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SOCI - Standing Committee

Social Affairs, Science and Technology



OTTAWA, Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met with videoconference this day at 11:30 a.m. [ET] to study Bill S-235, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Senator Ratna Omidvar (Chair) in the chair.

The Chair: Senators, I would like to begin by welcoming members of the committee, witnesses and members of the public watching our proceedings.

My name is Ratna Omidvar, senator from Ontario, and I am the chair of this committee.

Before we begin, perhaps it’s a good idea to do a round table, introducing ourselves to our witnesses — not in this case so much but to members of the public — starting with a steering member of the committee, Senator Seidman.

Senator Seidman: Senator Judith Seidman.

Welcome to our committee, Senator Pate and Senator Jaffer. We look forward to your presentations.


Senator Cormier: Senator René Cormier from New Brunswick.


Pleasure to meet you.


Senator Mégie: Marie-Françoise Mégie from Quebec.


Nice to meet you too.

Senator Bernard: Wanda Thomas Bernard from Nova Scotia. Welcome.


Senator Petitclerc: Chantal Petitclerc from Quebec. Thank you for being here.


Senator McPhedran: Marilou McPhedran, Manitoba. Welcome.

Senator Moodie: Rosemary Moodie, Ontario.

Senator Burey: Sharon Burey, senator from Ontario. Welcome.

The Chair: It is our pleasure to welcome two dear colleagues to this study of Bill S-235: Senator Jaffer, who is the sponsor of the bill, and Senator Pate, who has a previous interest in the bill. We look forward to hearing from both of you. You have 10 minutes for your opening remarks. Please share them as you see fit, if you need to share them.

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer, sponsor of the bill: Thank you all for such a welcoming. It feels really good. Thank you.

Honourable senators, please let me start by sharing with you this voice of a non-citizen who was brought into government care, among the many from whom I heard during my work on Bill S-235:

I was placed in foster care at the age of 5 for reasons no 5 year old could understand. I was confused and missed my family.

I did not know where I was going and why my parents were not coming.

They were always with me when we were fleeing.

They took me to another family and not mine.

Why, was I a bad boy? Was I being punished?

Then so much happened. I was moved into 12 foster homes.

At school, every morning I stood up for the Canadian Anthem, and every year on July 1st I celebrated being Canadian. I was proud to be a Canadian. Yet despite considering this country my home, I lacked citizenship status myself.

At 16, I tried to find my mother but I did not remember where she lived.

I ended on the street and got into criminal trouble. I needed to survive.

Later, I became homeless, ended up in prison and was then deported to Jamaica. But why Jamaica? No one I knew was in Jamaica.

Honourable senators, this is one of the several painful accounts I heard while preparing for this bill. But this bill would ensure that stories like these aren’t heard again.

Before I continue, I want to thank Senator Omidvar and the committee for examining this bill. I also want to thank Senator Pate for encouraging me to sponsor this bill.

As an overview, Bill S-235 aims to provide Canadian citizenship to the children of refugee and immigrant parents who have been taken into government care. Upon spending 365 days as wards of the state, these children would receive formal Canadian citizenship. In this way, Bill S-235 fills a very small legal void, which nonetheless has dramatic consequences for non-citizen wards when they face, as adults, the threat of deportation upon criminal conviction.

Senators, Bill S-235 is grounded in three foundations: the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the in loco parentis role that government plays towards children in its care, as provided by provincial law.

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Canadian and provincial governments must make all decisions in the best interests of the children in care, who have a right to non-discrimination, development, necessary support and the right to get proper future care.

The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed this in the Baker case in 1999, writing that:

The values and principles of the Convention recognize the importance of being attentive to the rights and best interests of children when decisions are made that relate to and affect their future. . . .

Seeing that the omission to provide citizenship has a dramatic and negative impact on the future of non-citizen wards, government must provide non-Canadian wards with citizenship under international law.

To continue, Bill S-235 recognizes that non-citizen wards are discriminated against as non-citizens, as opposed to other citizen Crown wards, which might violate sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Indeed, seeing how uncertain their future as Canadians is, non-citizen wards’ care plans are incomplete if the state doesn’t seek to provide them with citizenship. Their right to life and safety might be at risk, as in the case of Mr. Abdi’s situation, which I will return to in a few minutes.

But non-citizen wards must not be treated differently by virtue of their origins, especially seeing that they are in government care. This discrimination is particularly objectionable because non-citizen state wards are Canadian in everything but status. They have roots here; they know the language and the culture. They are as much a part of Canada as any other citizen. Therefore, Bill S-235 will formally recognize these wards, who are already in every other aspect Canadians.

Bill S-235 acknowledges that provincial governments and local authorities explicitly act in loco parentis — that is, in place of parents — when making decisions in the best interests of wards in their care, whether citizens or not.

This is made transparent in provincial law, as in Quebec’s Youth Protection Act and Ontario’s Child, Youth and Family Services Act, where mentions of the Crown having the rights and responsibilities of a parent for the purposes of the child’s care, custody and control are abundant.

As such, Bill S-235 recognizes that this responsibility implies obtaining citizenship status for its non-citizen wards — again, as acting in their best interests.

In closing, senators, I want you to consider the case of Abdoul Abdi, who arrived in Nova Scotia as a refugee at the age of 6. After being taken into care in 2001, he endured 31 foster home replacements. I have found out that, especially in some provinces, Black or racialized children face many changes in foster homes even if it’s not their fault. I’m sure many of you know this. Abdoul Abdi and his sister, from whom you will hear in the next few weeks, faced severe sexual, physical and emotional abuse. As a young adult, he confronted criminal charges and the threat of deportation to Somalia, a country he barely knew. I remind you that he came here at the age of 6.

While these deportation orders were eventually overturned through legal and public efforts, to this day, Abdoul remains without Canadian citizenship. This bill will ensure that this never happens to another non-citizen child in state care.

Honourable senators, we both come to you here to say to you that children whom we raise in government care are children just as much as ours. They need to be protected and taken care of, ensuring that their Canadian citizenship is a critical part of that.

I can genuinely tell you that as a refugee myself, it means a lot to be a Canadian citizen. When we received our Canadian citizenship, my son was 7 years old. He flew the flag all day, saying to everybody, “Now I’m a Canadian citizen.” That’s what belonging means. That’s when he felt he really was part of this country. We come to you to say people who are taken in as wards of the court deserve our protection.

Thank you, senators, for listening. Senator Pate might have some remarks.

Hon. Kim Pate: The only thing I would say is thank you very much for sponsoring this bill, Senator Jaffer. I also want to recognize and thank Senator Omidvar for inspiring this bill.

Those of you who were in the Senate when Bill C-6 was being considered will remember that an amendment was made by Senator Oh. He made that amendment based on a case that I had been working on when I was being appointed. That was the case of Fliss Cramman, a young White woman who did obtain citizenship after the process. I don’t think that should be lost on anybody. He made the amendment hoping to correct the issues that Bill S-235 now does correct. At the time, a decision was taken by some members in the chamber that if I proceeded with correcting and doing a further amendment, a friendly amendment, if you will, that the bill would be defeated. In the interest of not defeating that bill, I acceded and, as Senator Omidvar encouraged me to do, developed a private member’s bill, which Senator Jaffer kindly agreed to sponsor.

That is the history of this bill. It is an attempt to correct something that people thought was being correct with that bill. I know the government recognizes this is a vital issue because they developed a policy recently that I think they hoped would put to bed this issue, but it does not. It does not ensure that all of the children in these situations would have citizenship — quite the opposite. It provides a small mechanism to allow for a temporary resident permit only, and specifies there needs to be a court order requiring full legal parental responsibility by the child welfare system.

