Coutot Roehrig
Immigration

Citizenship status part of self-identity

Closing significant gaps in Canadian citizenship laws would not only resolve a long-running legal battle, but would help foster a sense a self-identity in those affected by the bungled legislation, says Toronto immigration lawyer Manjit Singh.

In Vancouver, Jackie Scott, 68, is petitioning for “declarations” from the Federal Court that could have serious ramifications for Canadian citizenship, including whether Parliament has total control over who is considered Canadian, CTV reports.

Scott was refused citizenship, even though she came to Canada with her British mother and Canadian father at the age of two, the report says. The government claims Scott’s father was legally considered a British subject at the time because Canada’s first citizenship act did not come into effect until 1947, CTV reports, noting Scott and her lawyers argue that citizenship has existed outside of statutory law since long before 1947.

The application asks for Scott’s judicial review to be “converted to an action” that would allow the court to make declarations regarding six main questions, including whether Scott’s father was a Canadian citizen and whether citizenship exists as a legal concept and/or right independent of the 1947 Citizenship Act, the report says.

Singh, an associate with Cambridge LLP, says he applauds the move to broaden the case to petition for declarations.

“If there’s a singular principle to which all potential applicants to citizenship can apply, I truly believe that it’s more equal that way, rather than it being done on an individual basis.”

Singh goes on to say, “A gap definitely does exist, and it will be interesting to see if the court will deal with this gap or whether the court will leave it to the federal Parliament within their exclusive jurisdiction of powers. I think, in principle, the federal government probably should have exclusive jurisdiction on citizenship. The problem, of course, is that there are these gaps that exist and the government has not done a great job of closing them.”

Ideally, says Singh, the court would order the government to address the issues within the law by a certain date, “so it would still be within the federal legislature’s purview to decide on citizenship, but the court would recognize the government failed in its responsibility and they would have to act within in a specific timeline lest the judicial branch step in to assume the responsibility to do so for a recalcitrant parliament.”

For those caught in the same situation as Scott, a resolution to the matter is likely to have a major affect their lives, says Singh.

“The impact would be absolutely fundamental and much greater than anyone who’s not impacted by it can imagine because it goes to the heart of self-identity,” he says. “These are people who would like to know for themselves who they are, where they stand in this world, how they stand in relation to other Canadians in our society and whether they have the right to be recognized as citizens, and to have that recognition denied because of these gaps naturally causes such hurt to their sense of self-identity.”

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