September 17, 2018 – A government submission in a Supreme Court case involving two sons of Russian spies argues there is no international law requiring automatic Canada citizenship to be given to babies born here.
Only 34 countries grant citizenship based on birthplace, with major nations such as Australia and the UK choosing to introduce new requirements or end the right recently.
A written federal submission to the Supreme Court said: “In short, nothing in international law requires Canada to bestow citizenship on the basis of birth, much less to give citizenship to children born to parents in the service of a foreign government.”
It added: “A review of citizenship entitlements in various countries reveals a multitude of variations and restrictions on automatic citizenship by birth.”
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The submission concerns the case of Alexander and Timothy Vavilov, who the federal government argues should not be recognized as citizens despite being born in Toronto.
Federal lawyers are trying to get around the citizenship-by-birth practice by arguing there is no international consistency.
“Only 34 countries grant the automatic acquisition of citizenship through birthplace regardless of parents’ nationality or status,” the submission continued.
“This practice is not consistent and uniform enough to ground a rule of customary international law.”
The submission added: “Indeed, no European countries, for example, grant an unqualified automatic citizenship by birth and they have no obligation to do so.”
Does Canada Have a ‘Birth Tourism’ Problem?
In making the argument against citizenship by birthplace, the Liberal government is inadvertently aligning itself with a recent Conservative party move against ‘birth tourism’.
The opposition Conservatives are calling for the government to end the practice unless at least one of the parents is a citizen or permanent resident of Canada.
Conservative politicians argue this would immediately end the situation where people come to Canada just to give birth and get citizenship for the child.
However, stakeholders say there is little evidence Canada has a birth tourism problem, and the result of the Conservative policy would be stateless children being born here.
When the Conservatives came out with the resolution, Liberal officials were quick to condemn it as ‘wrong and disturbing’.
Now the federal government’s own Supreme Court submission aligns with the conservatives and suggests Canada is by no means bound to continue to award citizenship based on birthplace.
Lawyers are expected to give oral argument in the Vavilov brothers’ case in December.
Following the passing of Bill C-6 in June 2017, the federal Liberals recently rolled back a number of changes to Canada’s Citizenship Act that were enacted while the Conservatives were in power.
What Citizenship Act Changes Have Been Made by The Liberals?
- Applicants must be permanent residents of and physically reside in Canada for at least 1,095 days (three years) during the five years before the date of their application, and repeals requirement that applicants must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of the qualifying years.
- Applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 must meet basic knowledge and language requirements. Applicable criteria will be defined under future regulations.
- Repeals a requirement that adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they are granted Canadian citizenship.
- Restores consideration of time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident (non-PR) for most applicants to a maximum of one year of credited time.
- Reduces the period to three years for adult applicants to file Canadian income taxes, if required under the Income Tax Act, to be eligible for citizenship.
- Repeals authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who served as members of an armed force of a country or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
- Repeals authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.
- Authorizes Minister to seize documents used in fraudulent citizenship applications.
- Allow minors the right to apply for citizenship without parents.
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