Canadian citizenship and the challenges of birth tourism

A relatively neutral legal brief on birthright citizenship, noting that a proportionate response would likely not include ending birthright citizenship (but no mention of the Australian approach of qualified birthright citizenship). Stay tuned for my take:

The president of the United States recently indicated that he was preparing an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the U.S.  President Trump said that the United States was the “the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits.

In fact, the U.S. is not the only country in the world that grants birthright citizenship. Canada, Mexico and about 30 other countries grant citizenship to babies born in the country. Canadian citizenship can be acquired by birth pursuant to jus soli — “law of the soil,” which is codified in s. 3(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act.

Over the years, there have been calls to end birthright citizenship or limiting it to those born to at least one Canadian citizen or permanent resident parent because of a rising fear of “birth tourism.” Birth tourism is where pregnant visitors or non-residents give birth in Canada so that their babies can automatically be Canadian citizens.

It has been reported that there are a number of birthing hotels or baby houses in British Columbia where pregnant women pay thousands of dollars to come give birth in Canada so that their babies could be Canadian citizens by birth. Section 179 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulationspermits visitors to travel to Canada, including pregnant women. Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) publishes its own instructions and guidelines clarifying that “there is no provision in the IRPA to refuse a temporary resident visa (TRV) solely on the basis of the intent of the applicant to give birth in Canada.”

Opponents view birth tourism as an abuse or loophole of Canadian immigration and citizenship laws. They see this as a way for some wealthy foreigners to “game” the system and buy Canadian passports for their babies. An extreme view is that it is an immigration fraud giving a way for people to jump the queue. It is often argued that the practice erodes the value of Canadian citizenship.

There is also concern that birth tourism is costly to taxpayers because it allows Canadian-born children access to publicly subsidized education, health care and social security programs, all without necessarily contributing to the funding of these systems and programs by paying taxes. Moreover, there is no obligation under international law to automatically give citizenship to babies born in Canada. Countries including Ireland, Australia and the United Kingdom have either eliminated or have limited birthright citizenship over the years.

Proponents of preserving birthright citizenship argue that the principles of jus soli are part of our national identity and embodies the idea that every child born in Canada is equal. Eliminating birthright citizenship would impose additional public expenses and complicate the process for verifying citizenship and risks having two-tiered citizenship.

It would be an expensive undertaking to develop and maintain a new verification system for a localized phenomenon or “problem” that may not be prevalent or widespread at all. Indeed, Statistics Canada data reports that there were 385 babies born in 2017 to mothers whose place of residence was outside Canada. While these numbers are most likely under reported and do not tell the whole story, it does underline that this issue of birth tourism may be a hyperbole.

The benefits of Canadian citizenship to the newborn child may be immediate, but for the parents, there is no guaranteed path to permanent residency or citizenship by virtue of their Canadian-born child. Having a Canadian-born child does not necessarily allow someone to be prioritized for permanent residence status or citizenship. Canadian-born children may eventually sponsor their parents, but sponsors must meet age and income requirements before becoming eligible sponsors.

Having Canadian-born children may provide the child with opportunities attributed to the benefits of citizenship rather than being a backdoor to Canada for parents. These babies may grow up to be assets to Canada and contribute to Canadian culture, society and the economy. Any immigration benefits to the parents may be decades down the road when the Canadian babies become adults and can sponsor their parents.

It must be remembered that there are limitations to jus soli. Under s. 3(2) of the Citizenship Act, children born in Canada to foreign diplomats, consular officers or representatives of a foreign government or international organization or their employees in Canada are not Canadian citizens despite being born in Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Alexander Vavilov [2016] 2 F.C.R. 39 in December. The court will determine issues of standard of review and also weigh in on the question of whether diplomatic immunity is required to trigger s. 3(2)(a) of the Citizenship Act. The Vavilov brothers are Canadian-born but were stripped of their Canadian citizenship after it was discovered that their parents were Russian spies. The parents were deemed to be “representatives or employees of a foreign government” at the time of their birth. As such, the brothers were not eligible for Canadian citizenship by birth pursuant to s. 3(2)(a).

While birthright citizenship in the United States is a constitutional right and amendments thereof would be subject to a constitutional process, in Canada, birthright citizenship is codified in the Citizenship Act which can be amended by an act of Parliament. The question is whether Canadian laws should be amended to limit or eliminate birthright citizenship or whether policy and regulations could be implemented to curb the practice of birth tourism at the local level.

The proportionate response to birth tourism may not necessarily require a complete end to jus soli.

