An Old and Obscure Canadian Law Can Strip You Of Your Citizenship

22 Mar 2023

A Contingent of Canadian Citizens Could Be Completely Unaware That They Are Stateless

We came across this incredibly alarming story in the Globe & Mail recently.

Canadian resident and citizen, Byrdie Funk, was two months old when she moved from Mexico to a small farming community in Manitoba with her Canadian parents. She is a Canadian citizen through her birthright with two Canadian parents who were born outside of Canada. Earlier this year though, she received a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada informing her that she was no longer a Canadian citizen. There is an esoteric federal law that automatically revokes the citizenship of certain Canadians who fail to officially apply to retain their nationality before the age of 28. The little-known policy applies to anyone born abroad between Feb. 15, 1977, and April 16, 1981, to Canadian parents who were also born outside the country. The law was drafted in the 1970s out of concern that citizenship could be passed along indefinitely to generations abroad who were less and less connected to Canada. The virtually unknown provision in the Citizenship Act was repealed in 2009 by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, but was not retroactive.

Over the years, the government has legislated corrections for the oversights, normally by retroactively offering citizenship to affected groups, from war brides to the children of soldiers born overseas. But recourse was never offered to those affected by the 28-year rule.

According to the Toronto Star, Lindsay Wemp, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada indicated that an attempt was made to contact those affected, where possible.

“As we do not have data on the number of individuals who might have been impacted, we were unable to advise people systematically (about the changes). When possible, IRCC did inform people that they would have to take steps to retain their Canadian citizenship prior to their 28th birthday by way of a written notice to the client included with their citizenship certificate”

Funk received a letter from the federal government in April offering two options: to apply to become a permanent resident as an immigrant, or to apply for a “discretionary” grant of citizenship, even though the IRCC acknowledged that the discretionary option is a long process that requires many levels of approval. Grants under this subsection are only used in very exceptional cases.

Funk has made a personal appeal to Liberal immigration minister, John McCallum. A petition was started as well.