We should certainly get the numbers from each of the provinces, but I can tell you from the many cases I’ve worked on in the past four and a half decades that the number of times that happens, particularly with some of the young people we’re talking about, is not significant. In fact, that policy is performative. It attempts to put forth an idea that this will be solved when, in fact, it will not. It is only policy, not legislation.

I strongly encourage you to support the bill Senator Jaffer has brought forward. I look forward to your questions.

The Chair: Thank you, Senators Jaffer and Pate, for your remarks. My commendations to both of you for your “stick-with-it-ness.” Bill C-6 was in 2016. We are now in 2023. This is for the audience to know that things often move at a snail’s pace. However, they move because of the commitment of colleagues like Senator Jaffer and Senator Pate.

We will go to questions now. Colleagues, you will have four minutes each for questions. If I may ask the first one, a clarifying question, Senators Jaffer and Pate, this bill is not retroactive in any way; it’s prospective, yes?

Senator Jaffer: Yes, it is not retroactive. I found a mistake in the bill and I have corrected it. It should say, “the person was subject to the conditions described in clauses 1(1)(i)‍(A) to (C) for 365 days.” It does not make that clear.

The Chair: Which line in the bill is it?

Senator Jaffer: I’m sending it to all of you. It’s on page 3, line 3 of the bill.

The Chair: Page 3.

Senator Jaffer: Line 3. That’s to be added because it was not clear.

The Chair: Before we end the session, are you going to seek an amendment to correct that?

Senator Jaffer: Yes, at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. I just wanted to bring that to your attention.

The Chair: We will hear from the department, but I’m talking at the political level: What conversations have you had with the minister today or yesterday, or the previous minister? Are they open to amending the act in this way?

Senator Jaffer: Minister Fraser was very open. I was working with him, and then there was a change. You know that the Prime Minister publicly said he was open to this. I have those remarks for the officials. Minister Miller is a new minister. I have spoken to him. He said he’s personally in favour of it, but I can’t say anything more of that conversation just now.

The Chair: Thank you.

Senator Pate: If I might add, at the time this bill was being developed initially, Minister Mendicino was certainly supportive.

Senator Jaffer: Yes, very supportive. You’re right; I forgot. Minister Mendicino was supportive throughout.

The Chair: Thank you, colleagues.

Senator Seidman: I already said my big welcome to you instead of my introduction. Thank you, Senator Jaffer, for presenting this bill to us. We’re all aware of your passion for this issue and really appreciate it.

You could almost predict the kind of question I was going to ask you. I would like to know if there is any data. For example, how many children currently are in out-of-home care in Canada and in a situation where they would age out of care? Do we know how many adults in Canada have actually aged out of care? Do we have any numbers for any of these things? Do we know how many people who could obtain citizenship under your provisions would be at risk of removal? It’s sort of a data question if we have any numbers.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you for those questions. I knew you would ask that, having worked with you for so many years.

Senator, it’s not easy to get data. The analyst has been very kind and has provided complete data that I won’t repeat. That’s in the background information. Until very recently, when children were taken into care, their race or ethnic origin was not put down. So I have not been able to get data. I tried really hard and I was told that we didn’t collect data like that. So what the analyst has put here is what we have. I think our last witness at these hearings is someone who may be able to provide you with data.

I can tell you that in 2020, 686 people were going to be deported.

Senator Seidman: Okay. Just as an add-on to that question, do you think that there should be some way to collect data on this? Should there be something in the bill, for example, that would allow to somehow build in a data-collection process going forward?

Senator Jaffer: Senator, that’s a really good question, and collecting data is really important for many reasons. No government has been doing it, and that might be a good idea. I’m not trying to not answer the question, with the greatest respect. We would be open to that amendment if you want, but I suggest the officials may know why. They are starting to collect data on race now, but it’s just recent.

Senator Seidman: Senator Pate, I think you wanted to add.

Senator Pate: Part of the challenge, Senator Seidman, is that the data is split between jurisdictions. When someone comes into the country as a refugee or an immigrant, there is that data. So we know the children come in. The data then on when they go into care is provincial or territorial data. Part of the challenge is historically they have not taken on this responsibility.

For instance, I use Fliss Cramman as an example. She was criminalized after a whole series of abusive situations. She ended up in prison, and it wasn’t until she was in prison and they were trying to determine parole eligibility and those sorts of things that they determined she wasn’t even a Canadian citizen; she thought she was. Many of the children we’re talking about think that they are. When they age out of care, they don’t know that they’re not citizens. They often find out for the first time when they end up in the system.

Senator Seidman: That’s part of the biggest issue.

Senator Pate: That’s correct. There should be a responsibility on provinces, and I think that’s something that can be an observation, perhaps, a very strong observation that can be communicated to all provincial ministries responsible for child welfare.

Senator Seidman: Of course, there are the jurisdictional issues which you mentioned already, so that creates an additional complication.


Senator Mégie: According to the answers you gave Senator Seidman, the data is hard to find. Could the research also include data on these children’s countries of origin and ethnicity, which could perhaps be reflected in the disaggregated data?

Has a gender-based analysis plus or GBA+ ever been done to understand Bill S-235’s impact on this target demographic, whether youth or adult, but for those without citizenship? Has a GBA+ been done on that?

Senator Jaffer: Senator, I looked for the data, as you said. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it. Maybe the government has the data, but I don’t know. I’m sorry.

Senator Mégie: For those children, do we know if they come here and don’t speak either of Canada’s official languages as their mother tongue? How is the government going to make sure that the people affected by these conditions are well informed about this problem? Has any thought been given to this? Has this been planned for?

Senator Jaffer: This is a really difficult situation. There are many children who do not speak the official languages. That adds to the problem when it comes to children. I don’t know what the government has done. I’m sorry.

Senator Mégie: All right. Thank you.


Senator Bernard: I have a couple of questions. This may be the data side because I was going to ask about data, but I think we’ve done enough around that.

There are a couple of other questions I want to ask. It’s well documented in the literature that there is a child-welfare-to-prison pipeline. Can you speak to what you have found in your research around that child-welfare-to-prison pipeline for Crown wards who don’t have citizenship? Is that the point that most are discovering that this is even an issue? Can you tell us a bit about that, please?

Senator Pate: That’s exactly the genesis of this bill, that the majority of the individuals — and it was what Senator Oh was trying to correct on Bill C-6 — don’t know that they didn’t have citizenship; they believed they did. They believed that when they were taken into state care, when the state became their parent, which is legally what happens, that they had a responsibility to get citizenship. Usually, the first time they discover it is when they’re in either the juvenile or adult system. You’re right, I mean, even now the same resources that are used for juvenile detention are often also used for child welfare placements, if I can use that term, sometimes even the same beds.

The fact that you come to the attention of the state and then also what comes into play are the very issues of class, race, ability — those intersections mean you’re more likely to also be criminalized. So that’s the context in which this bill arises — that really, to put it very bluntly, the government shouldn’t be able to suck and blow. The government shouldn’t be able to say that they are the parent of the child and then abandon the child and deport them when they haven’t done their due diligence as a parent to get their child citizenship.

Senator Bernard: How is it that so many kids are falling through the cracks? If parents were not applying for citizenship for their children, we would hold them accountable. Where is the accountability with the provinces and territories on this issue?

Senator Pate: That’s a very good question and I suspect one that we should ask those authorities involved in this decision making.

Senator Bernard: Point noted. Thank you.

You’ve mentioned race and disability. Thinking about these intersectional realities, how do they factor into the issues that we’re seeing with these Crown wards who don’t have citizenship? Do we have any data specifically on that?

Senator Pate: Unfortunately, as Senator Jaffer has mentioned, there isn’t much data being collected, because unless it comes to the attention of individuals, organizations working on this issue, we often don’t even know about the cases. I can’t tell you of how many people I’ve learned this was their situation after they’d been deported over the decades I’ve been doing this work.

