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2024 Proposed Changes to Canadian Citizenship Law

June 10, 2024 by Katie Enman, Immigration Consultant
2024 Proposed Changes to Canadian Citizenship Law

2024 Proposed Changes to Canadian Citizenship Law

On May 23, 2024, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, introduced new legislation extending citizenship by descent beyond the first generation – an issue that has remained contentious within government departments and Canadians citizens for over two decades.


In 2009, changes to the Citizenship Act imposed a first-generation limit to citizenship by descent. This meant a Canadian citizen parent could pass on citizenship to a child born outside Canada only if they were either born in Canada or naturalized before the birth of the child.

As a result of this ‘first-generation limit’, Canadian citizens born outside Canada could not pass on citizenship to their child born outside Canada, and could not apply for a direct grant of citizenship.

This change was introduced as a way to eliminate “Canadians of Convenience” due to the mass influx of Lebanese Canadians who returned to Canada as refugees in 2006 during the war between Israel and Lebanon.

At the time, some government officials claimed these individuals had only established their Canadian citizenship as a “safety net” in the event they needed to flee their home country.

As a result, the Harper government updated the law as part of Bill C-37 so that any child who is the second generation of a Canadian born abroad would not necessarily be a Canadian citizen. And by 2012, over 3000 people had their citizenship revoked due to allegations of fraud while several others, known as Lost Canadians, were left to wonder whether they were citizens or not.

However, things took a turn in 2023. In a landmark ruling, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice declared this first-generation limit as unconstitutional because it generally limited citizenship by descent to those born to a Canadian parent abroad in the first generation (with some exceptions). The case involved seven multi-generational Canadians arguing Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms violations, s. 15(1) and s.6

The Government of Canada did not appeal this as it conceded this law had unacceptable consequences for Canadians whose children were born outside Canada. In other words, they agreed.

Proposed changes

While the proposed changes to Bill C-71 must still pass in Parliament and receive royal assent, the recommended legislation would automatically confer Canadian citizenship to those born abroad to a Canadian parent who was also born abroad. It would also extend access to a direct grant of citizenship to children born abroad and adopted by a Canadian parent beyond the first generation.

Reinstating citizenship rights to Lost Canadians will “extend citizenship by descent beyond the first generation in a way that is inclusive and upholds the value of our citizenship,” according to Miller.

The article above is intended to provide general and non-case specific information on immigration related matters. It should not be used or relied on as formal legal advice.