Thousands of children could benefit from Senator Victor Oh’s proposed amendment
Senator Victor Oh has tabled an amendment to Bill C6 that would enable minors to apply for Canadian citizenship separately from their parents, something that has been possible in Norway for a while.
The amendment would apply to children who are asylum seekers, estranged from their parents, or minors who don’t want to return to countries like India or China (that don’t allow dual passports) with their parents. Canadian law currently requires permanent residents who want to apply for citizenship to be at least 18 years of age or to be included in a parent or guardian’s immigration application. There is a growing number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Canada. According to the Canada Border Services Agency, refugee claims filed for minors 17 years old or younger have increased steadily in recent years. The number of youth asylum seekers jumped from 2,011 in 2015 to 3,400 in 2016, representing a 50% increase. Currently, the only way that a Canadian resident under 18 can apply for citizenship on their own is on “compassionate” grounds – something very rarely used.
As per the Montreal Gazette, immigration lawyer Richard Kurland helped senators with the background paper accompanying the legislative proposal which would make it possible for the following kinds of young people to become Canadian citizens through their own application process:
- “Unaccompanied minors,” that is young people who arrive in Canada unaccompanied by an adult. The brief argues many are at risk of exploitation and abuse by traffickers.
- Children who have gone into “protective custody” because of physical or sexual abuse by their parents or guardians.
- Children who are orphans, or who have run away from their parents or guardians.
- Children of parents who are permanent residents but who do not meet language requirements to become citizens.
- Children who as young adults become convicted of a criminal offence.
The revised application process would be open to minors whose parents have applied for immigration status but who have worked outside of Canada for so long that they fail to meet requirements for citizenship. It would also allow a minor in Canada to follow a different route from their Canadian-resident parents — who might decide against becoming citizens of Canada because they don’t want to give up the passport of their homeland.