Fliss Cramman was White. The difference between what happened in Mr. Abdi’s case is emblematic. That we were able to achieve that, I have no illusions that there weren’t discriminatory attitudes at play in this. The fact that a surgeon came to the defence of Ms. Cramman — just so people know, this is a woman who was about to be deported who was literally on her deathbed in hospital, and the surgeon said, “It will kill her if you move her, if you deport her at this moment.” And that was a big part of a decision to then provide humanitarian assistance.

Remember, the genesis of this was a lack of an appeal process. At one time, if we heard about these cases before the individual was being deported — so I’ll think of many cases where I would hear of them, or someone would say, “Oh, so-and-so just disappeared from the jail and they’re being deported” — and if we acted quickly enough with a habeas corpus, with a legal application, we could sometimes get an emergency appeal happening for them. When that appeal process was removed, that was no longer an option.

That’s part of why we don’t know the data and why, at this stage, unfortunately, it’s mostly anecdotal. It’s the evidence that we should be collecting, because there is evidence through immigration deportations. We should be able to link that up with how many of those individuals who were deported first came to Canada as refugees and immigrants, and how many came as children. That data is available. The fact that it hasn’t been accumulated and put together is part of the challenge.

Senator Bernard: Thank you.

The Chair: So we don’t know at this point how many children who have aged out of care, who may not be children anymore, and who found out they were not Canadian citizens as a fluke or when they were applying for — we don’t know how many have been deported.

Senator Pate: No. I won’t put you through this, but some of you will remember when I spoke to this bill as well as when I spoke to Senator Oh’s amendment on Bill C-6, I started to chronicle some of those cases. They’re anecdotal at this point because they’re the ones we happen to know about. I’m heartsick to think of how many I don’t know about.

Senator Jaffer: Just to quickly add to what Senator Pate said, Fliss Cramman ended up with citizenship. She has Canadian citizenship. For Mr. Abdi, the minister said they would not take any further action, but they didn’t give him citizenship, so he is now stateless. Well, he’s not stateless, but he doesn’t have Canadian citizenship, so he has no way to earn a living here, really. Many jobs require Canadian citizenship, and for status it’s very hard.

Senator Burey: Thank you so much for this work that you are doing in bringing this bill here, for the historical context, Senator Pate, and for the gap in our citizenship laws that need to be urgently addressed.

Given the spectrum of options of out-of-home care, how would the proposed provision ensure no group would be left out? Specifically, one of the possible out-of-home care arrangements in some jurisdictions is informal kinship care where the minor is placed with extended kin, and the degree of involvement of the state varies. Would this bill cover those children as well?

Senator Jaffer: It would cover them if there were a court order that they should be in care. But if there wasn’t, then I cannot make the argument that the government took them in care, so it’s the responsibility of the government to provide citizenship.

At the beginning of the bill, there is something to explain that. If the government is not taking them in as a ward of the court, it’s very difficult to say, “Now, Canadian government, you are responsible.”

Senator Pate: Just to be clear, if it’s a kinship arrangement that is sanctioned by child welfare, it should be covered. If it’s an informal relationship, it likely would not be covered.

The other group that wouldn’t be covered is anybody who hadn’t been resident in the country, or with Senator Jaffer’s amendment, in the placement for a year. That was a recommendation made by many of the folks working on the ground because of a concern that there be a connection to the country before a child is taken into care. It may be something that there should be some flexibility about within the government.

Just to finish off on Fliss Cramman, it’s important to also understand that it was public pressure that was brought to keep her here. It was a special humanitarian dispensation by then-immigration minister John McCallum, who intervened on compassionate grounds. It wasn’t as though there was a whole process that was available. It was an exceptional circumstance type of provision. Not everyone can rely on that, particularly when we’re talking about other intersecting forms of discrimination. We know that we can’t rely on that.

Senator Burey: Just to be clear, this bill will cover kids who are in Crown wardship, as we know it, where the government is officially the parent, and for those cases in care that are mandated by child welfare services wherein they need to be in foster care. Thank you.

Senator Jaffer: What you refer to may be covered by clause 1(1)(i)(A) to (C). That may cover it.

Senator Pate: I think it’s also important to point out that this bill covers older children living on their own under support agreements, which is when a lot of these kids do get criminalized, unfortunately. The current policy does not allow for that because, explicitly, then, it wouldn’t be a court order that the full legal parental responsibility is with child welfare, because they’d be living under support agreements. That’s vitally important because that’s the group who is most vulnerable.

Senator Burey: Thank you.

Senator Moodie: Thank you, Senator Jaffer and Senator Pate, for being here today. As you’ve both pointed out, child welfare is largely under provincial jurisdiction.

Can you tell us why you chose to bring this to the federal level? What is the expected impact that this bill would have on provincial government action on these issues? What’s your hope here?

Senator Jaffer: Senator Moodie, thank you for that question. You know that our great country has a division of powers. Children are under the care of the provinces, but immigration is in the hands of the federal government. It has to be the federal government who acts, and then that becomes the law for the country. That’s how this works. The federal government has to take the initiative.

Senator Pate: Right. And the hope would be that the provinces and territories would then, therefore, instruct their provincial bodies to act responsibly and ensure that children in their care have citizenship and that the appropriate procedures are taken. This is really a safety net when they don’t do that, so that they can’t then just deport those individuals who came as kids.

Senator Cormier: My question is a follow-up to Senator Moodie’s question concerning provinces.


Do you think child welfare agencies could be required to provide additional support to fully implement this bill? Quite simply, I’d like to understand what the provinces’ responsibilities are in that regard. What might this mean for child welfare agencies? Do you have any comments or information on that subject?


Senator Jaffer: Child welfare, when they take in a child for protection, they know that they are taking a child from certain parents, and this child will need this — every single child that is taken into protection needs different care. One child may need citizenship. Another child may need special health care. I think that’s part of the job they take on as parents.

As to extra resources, I’m not so sure that they have to do extra, but it’s a different thing that they have to do for these children.

Senator Pate: To be clear, I’ve certainly talked to social workers who do this. As soon as they know that they’re taking someone into care who is a child of a refugee or an immigrant family, they will often immediately investigate to see if they have permanent residency.

It’s not that this happens to every child. This bill is to recognize that when that isn’t done, it’s not okay to just deport that child because someone didn’t know, and for some it may be a genuine, unintended situation. I’ve also met social workers who say they came this way — and these are very discriminatory attitudes — and say maybe they deserve to be deported. Hopefully, this bill will help to assist with educational efforts to prevent those sorts of approaches.

Senator Jaffer: To add to what Senator Pate just said, in 2017, the minister put something out to encourage people to apply for citizenship of a ward, and now there’s authority for them to do so.

Senator Cormier: Thank you.

The Chair: Before we go to Senator Petitclerc, I have a question out of pure curiosity. In some provinces, many provinces — I don’t know for sure — there is a children’s ombudsman. What role does the ombudsman play in all of this?

Senator Jaffer: For me, an ombudsman will play a role if it’s brought to their notice. These are the most vulnerable people. Who speaks for them? They have nobody to speak for them. If you don’t have a voice and you don’t get to the ombudsman, who’s going to speak for you?

Senator Pate: I would just add to that, chair. There’s an ombud in Ontario. There’s a children’s lawyer. There are also child welfare organizations. All of the above have, at times, intervened in these sorts of cases. As Senator Jaffer said, they first have to know about them. They don’t go and investigate every child who has gone into care to see whether this would apply. Those kinds of resources, of course, would be a bit unwieldy in terms of a process.

When it’s brought to their attention, in my experience, they will act, but it’s the bringing of it. If they don’t even know, how can someone bring it to their attention?

The Chair: So these are not systemic solutions.

Senator Petitclerc: I have a small question. You have been so helpful on why it’s important and the different situations. My question is a bit simpler.

