Nearly 6 in 10 Canadians would strip citizenship from children born here based on the immigration status of their parents, according to in-house government polling. Citizenship Canada posed the question in a confidential survey, obtained through Access to Information.
“This would be a very fundamental change,” said attorney Peter Edelmann of Edelmann & Co. in Vancouver, an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s national immigration law section. “The question they have asked is suggestive,” Edelmann said. “It pushes people to a certain answer that is out of the broader context.”
The citizenship department’s 2014-2015 Tracking Study asked Canadians, “Currently anyone born in Canada is automatically granted Canadian citizenship”; “Some say that Canadian citizenship should only be granted on an automatic basis to those born in Canada if their parents are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Others say that Canadian citizenship should continue to be granted on an automatic basis to anyone born in Canada even if their parents are only here temporarily or are here illegally. Which is closer to your view?”
Fifty-seven percent supported revoking citizenship from children born to temporary residents or illegal migrants; only 39 percent supported the law as it stands. The findings were based on interviews with 3,028 Canadians nationwide. Costs of the survey were not disclosed.
“The problem is that if these people born here don’t get citizenship here, they won’t be able to get citizenship anywhere,” said Edelmann. “You would wind up with stateless individuals.”
Edelmann said the fact the Department of Immigration polled the question suggested that “immigration has become very politicized, especially with this government”; “I know the department has spent a significant amount of time on media management and this doesn’t surprise me. I think there are better ways for this department to spend its money.”
Contrary To 1947 Law
Christopher Veeman, an attorney with the Bar Association’s immigration law section executive, noted that revoking automatic citizenship for all babies born here depending on their parents’ status is contrary to Canada’s original Citizenship Act.
“Our system has operated this way since 1947,” said Veeman, of Veeman Law in Saskatoon. “It has not been an issue.”
The Tracking Study also noted 37 percent of Canadians surveyed believe there are too many immigrants in Canada; 35 percent said refugee claimants should be denied the same health care benefits as citizens; and only 20 percent said Canada should let in more immigrants over the next five years.
Asked whether Canada “should focus on helping unemployed Canadians rather than looking for skilled immigrants for our workforce,” 74 percent agreed in the Tracking Study.
“I can understand why politicians react to negative news stories, but ideally they should base these decisions on the best interests of the economy and the country,” Veeman said; “When you talk to Canadians about immigration in the abstract you’ll have people say, ‘Oh, yes, there are too many.’ When you ask Canadians about immigrants they actually know – the guy at the Tim Hortons or the highly-skilled engineer at work – they react much more favourably.”
Canada accepts 259,000 immigrants a year. The rate peaked in 1913 when 401,000 immigrants arrived in Canada.
By Tom Korski