Kelly Goldthorpe is an immigration lawyer at Green and Spiegel LLP and Caroline Mok is an articling student at the firm.
 

Source: Canadian citizenship and the challenges of birth tourism

ICYMI: The Intellectual Origins of Trump’s Chilling Immigration Plan

Worth reading:

Hunched forward in his chair, his fingertips and thumbs forming a familiar diamond shape, Donald Trump seemed to anticipate the question that Axios’s Jonathan Swan was about to ask him. “On immigration, some legal scholars believe you can get rid of birthright citizenship without changing the Constitution—” Swan began, before Trump cut him off gingerly. “With an executive order,” he interjected. “Exactly,” Swan replied. “Have you thought about that?” The president didn’t miss a beat. “Yes.”

The video teaser of the interview, which will appear in Axios’s forthcoming documentary news series on HBO, erupted in the middle of a news cycle driven by Trump’s inflammatory comments regarding immigration—his decision to dispatch the military to the U.S.-Mexico border, relentless fear-mongering over a migrant caravan of Central American “invaders,” and a white-supremacist terror attack inspired by Jewish aid for refugees. Trump, who is presiding over a midterm election next week that could determine control of the House, has been betting that a hard-line message on immigration will drive G.O.P. turnout. Yet even for a party that has largely aligned itself with the president’s nationalist rhetoric, what Trump proposed was radical and largely without precedent. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” the president continued in his conversation with Swan. “You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.” His subsequent claim—that the U.S. is the only country that bestows citizenship upon anyone born within its jurisdiction—was false, but the racial anxiety he was tapping into is real. “[A] person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States . . . with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

The idea of revoking birthright citizenship has wended its way through Washington for years. Democrat Harry Reid, former Senate Majority Leader, proposed revoking birthright citizenship in 1993, before repeatedly apologizing for it. (“I didn’t understand the issue. I’m embarrassed that I made such a proposal,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.) On the right, fear of “anchor babies” has been exploited politically by even moderates such as Jeb Bush, who invoked the issue in 2015. But Trump’s decisive claim that he could get end birthright citizenship with the stroke of a pen caused critics to drop their jaws. “He obviously cannot do that,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, noting the intractable reality: birthright citizenship has been enshrined in the 14th Amendment for 150 years and would require no less than an act of Congress or a Supreme Court challenge to knock it down, an endeavor the vast majority of legal scholars consider impossible.

Regardless of whether it is a midterm stunt, Trump’s fever dream has very real origins in the scholarship of the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank based in Southern California—the front line, incidentally, of illegal border crossings. The current legal argument for revoking birthright citizenship, which had percolated on the left and right in the 90s, began gaining traction in 2006, when John C. Eastman, a Claremont Institute affiliate who is a professor at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, published an article for the Heritage Foundation laying out a three-point argument to challenge the authority of birthright citizenship. First, according to Eastman, at the time of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, children born to foreigners were “not entitled to claim the birthright citizenship” provided by the act. Since the Act eventually became the backbone of the 14th Amendment, therefore, the original interpretation of citizenship should take precedence. Second, he argued the reading of the 14th Amendment—that birthright citizenship can be bestowed upon anyone who is “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States—was overbroad; in Eastman’s reading, citizenship can only be bestowed upon people with “total and exclusive allegiance” to the country. If a child’s parents had not pledged fealty to America, either by becoming full citizens or establishing permanent residence, their loyalty to the Constitution would, by all definitions, be as temporary as that of their parents. (The common legal interpretation of ”subject to the jurisdiction” is that anyone who enters the country, no matter how briefly, are subject to U.S. laws.) Finally, he wrote, the policy was a medieval remnant inconsistent with the Founding and the notion that Americans need consent to be governed: “This consent must be present, either explicitly or tacitly, not just in the formation of the government, but also in the ongoing decision whether to embrace others within the social compact of the particular people.”

The next year, Edward J. Erler, a Claremont scholar and one of the original thinkers on birthright issues, published a bookwith two colleagues examining what reviewer and Hoover Institution fellow Victor Davis Hanson deemed the problem of “massive illegal immigration from Mexico” for the American identity: “How did the founders and their successors deal with problems of being an American, and what are the effects of massive noncompliance with the laws of the United States?” Apart from several additional treatises they published, however, the idea never caught on with the rest of the conservative legal community. “It’s certainly in the idea of originalism, in that it relies that you understand the text at the time it was written, [but] there are a lot of people, even in that broadly conservative camp, that just reject it,” said Corey Brettschneider,professor of political science and public policy at Brown University, and the recent author of The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents. “There are a couple of scholars that are pushing it, but it’s not a mainstream view even in conservative circles. That’s because it’s kind of wacky.”