How do you see the mechanics of it? Senator Pate, you said the federal government could or should instruct the provincial bodies with the social workers. We’re hoping that this will force it to happen in some sort of a mechanical way.

How do you see that working in the case of those who are a bit older? Is that going to remain a challenge? I understand this could work well when the bill is there — people enter the system, and then the mechanics happen — but what happens for those who are already a bit lost in the system?

Senator Jaffer: If they’re aged out of care, which is what I think you’re saying, they can find a way to apply for citizenship. The hardest problem — and you will hear that from — when she speaks — is most of these people don’t have documents. When my family fled, a lot of our documents were stolen or taken away by soldiers.

It’s very hard to then come and reproduce the documents if you don’t have the know-how. That’s a huge challenge. It’s why many do not apply for citizenship. It’s not that they don’t want to, but they don’t have the documents.

Senator Pate: Fliss Cramman is a good example. She was 33 when she found out she didn’t have citizenship. She found out because a parole officer said, “Sorry, do you think you’re going back to Nova Scotia? No, you’re going back to the United Kingdom, where you came from.”

Another woman who was born in an area that was then India and which is now considered part of Pakistan was stateless. They were trying to deport here to the U.K. because she came through the U.K. as an adult.

The reality is that for this bill, action needs to happen at the provincial level, absolutely. They already have that responsibility. This bill is to say when people fall through the cracks, however, as they have and as we have clear evidence of in these examples, then the Canadian government cannot say, “Because the province didn’t do its job, we can deport you now.” It’s really saying after the fact.

Presumably, the provinces will do a better job of doing their job as a result. Presumably, the federal government won’t be very happy if they have to keep intervening.

The Chair: Thank you, colleagues. We have precisely two minutes left, so I’m going to ask Senator Bernard and Senator Seidman to give voice to their questions. If there is no time, perhaps the senators can get back to us in writing.

Senator Bernard: My question is around the whole issue of aging out of care and the fact that there are no national standards. Is that part of the problem? If there were national standards for all children who are aging out of care, would that make a difference for these kids who are Crown wards?

The Chair: I’m going to have to ask you to respond in writing, because we have lots of officials coming.

Senator Seidman: I have just one last point here. Do you see the potential or risk for any unintended consequences of this legislation? For example, could it be a back door? I don’t know; I put it out there. Do you see the potential for any unintended consequences?

Senator Jaffer: We’ll send it in writing. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, colleagues, for your questions, and thank you to our respected colleagues Senators Pate and Jaffer. Once again, our admiration and our commendation to you for your steadfastness on this and other issues.

Now, joining us for our second panel, we welcome in person the following witnesses from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada: Pemi Gill, Assistant Deputy Minister, Citizenship and Passport; Alexis Graham, Director General, Family and Social Immigration; Uyen Hoang, Acting Director General, Citizenship; Gayle Leith, Senior Policy Analyst, Citizenship; and Anna Turinov, Counsel, Legal Services Unit.

From the Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA, we welcome Richard St Marseille, Director General, Immigration and External Review Policy, Strategic Policy Branch.

Thank you so much for joining us today. There are five minutes allocated for your opening remarks. Please proceed.

Pemi Gill, Assistant Deputy Minister, Citizenship and Passport, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada: Thank you for having us today. My name is Pemi Gill, and I’m the Assistant Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Passport Sector at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or IRCC.


I’d like to point out that we are on the unceded ancestral territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation.

Canada’s Citizenship Act defines who is a Canadian citizen. A person born in Canada is automatically a citizen by birth on Canadian soil, with the exception of children of foreign diplomats and other employees or representatives of a foreign government or international organization.

A person is also automatically a citizen by descent if he or she was born abroad to a first-generation Canadian parent. In other words, one is a citizen if one of their parents was born in Canada or became a naturalized Canadian citizen before the child’s birth.

Finally, a person can obtain citizenship by naturalization. Such a person is typically an immigrant to Canada who is a permanent resident and meets specific conditions set out in the Citizenship Act, such as physical presence in and knowledge of Canada.


Through Bill C-6, the Citizenship Act was amended in 2017 to make it easier for minors to apply for a grant of citizenship if they did not have a Canadian citizen parent. This change allowed child welfare officials, empowered to act on the child’s behalf, to apply for a grant of citizenship for minors in their care. In cases where a minor does not have access to an individual empowered to act on their behalf, they can request a waiver of this requirement and apply on their own behalf.

Minors who do not have a Canadian parent must meet requirements to be granted citizenship, such as being a permanent resident, having the three years of physical presence in Canada during the five years immediately before and not be prohibited.

The physical presence requirement may also be waived on compassionate grounds.


The changes made to the Act have been communicated to the provinces and territories and are available on the department’s external website. The department is also working with the provinces and territories that are taking the initiative to facilitate application processing for minors under their legal responsibility.


The department has taken action to address the precarious situation of foreign nationals who came to Canada under the age of 19 and were under the legal responsibility of the child protection system. As mentioned in the earlier session, as of September 29, these individuals and their immediate family members can apply for a temporary resident permit to regularize their immigration status, which allows them to stay and work in Canada.

Given the vulnerability of this population, the department also implemented a public policy in support of it which waives all the processing and biometric enrolment fees.

Our understanding of Bill S-235 is that foreign nationals or permanent residents who are minors and who resided in Canada for 365 days before they transitioned out of the child protection system and who were not returned to the care or custody of their parent would automatically become Canadian citizens. It’s our understanding that this would also apply to individuals who were previously minors in care.

The bill also makes reference to those who are now residents outside Canada or who were previously removed from Canada as being eligible. It’s also our understanding that includes preventing the removal of persons who will not automatically become Canadian citizens because they may lose citizenship of another country and have not consented to that loss. The bill proposes an amendment that would deem a removal order to never come into effect and stay.

The bill, as drafted, may have unintended results. First, providing automatic citizenship to persons who meet the specified conditions of the bill may adversely affect the best interests of the child, incentivizing placing children in care, such as children being sent to Canada unaccompanied for the purpose of securing citizenship.

Second, the bill may also create differential treatment between youth based on the circumstances of their care as children. Minors who spent time in the child protection system and were returned to the care of their parent or those who were never in the child protection system would not benefit from automatic citizenship and would remain at risk of removal from Canada if they are found to be inadmissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Third, the bill could provide citizenship in a manner that is not in alignment with the scheme of the Citizenship Act as it is today. Today, only those who are born in Canada or born abroad to a Canadian citizen parent, with limited exceptions, are citizens by automatic operation of law. For immigrants seeking to naturalize, the act gives them the choice to acquire citizenship, which is when you apply for the grant of citizenship.

Automatic citizenship also raises the question of whether foreign-born children of someone who would fall under the current client cohort could acquire citizenship automatically by birth abroad in the first generation. It’s unclear if the cohort is to be considered Canadian citizens as if they were born in Canada or Canadian citizens through descent, given that they were born outside of Canada.

Thank you for taking the time to listen. I’ll turn to my colleague.

Richard St Marseille, Director General, Immigration and External Review Policy, Strategic Policy Branch, Canada Border Services Agency: Thank you. I will focus my remarks on Bill S-235’s implications for the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, with a particular focus on immigration enforcement.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act outlines the grounds for which a foreign national or permanent resident may be found inadmissible. This includes reasons like criminality, for instance due to serious convictions in Canada, and reasons like non-compliance, such as working without authorization.

The act provides limited discretion to officers on whether or not immigration enforcement should be pursued against an inadmissible person. In general, the courts have ruled that the more serious the inadmissibility ground, the lesser discretion available to officers.

The act requires inadmissible foreign nationals who are subject to an enforceable removal order to leave Canada immediately and the CBSA to conduct removals as soon as possible.

