“Lost Canadians” | Changes in Citizenship Law and Implications for Lawyers

Changes in citizenship law over the past decade have led to many people discovering that they are, in fact, Canadian citizens. The implications of these changes are far-reaching and have broad-based implications for lawyers – and not just for those who practice immigration law.

Have you ever heard of the “Lost Canadians” in the context of Canadian citizenship? Imagine, you were born and raised in Canada, and after living your whole life in Canada, find out that unbeknownst to you, your birth father abandoned your family when you were only a year old. You never knew your father, and your mother filed for divorce as soon as she could. However, right before the divorce was finalized, your birth father naturalized as a US citizen. As an adult, you find out that because of this act, you have lost your status as a Canadian citizen.

You might say that’s absurd. How could an action taken by my birth father – whom I never knew – cause me to lose my Canadian citizenship?

This was the reality for many so-called Lost Canadians who had strong, and undeniable connections to Canada.

Many Lost Canadians either:

  1. Had their citizenship stripped because of actions by their parents, or
  2. Failed to become Canadians in the first place because:
    • Their parents were not qualified to pass on their Canadian citizenship, or
    • They had not lived in Canada long enough to qualify for Canadian citizenship when the first Canadian Citizenship Act went into effect on January 1, 1947

Parliament enacted a series of amendments to the Citizenship Act on April 17, 2009 and June 19, 2014. These changes retroactively bestowed Canadian citizenship on millions of Lost Canadians, their children, and in some cases their grandchildren. One of the interesting facts about these changes is that many people today have no idea they are now a Canadian citizen.

Additionally, these changes also repealed section 8 in the legislation. This required persons born outside of Canada after the first generation to a Canadian parent to apply to retain their Canadian citizenship before attaining the age of 28.[1] Instead the new law limited citizenship by descent to only the first generation born abroad but gave special consideration to those who were born before the first generation limitation came into effect.

The implications of these changes are far-reaching and have broad-based implications for lawyers, and not just those who practice immigration law. For example, confirming Canadian citizen is important for real estate lawyers whose clients wish to purchase property. For criminal lawyers, determining citizenship status of their client has direct implications on sentencing options.

For a more in-depth look at the recent changes in citizenship law and examples of how the changes may impact your practice, check out our on-demand program, “Waking Up Canadian” presented by Amandeep S. Hayer, Sedai Law Office.

Guest Post by: Amandeep S. Hayer

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[1] “Acquisition of citizenship” online: Government of Canada (2 July 2015) [ https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/canadian-citizenship/acquisition-loss/acquisition.html].

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