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New Canadian Citizenship by Descent Bill C-71: What You Need to Know

Austin Campbell



Bill C-71

In a landmark move, Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced the introduction of the new Canadian Citizenship Bill C-71. This legislation aims to expand the parameters of citizenship by descent, offering broader and more inclusive access to Canadian citizenship. Here’s a comprehensive look at what Bill C-71 entails and its implications for Canadians at home and abroad.

Bill C-71 is designed to extend citizenship by descent beyond the first generation. This progressive step recognizes the value of Canadian citizenship and ensures that it can be passed down through generations. For those born abroad to a Canadian parent who was also born abroad before the Act takes effect, this bill grants immediate Canadian citizenship.

Before Bill C-71, there was Bill S-245, which aimed to address similar issues. Introduced by Honourable Yonah Martin in May 2022, Bill S-245 sought to provide citizenship by descent to individuals who lost it due to the need to apply for citizenship retention before turning 28. Although it passed the Senate, amendments and further revisions were required to address specific problems.

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Key Provisions of Canadian Citizenship Bill C-71

Expanded Access for Children Born Overseas

The new Canadian Citizenship Bill also broadens access to a direct grant of citizenship to children born overseas and adopted by Canadian parents beyond the first generation. This means that children born outside of Canada to Canadian parents will now have a clearer pathway to Canadian citizenship.


Physical Presence Requirement

To pass down citizenship, parents born abroad who have or adopt children born outside of Canada must have spent at least 1,095 cumulative days (approximately three years) of physical presence in Canada prior to their child’s birth or adoption.

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Reinstating Citizenship for Lost Canadians

One of the most significant aspects of Bill C-71 is its provision for reinstating citizenship for “Lost Canadians.” These are individuals who lost or never obtained citizenship due to outdated provisions in previous citizenship laws. The bill will grant citizenship to these individuals and their descendants, as well as to those born overseas to Canadian parents in the second or subsequent generations.

The Journey of Bill C-71

The introduction of Bill C-71 follows a pivotal decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on December 19, 2023. The court ruled that the “first generation limit” for people born abroad is unconstitutional. This limit previously prevented children born abroad to Canadian citizens from automatically obtaining Canadian citizenship.

In response to the court’s decision, Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced in January 2024 that the government would not appeal the ruling. Instead, they have drafted Bill C-71 to address the court’s findings and provide a more inclusive approach to citizenship by descent.

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Understanding Lost Canadians

“Lost Canadians” are individuals who were affected by convoluted provisions of the Citizenship Act based on where and when they were born. The first-generation cut-off rule, established in 2009, prevented the children of Canadians born overseas from automatically receiving citizenship if they were also born abroad. This rule aimed to address concerns about “Canadians of convenience” but resulted in creating two classes of citizenship.


Looking Ahead: Implementation and Impact

Once Bill C-71 passes through Parliament and receives royal assent, it will be promptly implemented. The government will provide eligible individuals with more detailed information and guidelines on how to benefit from the new provisions.

The introduction of the new Canadian Citizenship Bill C-71 marks a significant step toward a more inclusive and equitable approach to citizenship by descent. By expanding access beyond the first generation and addressing the issues faced by Lost Canadians, this bill reaffirms the value of Canadian citizenship and strengthens the ties of Canadians worldwide.

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