In some circumstances, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also includes carve-outs to inadmissibility grounds. For example, the act presently excludes from criminal inadmissibility both permanent residents and foreign nationals who received a youth sentence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Inadmissibility determination and proceedings can be lengthy and costly, depending on the grounds. In relatively straightforward cases, delegated officers can find someone inadmissible and issue the applicable removal order, and in more complex cases, they require admissibility hearings at the Immigration and Refugee Board, which is a quasi-judicial setting. A person can only be issued a removal order after they have gone through these proceedings and first been found to be inadmissible to Canada.

Bill S-235 proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The proposed amendments focus on the end of the immigration enforcement process, namely, staying an issued removal order, rather than earlier in the process, such as inadmissibility determination or appeal.

Bill S-235 would establish a framework where a person could not benefit from the automatic conferral of citizenship where the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is of the opinion that it would result in loss of citizenship in another country and where the person concerned has not consented to loss of citizenship in that other country.

In those cases, where the person’s consent to Canadian citizenship remains outstanding or unclear, Bill S-235 nevertheless allows for immigration enforcement to be initiated against them and, depending on the seriousness of the inadmissibility ground, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act may in fact require it.

This could result in the issuance of a removal order, only to have that removal order immediately stayed and unenforceable.

By focusing only on the end of the immigration enforcement process, Bill S-235 may have the unintended consequence of adding the burden of inadmissibility proceedings on the vulnerable population it is seeking to facilitate.

Bill S-235 as drafted is also silent on the duration of the stay of removal. Removal orders could be deemed to not come into force indefinitely where a person does not ever consent to the acquisition of Canadian citizenship. This may be an unintended consequence of the bill as drafted if there was an expectation that a decision by a person to not pursue Canadian citizenship under Bill S-235 was expected to result in the resumption of immigration enforcement and removal.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its regulations, on the other hand, are generally precise with respect to when removal orders come into force and when prescribed stays of removal end. There are some other technical drafting issues with respect to the stay of removal provision as well.

Also, Bill S-235 does not include transitional provisions as to whom the various provisions apply. For instance, it is possible that it may apply to those who have already been removed from Canada on an enforceable removal order.

Lastly, I would like to point out an important border integrity and public safety consideration. In particular, Bill S-235 does not include any carve-outs or risk-mitigation measures to address individuals who might be inadmissible on serious grounds, for instance, due to their involvement in particularly violent crime, whether committed in Canada or abroad.

Thank you. That concludes my opening remarks.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. St Marseille. We will go to questions.

Ms. Gill, I have a question that I would like further clarification on. I think I heard you say — and correct me if I’m wrong — that if Bill S-235 becomes law, other aspects of the Citizenship Act would have to be amended.

Ms. Gill: Could you clarify which sections?

The Chair: You talked about automatic citizenship. At this point, automatic citizenship is limited to certain criteria and certain populations.

Ms. Gill: That is correct. Today, the Citizenship Act has automatic citizenship, first, as inherited from a parent; second, if you’re born in Canada, so on Canadian soil; and third, if you have been naturalized through the pathway of going as a permanent resident and then applying for citizenship. It is not automatic citizenship for anyone who has come to Canada, either as a temporary resident or through any other means. Once you’re in Canada, you go for permanent residence, and then, as a permanent resident, you apply for citizenship.

The Chair: Perhaps other colleagues will probe further.

Senator Cordy: We all have heard horrible cases of children or adults who didn’t know that they were not Canadian citizens being sent to a country that they didn’t consider their home or they didn’t know anybody in the country that they were being sent to. I want to commend the sponsor of the bill and the helper who brought it forward.

But we are concerned about unintended consequences. Ms. Gill, you spoke about automatic citizenship if you’ve been in Canada for at least a year, yet you said that this may result in sending children to Canada for a year to get citizenship. Could you expand on that a bit, please?

Ms. Gill: Absolutely. As we read the bill, we think that it’s the concept of going directly to automatic citizenship. Minors who are in state care, who age out and/or who remain in state care at this moment have different statuses. Some are foreign nationals who are here on temporary resident status, some are permanent residents, and some are citizens. Providing automatic citizenship to minors who have aged out of care and did not return to their parents would allow the bypassing of applying for permanent residence if you’re a foreign national.

If you will allow, I can give an example. We are aware of times where children have been in the care system. As an example, two minors were issued temporary resident visa permits, so they were given visitor visas to come to Canada on the basis that they were accompanying their permanent resident father to Canada. Once in Canada, the children were relinquished into the care system. The purported father advised that he was not the children’s father, that he had no relationship with the children and, in fact, had been paid a sum of money for bringing them to Canada.

The opportunity for the children to go directly from being a foreign national to being a Canadian citizen — by meeting the requirements and not going through the naturalization process of permanent residence — is the unintended consequence that we’re referring to.

Senator Cordy: Thank you very much. That’s helpful.

We spoke with the earlier panel — and we’ve all been familiar with this — about the lack of data. We have provincial and federal jurisdiction, and we have people who didn’t know that they were not citizens or that they were not eligible to stay in Canada through no fault of their own.

Whose responsibility should it be to get that data? I would suggest that it’s likely the provinces, but how do we ensure that is done so that people are aware and they can choose to proceed with citizenship or not, but they are ultimately at least knowledgeable about what their choices are before something happens, and they’re being sent to a country that is not, to them, their country?

Ms. Gill: With regard to data, it’s a challenging space. The data of foreign nationals who enter Canada is known inasmuch as they are getting specific documents to come to Canada. The status, as they progress through the immigration journey or the continuum for immigration, is known. Are they permanent residents? Are they currently foreign nationals at the time of their entry? What status did they enter on?

Even at the federal level — and I’ll turn to my colleague from the CBSA if there is anything from his perspective to add — unless that individual is seeking a renewal of their status, we would not know what their next status would be and/or if they’ve departed the country.

For minors in care, the data on when they enter care and such is not something that IRCC tracks or has access to, as once they’re in the country, we don’t maintain information on when they enter into provincial care. It is a complex and challenging space inasmuch as there are multiple provincial bodies and agencies and whether their systems contain the data, as well as from a privacy perspective.

Senator Seidman: Thank you very much for your presentations. Actually, the second question that Senator Cordy asked was the question I was going to ask you about data. If I could pursue that a bit, is there any data? I understand there are not only jurisdictional issues but interdepartmental issues in the government, which is usually the case, of course.

Is there existing data? Is anybody collecting any data?

Mr. St Marseille: With respect to the data holdings that CBSA has, we don’t have any data that is systematically captured in this particular area. It’s not a statutory factor that in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act contributes to immigration enforcement decisions in an explicit way. Our databases aren’t built to collect this type of information, even if there was somebody who could have been formally in care of the state.

Senator Seidman: Do you foresee any possibility of building in some means of data collection so that we could track the various categories — specifically, those who end up in care and who, when they leave care, would be eligible for this kind of citizenship?

Mr. St Marseille: With respect to the CBSA’s mandate, as I mentioned in the opening remarks, the way that Bill S-235 is structured, it applies at the end of the immigration enforcement process. The way it’s designed, we wouldn’t necessarily have that information collected earlier in the enforcement process, because it’s not built in to be a material decision in whether to issue the removal order or not.

We will, of course, have to work with our Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada colleagues to design an implementation plan, but the extent to which it’s going to be built into the immigration enforcement process in the bill would affect how we would collect the information.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

I think both Ms. Gill and you, Mr. St Marseille, mentioned retroactivity. Our understanding from the sponsor was that this bill is not retroactive. Are you saying that, indeed, it is, or that it would become retroactive?

Mr. St Marseille: From our perspective for the enforcement provisions, in the absence of a transitional provision that clearly and explicitly describes the intent, we believe that it does apply retroactively to people who have been removed from Canada on an enforceable removal order.

