. Many argued that such evacuees had neither strong nor legitimate ties to Canada. For years, this law prevented many families from passing on their Canadian citizenship to their children born abroad.
However, on December 19, 2023, Justice Jasmine Akbarali of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that this limit in the Citizenship Act violated the mobility rights and equality rights of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as it created two classes of Canadian citizenship. For many, this limit stood in the way of pursuing opportunities to study, work and travel abroad in addition to the choice of having and expanding families. In his statement, Minister Miller explained that the federal government’s decision to not appeal the ruling of the Ontario Superior Court comes as a result of the unacceptable consequences the limit has had for Canadians whose children were born outside Canada. Further, the Minister explained that the government will continue to assess the impacts of the decision on existing legislation and will continue to provide updates as they become available.
What will happen to the “First Generation Limit”?
The Superior Court provided the federal government with six months to repeal the “first generation limit” from the Citizenship Act. However, Bill S-245 – which aimed to remove the cut-off rule – was presented to Parliament in summer of 2023. Bill S-245 sought to repeal the cut-off rule by allowing second-generation Canadians to pass their citizenship to children born abroad if they can show they have “substantial connection with Canada”. Commentators argue that it would be simpler to bring the bill to a vote in Parliament followed by review of the senate and eventually receiving royal assent.
On a final note, Minister Miller emphasized the high value of Canadian citizenship and reiterated his commitment to making the citizenship process as fair and transparent as possible.
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At the Law Office of Matthew Jeffery, we have over 20 years of experience helping Canadian permanent residents obtain their Canadian citizenship. CONTACT US today to see whether we can assist you with your citizenship matters.