Citizenship law makes Canadian dad's kids non-citizens
Published Monday, July 2, 2018 6:06PM PDT
A citizenship rule designed to stop people with no connections to Canada from taking advantage of Canadian citizenship has kept a Vancouver dad from his kids for months.
Patrick Chandler was stunned to learn that he – a Canadian citizen – wasn’t able to pass on his citizenship to his four-year-old and nine-year-old kids, who were born in China while he was working there.
That’s kept the family from following him to his new job in B.C. for seven months as Chandler follows the Canadian government’s advice: sponsor your own children as immigrants.
“I couldn’t be there. I would have loved to be there,” Chandler said, while showing videos of his kids, Rachel and Ryan, in dancing and swimming lessons sent to him by his wife Fiona. “I’ve been missing a lot in these last few months.”
It’s a problem that could ensnare professional, jet-setting parents whose jobs send them around the globe.
Chandler was born in Libya while his parents were teaching there. His parents returned to the Lower Mainland when he was two years old. He left for China when he was in his late teens.
“In my opinion, Canada has always been my home,” he said.
But his birth in Libya came to haunt him with a change to citizenship rules in 2009. According to the new rule, the first children born abroad to a Canadian would keep their citizenship. But a second generation born abroad won’t be.
The goal of the Conservative government was to cut down on the spectre of people with little connection to Canada passing on their citizenship indefinitely.
Rachel was born three months after that law passed. Unaware, Chandler attempted to get her documents filed at the Canadian embassy in Beijing.
“(The worker) starts stamping the documents and says at the very last second, ‘Wait. You weren’t born in Canada. She’s not born in Canada. She’s not allowed to get Canadian citizenship.’ I said, ‘What’s going on?’” he remembered.
Rachel could not be Chinese because of that country’s rules about registering births. She could have been stateless, but her father, whose father is Irish, found the government of Ireland willing to grant citizenship.
Their second child, Ryan, was registered and is a Chinese national. But not having Canadian children was a major impediment to returning home, Chandler said.
It’s a problem that should have all Canadian expatriates paying attention, said Don Chapman, an advocate of people who Canadian citizenship law leaves in the lurch.
“How many Canadians are in this situation? How many Canadians are working overseas? They’ve had nine years to produce babies. There are a lot of people in this boat and they don’t even know it,” Chapman said.
The solution is simple, Chapman said: amend the law so that a Canadian born abroad automatically regains the right to have Canadian children after spending three years in the country. That’s the same length of time that it takes for permanent residents to become citizens.
Those new citizens can go on to have Canadian citizen children when in foreign countries, Chapman said, while Canadians who have been citizens since their birth in a foreign country do not have that right or any way to get it.
Last year a job opened up in the B.C. government, and Chandler and his family decided to make the move. The federal government suggested that the way he could get his children to Canada was to sponsor them as immigrants.
Chandler completed the paperwork, but hasn’t been approved yet, though he has some indications that approval could be near.