The Chair: How far back?

Senator Seidman: Indefinitely?

Mr. St Marseille: I think the general point for consideration of the committee would be to clarify the policy intent in a transitional provision.

Ms. Gill: I’ll turn to my colleague Uyen Hoang to add onto Richard St Marseille’s response.

Uyen Hoang, Acting Director General, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada: As drafted right now, the bill is not clear in terms of how it would apply to those who were deported or have left the country.

The way we understand the bill as it is today is that the moment the bill reaches Royal Assent, it would give automatic citizenship to those who have spent 365 days in Canada, any amount of time during that period in state care, and have aged out of state care and have not gone back to their legal custodian parents.

For those who have left the country, they would immediately receive or be recognized as citizens. That is the way we understand the bill as it is today.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you to all of you for being here. It’s really good to have you here so we can discuss the bill.

If I may ask you, Ms. Gill, I didn’t understand what you said about automatic citizenship, because I understand that when children are adopted, they become citizens without becoming permanent residents and all the steps you said. They get automatic citizenship by the parent.

Aren’t the Canadian and provincial governments parents of these wards? Should they not also automatically get citizenship?

Ms. Hoang: Children who are adopted have two pathways to become Canadian citizens. In both cases, parents have to take steps to acquire their citizenship; it is not automatic.

They can obtain their citizenship through the direct pathway. This was put in place to allow adopted children to be treated as similarly as possible to children who are born to Canadians abroad. So there is a direct way, in which case they do not need to go through the immigration process and become permanent residents first, but they still do have to take steps to seek citizenship and meet a number of conditions.

The other way is through the immigration process, by which they would then have to be sponsored by their parents and obtain permanent residency and meet a set of certain requirements in order to become Canadian citizens.

Senator Jaffer: But they still don’t have to go through permanent residency. They have to fill out a form and apply, is what you’re saying, to be able to become Canadian citizens, right? They don’t go through all the steps that Ms. Gill set out earlier. It is almost automatic that, because they are adopted, they become citizens, right?

Ms. Gill: I will start by defining what “automatic citizenship” is because I think there is interpretation there as well.

Under the Citizenship Act, automatic citizenship refers to birthright citizenship and applies to those who are born in Canada or born abroad to a Canadian citizen parent, with limited exceptions. Those who are not Canadian citizens by birth, such as foreign nationals and permanent residents, are required to go through a naturalization process in order to become Canadian citizens. That naturalization process is the application for citizenship. Someone who comes in as a student or as an immigrant or as a refugee, they become a permanent resident, and then they can subsequently apply for citizenship, which is going through that naturalization process.

In the circumstance of adopted children, as my colleague mentioned, there are two pathways: They apply for permanent residency and then apply for citizenship, or the parents can take steps to apply for citizenship, but it is not automatic.

Senator Jaffer: In this case, if I may, there is a requirement to meet the condition of having been in care. There is a requirement of being in care. Just like for the adopted children, there is a requirement of being in care.

Ms. Hoang: Thank you for the question, senator. If I understand you correctly, your question is that because they were in care, they can move automatically to citizenship.

What my colleague is trying to explain is that in the current scheme of the Citizenship Act, unless you are born in Canada or born abroad in the first generation to a Canadian parent, there are no other pathways to receive citizenship by operation of law. Everyone else, even those who are adopted children, would have to take steps and go through an application process in order to obtain their citizenship.

Senator Jaffer: In a way we’re going round and round.

Can I go to the second round, please?

Senator Pate: Perhaps I could pick up there. This reminds me a bit of my law students who come up with great hypotheticals that are possible but improbable.

How many people who have been deported have opportunities to return to Canada, and what are the numbers? How would they go about that — getting back to Canada — once they’ve been deported?

We may need a transitional phrase, but this is a hypothetical that is rather improbable.

Mr. St Marseille: If the effect of the bill is that they acquire citizenship upon coming into force, they would have a right to enter under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Senator Pate: How would they know that? Would you have a responsibility to tell them? No.

Mr. St Marseille: There’s a well-established forum of immigration consultants and things like that, so it is possible.

Senator Pate: It’s hypothetically possible; I get that.

Being a child in care is not a bar to citizenship in this country that I know of; is that correct?

Ms. Gill: Correct, it is not a bar to applying for citizenship.

Senator Pate: Right. So the only bar that we’re talking about is the fact that nobody applies for the citizenship, and then there is criminality.

If someone is criminalized who is a Canadian citizen, how many have you deported?

Mr. St Marseille: I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question.

Senator Pate: I’m a Canadian citizen. If I am criminalized, how many people like me can you deport?

Mr. St Marseille: If you are a Canadian citizen, Canadian citizens aren’t subject to deportation.

Senator Pate: That’s the point we’re talking about.

So the hypothetical is that we’re talking about people being criminalized before they get citizenship, which is the tautology that Senator Jaffer was trying to get at.

In terms of the people coming, how many people, in the example that you gave, have come to Canada and then said that they’re no longer parents and put children in care? How many of those cases are there? You mentioned one.

Ms. Gill: Thank you. I used that as an example to articulate where some of the considerations are from our perspective.

Given the data sets that would be with provincial authorities, that is not something we have. Those cases do come to our attention when the provinces and territories reach out. We do have conversations with them in terms of those cases.

Senator Pate: Do you have means, ways to address those issues as individuals are coming in? I’m aware of quite the opposite, actually. A number of people don’t have documentation because of the issues that Senator Jaffer raised. They can’t prove that they are parents of children and then can’t get their children into the country. That’s more common, I would suggest, than the hypothetical example or the one example you were able to provide. Is that accurate?

Ms. Gill: I don’t have that information in front of me. I would say that in terms of people not having access to their documents, I could not speak to that either.

Senator Pate: But do you know of any other cases besides the one you mentioned?

Ms. Gill: Yes, we could give other examples.

Senator Pate: If you could provide suggestions on how that could be addressed in the policy perspective, that would be great.

Ms. Gill: I’d be happy to do so. Thank you.


Senator Mégie: I’d like to come back to the bill: to clause 1, paragraph p.1. I would like some clarification. The subsection reads as follows:

(i) the person was a minor who was ordinarily resident in Canada for 365 days before the day on which any of the following situations ceased to apply to that person [...]

At the same time, you say that to be eligible for citizenship, a person must have lived in Canada for three years. I would like some clarification on the link between this paragraph and the Immigration Act. Have I misunderstood?

Ms. Gill: No, not at all. These are really temporary measures — departmental instructions that were put in place over the summer.


I’ll talk a little bit about those instructions and the criteria there of being resident in Canada for at least one year was for minors in care who have some criminality currently, which is preventing them from gaining status.

The criteria in terms of the amount of time were intended to ensure that individuals are those who are established and have strong ties to Canada as a result of spending many years in the country, as well as a significant time under the legal protection of a child welfare agency.


Senator Mégie: Normally, when the department conducts GBA+, it often saves the results for other bills, not just the one being analyzed. For some reason we’ve never understood, they do not publish the information. Was there a GBA+ for this bill?


Ms. Hoang: Given that this is not a government bill, we did not conduct a GBA Plus analysis.


Senator Mégie: I keep hearing about aging out of care. What is the age limit? Is it 18, 21?


Ms. Hoang: I can pull the answer out for you, but it does vary from province to province and territory. The age-out is based on the provincial and territorial legislation. In some cases, it is 18; in other cases, it is 19, but it could be as young as 16 years old. For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, it is 16 years old. For provinces such as Ontario and Manitoba, it’s 18 years old. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, it’s 19 years old.


Senator Mégie: Thank you very much.


