Citizenship Matters With @RonanMcCrea Part 1: Citizenship By Descent Can Be High Risk For A Country In A Less Global World

Prologue – Citizens Abroad, The Right To Return And A Possible Right To Vote

In 1987, This Toronto Star article referenced in the above tweet may be read in its entirety as follows:

Page 1


Page 2


The Toronto Star identifies some of the problems associated with citizenship policies that are overly generous. Interestingly (see the Appendix) in 2009 Canada attempted to address these problems through amendments to the Citizenship Act.

The 1987 Toronto Star article is very similar to a 2020 article written by Professor Ronan McCrae where he argues that (among other things) that citizens abroad should not have the right to vote.

Introduction – Entitlement to citizenship at birth: based on place of birth and/or citizenship based on ancestry

This post focuses on the right to citizenship by ancestry, when the person is born outside the country granting citizenship. I define ancestry to include parents, grandparents or from another person specified by law. The citizenship may be acquired automatically (the possible circumstance of those born outside the US to a US citizen parent(s)). In other circumstances the citizenship is NOT acquired automatically, but the right to the citizenship vests at birth (Ireland). This post was inspired by a recent article by Professor Ronan McCrea in the Irish Times.

Citizenship includes a right to enter the country of citizenship

Professor McCrea’s article includes:

That is not to say that we are likely to see large numbers in the immediate future. However, the Covid crisis has underlined just how unpredictable the world is. If the US and UK economies go into a significant tailspin and long-term decline, numbers wanting to move to Ireland, which is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, could rise.

Given Ireland’s relatively small size compared to Britain and America, the consequences could be significant. After all, if 1 per cent of the Irish population moved to America, few in the US would notice. But if 1 per cent of the US population moved to Ireland, the newcomers would be almost half the population of the State.

If you would like to skip the post and go directly to the podcast …

Before listening to the podcast, I invite you to consider the questions:

Should nonresident citizens have the right to vote based only on their citizenship?

What is the nature of citizenship? What are its obligations? What are its entitlements?

At what point should citizenship by descent end? One generation? Two generations? More?

The discussion with Ronan McCrea invites the following two questions:

1. Should any nonresident citizen be permitted to vote in an election in a country where he does not reside?

2. Should nonresident citizens who have never lived in the country be permitted to vote?

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw


Appendix – 2009 Changes To Canada’s Citizenship Laws Were An Attempt To Fix The Problem Identified In The 1987 Toronto Star Article

Amendments to the Citizenship Act limit citizenship by descent

On April 17, 2009, the rules for Canadian citizenship changed for persons:

– born outside Canada to Canadian parents
– who weren’t already Canadian citizens when the rules changed

These rules didn’t take Canadian citizenship away from anyone who was a Canadian citizen before the rules came into effect.

Canadian citizenship by birth outside Canada to a parent who is a Canadian citizen (citizenship by descent) is now limited to the first generation born outside Canada.

This means that if you weren’t already a Canadian citizen by April 17, 2009, and were born outside Canada to a Canadian parent, you aren’t Canadian if your Canadian parent was:

– also born outside Canada to a Canadian parent
– this would make you the second or subsequent generation born outside Canada
– granted Canadian citizenship under section 5.1, the adoption provisions of the Citizenship Act

this would make you the second generation born outside Canada

However, you may be an exception to the first generation limit if your Canadian parent or grandparent was employed in certain situations.

Exceptions to the first generation limit

If you were born outside Canada in the second or later generation, the first generation limit to citizenship doesn’t apply to you if:

– at the time of your birth, your Canadian parent was employed outside Canada, other than as a locally engaged person (a crown servant):
– with the Canadian Armed Forces
– with the federal public administration
– with the public service of a province or territory
– at the time of your Canadian parent’s birth or adoption, your Canadian grandparent was employed outside Canada,
other than as a locally engaged person (a crown servant):
– in the Canadian Armed Forces
– with the federal public administration
– with the public service of a province or territory

The rules may also affect children adopted by Canadian parents outside Canada, depending on how your child got, or will get, citizenship.

If you were born to a Canadian parent and aren’t eligible for citizenship by descent due to the first generation limit, you may:

– apply for and get permanent resident status
– submit an application for a grant of citizenship under section 5 of the Citizenship Act

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