Judge Rules First-Generation Limit On Canadian Citizenship Unconstitutional

Judge Rules First-Generation Limit On Canadian Citizenship Unconstitutional
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An Ontario judge has ruled that grandchildren born abroad of Canadian parents will no longer be denied their Canadian citizenship at birth.

Judge Rules First-Generation Limit On Canadian Citizenship Unconstitutional

An Ontario judge has ruled that grandchildren born abroad of Canadian parents will no longer be denied their Canadian citizenship at birth.

The court handed down its decision on Dec. 19 last year. Immigration Minister Marc Miller has now confirmed that Ottawa will not be appealing that decision.

“The Citizenship Act currently includes a ‘first generation limit’ to citizenship by descent, which means that children born abroad to Canadian citizens beyond the first generation generally do not acquire Canadian citizenship automatically at birth,” said Miller.

“On Dec. 19, 2023, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice declared that the first generation limit for those born abroad is unconstitutional.

“This law, as it currently stands, has had unacceptable consequences for Canadians whose children were born outside the country. For this reason, we will not appeal the ruling.”

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The immigration minister acknowledges that this first-generation limit had a profound impact on many people.

“People who may be impacted by this situation will no doubt have questions about what this means for them and their families,” he said.

“That is why we will continue to assess the impacts of the decision on existing legislation and will provide more information and confirm next steps as quickly as possible.”

A group of families living abroad brought the case to court because they were affected by the first-generation limit as it left them unable to pass on their Canadian citizenship to their own children. With the Ontario court’s ruling they are feeling vindicated.

“It’s been a long fight. Some of them have been fighting for over a decade,” their lawyer Sujit Choudhry reportedly told CTV News.

“They feel more of a sense of relief by the government’s decision not to appeal.”

The first-generation limit was put in place in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper who maintained it would protect the value of Canadian citizenship by ensuring it was limited to those who had a real connection to Canada.

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The move came in the wake of public outcry after Canada spent $94 million to bring home 15,000 Canadian citizens from Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, an action which led to many politicians questioning the legitimacy of the evacuees’ connection to Canada.

But the Ontario court has ruled that first-generation limit violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ sections that protect Canadians’ mobility and equality rights.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada formed the current government in Ottawa in 2015. Under that government, Ottawa has been bullish on immigration and Canada is currently a world leader in accepting refugees and asylum seekers.

Canadian Citizenship And Passport Highly Prized Throughout The World

Under the 2024-2026 Immigration Levels Plan, Canada is now planning to welcome 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024, another 500,000 in 2025 and then hold the line on immigration in 2026 with another 500,000 newcomers.

That’s a total of 1.485 million immigrants to Canada over those three years.

Due to the benefits conferred by Canadian citizenship, the Canadian passport is highly prized throughout the world with the Henley Passport Index rankings showing it to be the seventh-most desirable passport in the world.

The 18-year-old Henley Passport Index, which is updated quarterly, uses data from the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) to compare 199 passports for 227 travel destinations and gives 104 rankings for the top ones, reflecting the global mobility afforded by the passports of those nations.

Canada regularly features among the countries with the world’s most powerful passports, offering visa-free access, which is seen as a measurement of the freedom of citizens of a country, to 185 destinations.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of immigration.ca featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.