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Canadian Citizenship Through Birth in Canada

Written by Henry J. Chang


Prior to January 1, 1947, there was no citizenship statute in existence. Canada was in a curious position of being a nation without citizens. This was corrected on January 1, 1947 with the Canadian Citizenship Act, S.C. 1946, c.15 (the "Former Act"). The Former Act recognized Canadian citizenship for the first time.

The current Citizenship Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-29 (the "Current Act") replaced the Former Act on February 15, 1977. It contains various provisions designed to preserve the citizenship rights of citizens under the Former Act. It also recognizes limited citizenship rights for persons born in Canada before the Former Act came into effect. Both statutes are discussed below.

Persons Born in Canada After February 14, 1977

Section 3(1)(a) of the Current Act states that anyone born in Canada after February 14, 1977 is considered a Canadian citizen. This was the date that the Current Act came into force.

Persons Born in Canada After December 31, 1946 But Before February 15, 1977

The Former Act stated that a person born after the 31st day of 1946 was a natural-born Canadian citizen if he/she was born in Canada or on a Canadian ship. Section 3(1)(d) preserves this provision of the Former Act by confirming that a person who was a citizen immediately before February 15, 1977 continued to be a Canadian citizen.

Persons Born in Canada Prior to January 1, 1947

As stated above, prior to the Former Act, no citizenship statute existed. The Current Act provides limited recognition of citizenship for persons born in Canada prior to the coming into force of the Former Act. Section 4 of the Current Act provides that only persons who were not "aliens" on January 1, 1947 can claim citizenship through birth in Canada. Section 2 of the Former Act defined "alien" as a person who was not a Canadian citizen, Commonwealth Citizen, British subject or citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

Persons born in Canada who were "aliens" under the Former Act prior to January 1, 1947 could not claim Canadian citizenship through birth in Canada. However, they might still be considered Canadian citizens under the Canadian Parentage (discussed here) rules. If that failed, they might be in a position to apply for naturalization (discussed here).

Miscellaneous Issues

Immigration Status of Parents

The immigration status of the parents at the time of the Canadian citizenship child's birth is not relevant to the child's eligibility for Canadian citizenship. A child born in Canada to two illegal alien parents would still be considered a Canadian citizen. However, Section 3(2) of the Current Act contains an exception to the above rule, at least for persons born in Canada after February 15, 1977. It states that Canadian citizenship is not granted to a child born in Canada if, at the time of his/her birth, neither of his/her parents was a Canadian citizen or Canadian permanent resident and either parent was:

  1. a diplomatic or consular officer or other representative or employee of a foreign government in Canada;

  2. an employee in the service of a person referred to in paragraph (a); or

  3. an officer or employee in Canada of a specialized agency of the United Nations or an officer or employee in Canada of any other international organization to whom they are granted, by or any other Act of Parliament, diplomatic privileges and immunities certified by the Secretary of State for External Affairs to be equivalent to those granted to a person or persons referred to in paragraph (a).

Persons Born in Canadian Ships, Air Cushion Vehicles and Aircraft

Under both the Former Act and the Current Act, persons born on Canadian ships or airplanes were considered to have been born in Canada. The Current Act states that this provision applies to persons born on a Canadian ship as defined in the Canadian Shipping Act, on an air cushion vehicle registered in Canada under that Act or on an aircraft registered in Canada under the Aeronautics Act.

Deserted Children Found in Canada

The Current Act contains a provision to deal with deserted children found in Canada. Section 4(1) of the Current Act states that, for the purposes of persons born in Canada (apparently) after February 15, 1977, every person who was found as a deserted child in Canada before apparently attaining seven years of age shall be deemed to have been born in Canada, unless the contrary of proved within seven years from the date that the person was found.

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