Senator Moodie: I’m going to have to admit I’m puzzled by what I’m hearing. I’m puzzled because I hear, on the one hand, that you have no data. You don’t systematically capture, to use your language, a lot of the data we are asking about. In our best efforts to understand possible unintended consequences, we ask that question, but we’re given what sounds like hypothetical but highly improbable — I use my colleague’s words — scenarios.

I want to dig a little bit more into these anecdotal types of encounters that you are quoting as your evidence for why this bill should not proceed. I’m wondering and trying to get at the scope of this problem that you described as your example. Perhaps there are other examples that fall into this category. I’m trying to understand the scope here. I’m wondering if, in your conversations with the provinces where they get in touch with you to say this is happening, do you record these conversations? Is there some way we can retrieve numbers so that we actually can understand perhaps some of the scope of these problems, the alignment of these problems, to see if there is actually any support for what you’re saying?

I’m sorry, but I have to throw this out there because, in my world as a physician, I wouldn’t get away with talking about one example. I don’t think you get away with that either. Sorry.

Ms. Gill: Okay. Thank you for that, and thank you for not letting me get away with it. I appreciate the question because I’d like to clarify two aspects. One is in relation to our position today and in terms of answering questions and putting forward our position. We tried to be very careful with our language around “perceive as potential unintended consequences” to make sure we are putting forward, as we read the information, what could potentially happen. It is not our statement or our position that any of these will happen. Because that part of what is being proposed in the legislation is not there right now, I would not have data on how many cases would meet that potential criteria.

The question of data on persons in care and who are not Canadian citizens, who are not informed of their status at the time that they age out of care, is much more about the current situation and what is currently happening under existing legislation.

I would like to clarify that those are two distinct aspects. It’s not a correlation of an example; therefore, that is what could happen here.

With regard to data, we do have some data. The issue around the data and the complexity and the challenge is that we don’t have the cohesive data set of when children are in care and their immigration status, which would be whether they’re a foreign national, a permanent resident or a Canadian citizen. It’s that amalgamation of the data sets that is unavailable.

We do know from stakeholders and others that there are currently approximately 50 referrals per year for children, youth and young adults who are seeking assistance with gaining their Canadian citizenship. That was from the Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence in Ontario.

In addition, we know, in terms of unaccompanied minors who arrive in Canada each year, we don’t know how many are unaccompanied when they arrive because it could be that their parent was on the same flight. Their parent could be arriving on the very next flight. However, we do know from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada that there were 915 unaccompanied minor refugee claimant applications between 2016 and 2022.

What we cannot say is how many of these unaccompanied minors were in the care of child protective services at a certain point in time. It’s that amalgamation of the data that is challenging for us. Thank you.

Senator Moodie: I also listened very carefully to you, Mr. St Marseille. You made a comment that a design and implementation plan would be something you would have to work on. I’m assuming that’s where you would include in that data a way to capture the appropriate data should this become law. Did I get that right?

Mr. St Marseille: Yes. Thank you for the question. Of course, we would look at designing the necessary framework around implementation.

To touch on the question that you asked previously, the example I gave in the opening remarks around a person who doesn’t consent to acquisition of citizenship when there’s an issue with dual citizenship, that type of scenario procedurally is likely to occur because, as has been discussed, some of these individuals won’t know there’s an issue with their citizenship until they’ve been put in the criminal justice system and find out there is an issue with their citizenship.

Sequentially, immigration enforcement tends to precede the citizenship process. While we don’t have data on how often that’s going to happen, understanding how the continuum works, it’s not necessarily an unlikely scenario that might arise.

Senator Bernard: I’d like to follow up on the question of unintended consequences as well. I was interested, in particular, in the unintended consequence that you were suggesting, namely, that some parents may send their children as a backdoor way of gaining citizenship. I’d like to understand a bit more about how you arrived at that as an unintended consequence.

To pick up on the data question, is there some evidence to suggest that this could be an unintended consequence of this bill?

Mr. St Marseille: Thank you for your question. In this specific context — my colleague will respond in regard to the citizenship stream — there is a tendency in the asylum space for people to send children up as anchor relatives to benefit from the ability to come into the country. I don’t have data on that particular corollary kind of example with me, but we can commit to looking at it. There are other examples where sending children to accrue an immigration benefit has happened in the past. I think it’s not necessarily the case to look at just this particular bill but also other examples in immigration and refugee circumstances where it has been the case in the past.

Senator Bernard: I think it would be important for us to see what research and documentation you have on that because I think that would be pretty serious.

You’ve identified a number of unintended consequences. That came up with the prior panel, but they weren’t able to speak to it because there was not enough time. When you think about these unintended consequences as you were documenting those in your consideration of this bill, did you also look at strategies to safeguard against those unintended consequences?

Ms. Gill: As we look at the bill, we’re here today to speak to what we are seeing and interpreting from it. I’d like to reiterate that we are not taking a position on the bill but highlighting some of the perceptions that we have as we read through it. The department continues to assess proposed outcomes, policy approaches and implications at this time. Thank you.

Senator Bernard: Do you do that through a Gender-based Analysis Plus intersectional lens? When you’re doing that review, is it done through that GBA Plus lens?

Ms. Hoang: As we work with the government to formulate the position, we will take into consideration GBA Plus review.

Senator Bernard: It hasn’t been done up to this point?

Ms. Hoang: We are working to support the government to understand the bill and conducting the analysis for the bill and helping to formulate the position.

Senator Bernard: Thank you.

Senator Burey: Thank you so much for being here. As you know, we have two pediatricians here on this committee, along with other health-related sectors. I’m looking at this in terms of Canada signing onto the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the eligibility. I’m trying to wrap my mind around kids who have been caught up in the welfare system, for whatever reason, and for whom the state has taken over the role of the parent. As you well know, the foster system is riddled with issues that can lead to some children having to face some serious consequences. You mentioned the phrase “unintended consequences.” That’s not the role of the child welfare system, but it does happen.

In the previous session, both Senator Bernard and Senator Pate talked about the child welfare system having impacts with the criminal justice system and then what ensues from that. Canada is known around the world as a very caring and welcoming country. As senators, we are trying to see how we can present that image and, in truth, really dig down to how we are going to find solutions.

As IRCC and the Canada Border Services Agency, you have been grappling with these issues. I know you mentioned that you’re not here to tell us about solutions — you are here to talk about the consequences of the bill — but you are here, and you have been grappling with this. I see that there have been ministerial and policy initiatives. Can you give us your best ideas of what solutions to this huge gap in our citizenship and immigration system are?

Ms. Gill: Thank you for the question. Again, I’d reiterate that but I don’t need to because you’ve already done it for me. We continue to assess the outcomes, policy approaches and implications.

Ministerial instructions were issued this summer that seek to address persons in this vulnerable position. It allows for the issuance of a temporary resident permit to minors who came to Canada before the age of 19, they continuously resided in Canada for at least three years before applying and, at some point, had an implication in terms of being inadmissible, for example, related to criminality, non-compliance, misrepresentation, health and financial reasons.

The issuance of the temporary resident permit regularizes their status in Canada, allowing them to study and work and remain in Canada. While it is not explicitly provided that there’s a stay of removal, CBSA officials — and I’ll turn to my colleagues to add more on this — would not enforce a removal order when the foreign national has a valid temporary resident permit. This measure does give status to those who are in a precarious situation.

Mr. St Marseille: As mentioned, there’s a long-standing policy in place that the CBSA will not remove someone who has a valid temporary resident permit that has been issued for the purpose of the inadmissibility that has been identified.

Going back to your question, of course, we’re not here to outline a position. Going back to the example in the opening remarks, I would encourage the committee to be clear with the policy intent for individuals to have a removal order issued that will never come into force.

From our perspective, it’s unclear what the intention is for the individual who doesn’t consent to acquiring Canadian citizenship.

Senator Burey: Okay, thank you.

