Federal law still discriminates against adoptees

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Author: 
Lorne Welwood
Source: 
Focus on Adoption magazine
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Lorne Welwood, executive director of Hope Adoption Services, explains why he thinks the new Citizenship Act still discriminate against adoptees.

A Good Start
Over ten years ago, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the Citizenship Act provisions which granted automatic right of citizenship to children born to Canadians abroad, but not to children adopted abroad by Canadians was unconstitutional. After a couple of other “false starts” to correct this unlawful inequality, Parliament passed Bill C-14 to amend the Citizenship Act. It came into force December 23, 2007.

In the Legislative Summary describing Bill C-14, we find this: ”As it now stands, Canadian citizens who adopt children outside of Canada may face a lengthy process before their children can attain citizenship. In contrast, children who are born abroad to Canadians are automatically citizens... As a result of the existing law, adopted children are treated differently from biological children born abroad to Canadian citizens. The Federal Court has indicated that distinctions in the law based on “adoptive parentage” violate the equality rights provisions in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Devil in the Details
As a result of the regulations brought in to “support” the amendments, adopted children are still treated much differently than children born abroad to Canadian citizens. In a recent meeting of BC licensed adoption agency administrators with three officials from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, it was made clear that the process they have laid out for adoptee citizenship virtually parallels that for obtaining a permanent resident visa. So, the much vaunted citizenship change is largely illusory, and in my opinion, illegal. It is so far from the “automatic” citizenship afforded to “born Canadians” as to bear little resemblance.

For example, notwithstanding that the family has gone through all the steps to be approved to adopt according to their own provincial law, and have a legal adoption according to the law of the other country which is recognized in law in the home province (e.g. section 47 of BC’s Adoption Act), the foreign adoptee must satisfy the feds that the adoption was in the child’s best interest. I am sure it is a good thing for adoption to be in the child’s best interest, but citizenship is not the “tool” to use for ensuring good social work practices. That should have been assured much earlier in the process. 

Discrimination Continues
A child born to a drug smuggling, gun-running Canadian abroad does not have to prove that his birth to such a person is “in the child’s best interest.” His citizenship is automatic. He does not need letter from his parents’ home province that they do not object to his citizenship, but the adoptee does. I could see Citizenship regulation requiring a legal opinion that the adoption order will be recognized in the home province, but that the province does not object? What basis does a province have to object to a Canadian’s citizenship? Especially for an adoption from a Hague treaty country where the home province has already agreed to the adoption.

The regulations have gone way beyond the content of Bill C-14 and replaced the stated intent of reduced discrimination with a system that actually perpetuates it. So much so that many agencies are advising clients to keep using the old immigration sponsorship system. It’s that bad!