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The 17 April Amendment- Canadian Citizenship Act

Bill C-37 that passed on 17 April 2008 and finally came into effect on 17 April 2009 is a very interesting amendment to the Canadian Citizenship Act. This document gives Canadian citizenship to those who lost or never had it, due to outdated provisions in existing and former legislation. The government believes that this could restore citizenship of hundreds of thousands unsuspecting foreigners. The biggest part (over 240.000) is believed to be in America, and these are just people born from 1947 to 1977. This amendment not only automatically restores Canadian nationality to many people that were forced to renounce it when they became citizens of another country, but also grants citizenship to their children. After 1947 there were actually numerous problems with the Citizenship Act that led to mistakes and loss of citizenship. The new amendment doesn’t make the people Canadian citizens instantly, they still have to apply for citizenship. It means that people who don’t want to change nationality don’t need to solve problems with being recognized as Canadian citizen. People who want to keep their other nationality can always renounce their new citizenship.


If we look into history the Canadian Citizenship Act took effect on 1 January 1947 and stated that anyone (with the exception of diplomat children) born in Canada from 1947 onwards acquired Canadian citizenship at birth. In 1977 the Canadian nationality law was revisited, when the new Citizenship Act came into force. From this date the Canadians who were born outside the country received citizenship and Canada also fully accepted multiple citizenship. However the people who lost their citizenship before that date did not automatically have it restored until 17 April 2009 when Bill C-37 became law. The group of activists that played an important role in the passing of this bill consisted mostly of people born in the thirty year long span from 1947 to 1977.


The fight for this amendment and the restoration was started by a group of people who lost their citizenship rights due to various mostly unfair reasons. The biggest part are Canadians who were born in U.S. hospitals from 1947 to 1977. During this time if a family crossed the border and the child was born in the U.S. and not registered with the government, the child was not recognized as Canadian. Also members of the families of Canadian servicemen lost their citizenship if they stayed out of the country for a decade or more. There were also the grandchildren of the Canadian Mennonites who moved to Mexico in the 1920s to the 1960s. When these grandchildren tried to return to Canada their nationality was classified as unclear. Despite the fact that some of these cases were reviewed for years, this group of people with unclear nationality became more active in the last few years. One of the reasons was that new U.S. rules requiring passports for travel between Canada and the U.S. uncovered very large numbers of people who reported that they have Canadian citizenship, but were not officially confirmed citizens of Canada.


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