A committee of MPs approved Citizenship Act changes that allow some born abroad to adopt their Canadian parent’s citizenship Wednesday, despite objections from Conservatives about a lack of due process.
In 2009, the Conservative government changed the law to make it so that Canadian parents who were born abroad could not pass down their citizenship unless their child was born in Canada.
The NDP has proposed a change that would grant citizenship to the child if the Canadian parent can prove they spent at least three years in Canada.
The new rule, which is supported by the Liberals, was tacked onto a Conservative senator’s private member’s bill at the House of Commons immigration committee.
Conservative immigration critic Tom Kmiec called the amendments “vandalism” of the original spirit of the bill, because the changes were so drastic.
“That is a concern to me, that this might happen to any one of us with our bills in the future, where the content might be deleted and replaced with things we don’t agree with,” Kmiec said during debate earlier this week.
The Conservatives are now in the awkward position of sponsoring a bill in the Commons that they don’t support and won’t vote for.
The testimony and drawn-out debate over the bill and amendments at the committee went on for 12 meetings, sparking concerns the Conservatives would prevent the changes from reaching the House at all.
The committee had until June 14 to finish reviewing the amended bill, or else it would have been sent back to the House of Commons without the new changes.
In its original version, Conservative Sen. Yonah Martin’s bill would have granted citizenship to a small number of people who were stripped of their Canadian legal status between 1977 and 1981 because of a quirk in the law.
The NDP and Liberal amendments make much more sweeping changes, including tweaks to ensure that children adopted by Canadian parents from abroad would have the same citizenship rights as those who were born in or immigrated to Canada.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner says the bill will now face extra scrutiny and holdups because the proper process wasn’t followed.
She repeatedly expressed concerns about making major changes to the Citizenship Act without consulting experts or even having an idea of how many people could be affected.
Conservatives also pushed for tougher requirements for parents who wish to prove their connection to Canada, but their ideas were dismissed by other members on the committee.
“We came into this all in agreement on passing this bill expeditiously,” Rempel Garner said during the debate earlier this week. “My sense is that is not going to be the case.”
The revised legislation will need to make its way through another vote in the House before the changes are deliberated by the Senate.
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said she’s hopeful the changes will be realized, and children born abroad will have a chance at inheriting Canadian citizenship.
“I remain optimistic that at the end of the day, people will put aside the partisan politics,” she said.