Saturday, April 18, 2009

Waking Up Nerdy

Thanks to a new law, Canada will bestow citizenship Friday on what its government believes could be hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting foreigners, most of them Americans.

The April 17 amendment to Canada's Citizenship Act automatically restores Canadian nationality to many people forced to renounce it when they became citizens of another country. It also grants citizenship to their children.

The Canadian government doesn't know the precise number or location of individuals affected by the legislation. But it believes most are U.S. citizens, a spokeswoman for Canada's immigration office said. U.S. Department of Homeland Security records show 240,000 Canadians were naturalized in the U.S. from 1948 to 1977; the new law fixes problems that occurred during those years.

To reach that amorphous group of beneficiaries, the Canadian government has turned to YouTube. It's running an ad there titled "Waking up Canadian," in which a man awakens on April 17 to a room festooned with red-and-white Canadian flags. He's met by a welcoming committee consisting of two stuffed plush moose, a hockey player, and a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Eligible individuals automatically become Canadian citizens. But they don't get proof of that citizenship unless they apply for it, meaning other countries -- including those that allow people to be citizens of only one nation -- won't be alerted, according to the immigration office spokeswoman. Those people also may renounce their citizenship rights, she said.

The citizenship bonanza is the byproduct of a decadeslong struggle by a motley group of people who claim they were unfairly denied or lost their Canadian nationality. Canadian families who crossed the border in 1947 to 1977 to have their babies in a U.S. hospital found those children weren't recognized as Canadians unless the families registered them with the government. Some foreign brides of Canadian World War II servicemen lost their citizenship if they stayed out of the country for a decade or more.

Then there are the Canadian Mennonites who moved to Mexico in the 1920s to the 1960s. When their children and grandchildren returned to Canada, many found their nationality unclear.

Some such cases languished in litigation for years. Others surfaced in 2007, when new U.S. rules requiring passports for travel between Canada and the U.S. uncovered significant numbers of people who thought they were Canadian, but weren't. The old rules were "quite intricate," said Bill Janzen, an immigration lobbyist in Ottawa for the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada.

The new law offers citizenship to many individuals now in limbo. It also stops the previous practice of granting citizenship in perpetuity to children of Canadians born abroad, limiting eligibility to children of parents born in Canada. From Wall Street Journal


Gardenia said...

This is all very interesting. Perhaps it is something the U.S. should follow to solve some of our problems - or rather problems created either for people or by people who travel and are flexible across borders. I mean pregnancy doesn't really consider borders - then suddenly children through no fault of their own find their status confusing. You didn't say what you think?

tweetey30 said...

I have a few friends from high school that had duel citizenship when growing up and then when they turned 16 they had to choose where they wanted to live because that was the law back then.. This is interesting. Its almost like our problems with the Mexicans here. I am not prejudiced but using that as an example really.. Yikes really when you think of it.

Candy Minx said...

Gardenia, I think it's a great idea. I'm really into immigration in Canada...hey we want their taxes! Heh heh. We need the $ for roads and health insurance fo everybody....a round for my friends!

Tweetey, the only thing they forgot to add in the public service announcement was donuts and beer. Wow, what an issue for your 16 year old friends to have to decide on choosing their citizenship back then...sheesh.