Senator Cormier: Thank you, but Senator Burey asked exactly the questions I wanted to ask. Thank you for that, and thank you for your answers.

Senator Jaffer: Once again, thank you for being here. I have a question first for you, Ms. Gill, and then for Mr. St Marseille.

You have identified a number of alleged unintended consequences. My colleagues have also highlighted a number of frailties and how serious these frailties are. Mr. St Marseille, you noted that one of the concerns could be addressed by a transitional amendment, which was helpful.

Ms. Gill, please tell us from your perspective how the unintended consequences you have suggested might be addressed through an amendment. I don’t mean right this minute, but perhaps Senator Pate and I could meet with you and you could suggest how this can be done in order to save this bill.

Ms. Gill: Thank you. From our perspective at this time, we continue to assess the proposed outcomes, policy approaches and implications. I think, as we look at it, for us, the unintended consequences are around some of the language related to automatic citizenship. I think that is part of our interest when we look at the legislation as it is proposed right now.

Senator Jaffer: I have a question for you, Mr. St Marseille. You raised a concern about operational difficulties for removal proceedings if a person is eligible for citizenship and this bill hasn’t yet been pursued by the person.

Is there anything preventing the CBSA from instituting a police policy requiring officers at the outset of the enforcement engagement to inquire about whether the person was formally in care in Canada, such that they might be eligible for citizenship?

Mr. St Marseille: Thank you for the question. In general, the CBSA doesn’t have any authority under the Citizenship Act in that area.

One thing I can mention is that it does happen at times when a person is going through inadmissibility proceedings that require an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing. When a person raises the possibility that they have citizenship in that context, what happens is the proceeding is suspended, and the onus is on the person to prove that they indeed have the citizenship that they claim to have. If they do, then they’re not subject to immigration enforcement proceedings.

There is a bit of a challenge for us from our perspective in the way the bill is drafted insofar as it’s not clear what the effect is intended to be on the initiation of the enforcement proceedings, because the bill only stops the end process, the removal. It doesn’t stop the beginning process, which is the allegation of inadmissibility. In that context, the jurisprudence to date has been that our officers have lesser discretion the more serious the inadmissibility ground. We can’t establish an operational policy that goes against what the legislation requires.

Senator Jaffer: Ms. Gill, you said we are working on these frailties. You’re working on the consequences. Since I’ve been a senator, Minister McCallum, Minister Mendicino, Minister Fraser, Minister Miller and the Prime Minister have all said publicly that this has to be looked at.

I don’t mean to be rude to you, and I never would be, but you say you’re still working on it. In the meantime, there are lives that are being affected. This is not just a corporate thing. There are lives being affected and destroyed.

First of all, truthfully, I believe when you take a child from a parent or a guardian, you have already destroyed that child. Now you’re still saying you’re working on it when all these ministers and the Prime Minister have said something needs to be done. How long are we going to wait?

Ms. Gill: I was going to start by saying thank you for the question, but I won’t do that.

We’re fully aware of the importance of the issue. In fact, the department has taken measures to help vulnerable persons in these situations. Those are the ministerial instructions that were issued in the summer.

Senator Jaffer: Can I stop you there? That’s for one year if the officer thinks it’s right. Please don’t say that’s an action that you’ve taken because that’s only for one year if the officer judges it to be right. You can’t say you’ve really taken any constructive steps with that. Please don’t use that as an example because it’s almost insulting.

Ms. Gill: I can speak to what it covers and whom it covers. That is the information I would be providing, senator.

Senator Jaffer: Okay, say it.

The Chair: I’ll allow it.

Ms. Gill: Thank you. The measures do address those who came to Canada as minors and were placed under the care of the child protection system who don’t have permanent residence or citizenship, so they are without status. It aims to address the fact that this inaction is beyond the control of the child and also mitigates the vulnerability that they would face if they were removed.

This is whereby a temporary resident permit is issued, yes, for one year, which gives the authorization to stay, study or work. It also prevents removal. It can be renewed after the year as well, so it is not a one-time, one-year application. Thank you.

Senator Moodie: If I can, I want to continue to explore. We were just talking about dual citizenship. I wanted to understand that a little bit more.

I’ve heard this raised as a reason for why children who are in care and come to that stage where the proposal is they’d get automatic citizenship might somehow encounter some sort of moral or other catastrophe of deciding which country they want to be in. This is the only country they’ve known. This is where they grew up. They don’t know anywhere else. They’re being returned to a place where nobody knows them, and they would struggle to find a footing with no support.

If that question can be asked of them, why wouldn’t it be the starting point? Why is that being placed as a serious consideration or a serious barrier?

Mr. St Marseille: Thank you for the question. If I understand correctly, you’re asking why, as a matter of course for immigration enforcement, we wouldn’t ask everyone —

Senator Moodie: No, I’m asking why that’s being used as a reason to say that automatic citizenship would be a problem because perhaps they’d be renouncing through that process another citizenship that they might in some way value.

Again, we’re into what is real and what is hypothetical. I have dual citizenship. I can tell the world that.

Ms. Gill: If I could, I’ll take the question for my colleague.

The consideration for us in that space is tied to the fact that not all countries recognize or allow dual citizenship. Some countries do not.

Senator Moodie: Twenty-six. I just counted.

Ms. Gill: Yes. So the perceived concern in that space is tied to how the bill positions automatic citizenship. It comes back to if, upon Royal Assent, everyone who meets the criteria is automatically a Canadian citizen. It’s that initial step of choosing not to relinquish their other citizenship.

The Chair: Thank you. If I may ask a question on the retroactivity interpretation that you provided to us, what suggestions do you have that would put some guardrails around the bill on the retroactivity question?

Anna Turinov, Counsel, Legal Services Representative, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada: Thank you for the question. I’ll take this one.

On its face, as drafted, Bill S-235 does not appear to have a retroactive effect. Retroactivity would need to be — or retrospectivity, for that matter — clearly spelled out, and there’s nothing in the legislation that would indicate that.

The Chair: Now I’m confused. We heard you say earlier that once this bill is passed into law, anyone who has been deported to anywhere in the world would have a claim on automatic citizenship. Colleagues, did I misread that? It’s not just me.

Ms. Turinov: If I can just clarify, I think we’re talking about maybe two different things here. There’s a temporal scope, so whether the bill is retroactive or not, but there’s also the geographic scope and application of the bill. This is what we’re talking about here: whether or not it applies to those inside or outside of Canada.

If the bill were to come into force as drafted this moment, it could, on its face, apply to people both in Canada and those who are no longer in Canada geographically. It doesn’t mean that the group outside of Canada gets the benefit of citizenship retroactively to some date in the past.

The Chair: I see. So the bill could be strengthened notionally by putting in a phrase about retroactivity to those who are still in Canada who may have lost their citizenship as a result of not filing for citizenship when they aged out of care. Thank you for that clarification. I was really confused.

Colleagues, we still have some time, 10 minutes, for further clarification.

Senator Pate: I’m not sure if there is any information, but if you do have it, it would be extremely helpful to know: How many of the people who have faced deportation were children in care, going back maybe as long as you have the data for, but at least 10 years. It would be useful to know how many kids were in care before they were deported.

Mr. St Marseille: Thank you for the question. We have looked, and it’s not a data holding that we would have. As I mentioned before, because it’s not part of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act decision-making framework, it’s not the case that our notes or our file records with respect to deportation would capture that particular data element.

The Chair: Senator Jaffer, do you have another question?

Senator Jaffer: No, thank you, chair.

The Chair: Okay, thank you very much to our representatives from two departments. Thank you so much for appearing before us. You have helped us understand some of the implications. We may have to get back to you. We may have to call you back. We don’t know. That is all in the interest of doing due diligence, as we must.

Colleagues, with that, I thank all of you.

(The committee adjourned.)

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