Over time, Eastman and Erler’s legal arguments were adopted in Washington as part of various efforts to curb illegal immigration. In 2010, a small group of Republican senators, including Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell, and John McCain, floated the idea of holding hearings on the issue; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed a similar plan in 2015. Most conservative figures in Congress, to say nothing of the pro-immigration donor class, balked. But when Trump launched his unconventional, nativist-pandering campaign, legal birthrightists held out hope that he could indeed become their political vessel to revoke the law. “Political pundits believe that Trump should not press such divisive issues as immigration and citizenship. It is clear, however, that he has struck a popular chord—and touched an important issue that should be debated no matter how divisive,” Erler wrote in National Review in August 2015. At the same time, Erler acknowledged foreseeable roadblocks. “Republicans want cheap and exploitable labor and Democrats want future voters,” he said.

By early 2016, Stephen Miller was forcefully pushing for an end to the birthright privilege, calling it the linchpin in the administration’s immigration policies. “Birthright citizenship really is the ultimate magnet for illegal immigration,” he told the Daily Caller that February, outlining the traditional conservative fears of chain migration, anchor children, and the decreased likelihood of deportation. “[It’s] an open, worldwide invitation to ignore America’s immigration laws and an absolute perversion, misinterpretation, misapplication of the 14th Amendment.” Miller then suggested that Trump could do it more easily than the media or legal scholars imagined: “You could do it through a variety of different means, whether it be legislatively, whether it be through potential guidance that’s issued.”

According to Axios, the Trump administration had been quietly working on this policy for months, and Trump himself was surprised that Swan brought it up in their interview. (“I didn’t think anybody knew that but me. I thought I was the only one.”) But the revelation of the plan—only weeks away from the midterm election, and in the middle of Trump’s furious posturing on the migrant caravan winding its way to the southern border—immediately won plaudits among several of Trump’s allies, with Lindsey Graham announcing that he was completely on board. More sober-minded Republicans told Politico that they opposed Trump taking action via executive order, and would perhaps try to tailor the breadth of the amendment’s application in Congress. Nevertheless, ending birthright citizenship unilaterally, they concurred, was a bad idea. “As a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process,” said Ryan. “But where we obviously totally agree with the president is getting at the root issue here, which is unchecked illegal immigration.”

The Talmudic ponderings of Congress, however, may be less important than the energy this will automatically inject into the election—not just for Democrats enraged about Trump’s treatment of illegal immigrants, but also for conservatives prioritizing border control. Indeed, if a talk Erler delivered in April at Hillsdale College is any indication, birthright citizenship is only one facet of the great threat of political correctness, progressive equalization, and the horrors of plurality looming over the American experiment. “Greater diversity means inevitably that we have less in common, and the more we encourage diversity the less we honor the common good,” he said at the time, calling multiculturalism “a solvent that dissolves the unity and cohesiveness of a nation.” He condemned Republicans for caving so quickly to any accusations of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. “Only President Trump seems undeterred by the tyrannous threat that rests at the core of political correctness,” he explained.

Source: The Intellectual Origins of Trump’s Chilling Immigration Plan

Brisk business in EU golden visas and citizenship scams

More on these scams:

As demand for residency or citizenship in EU member states has grown, a market has emerged in which corrupt national officials falsify documents for a fee. And that is not all: Many governments of EU member states openly and officially benefit from selling “golden visas,” raking in billions of euros.

Last week in Bulgaria, about two dozen officials were temporarily detained because they had for many years illegally sold fake certificates of ancestry to people from Macedonia, Moldova and Ukraine — and reportedly made thousands of euros in doing so. People holding such certificates, authenticated by the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, can apply for citizenship. Petar Haralampiev, the head of SABA and a notorious nationalist politician suspected of being the ringleader, was among the officials arrested; he has been removed from his post.

In 2012, DW’s Bulgaria desk was one of the first media outlets to report on SABA’s sale of fake ancestry documents to foreigners. Beginning in 2013 Katja Mateva, a lawyer and the former head of the citizenship department in Bulgaria’s Justice Ministry, repeatedly offered senior government officials information on the sales. In 2014, Petko Petkov, the deputy justice minister at the time, sent a memorandum on the matter to interim Prime Minister Georgi Bliznashki. Nothing happened.

Mateva told DW that she was sidelined for years at the Justice Ministry, and ultimately dismissed in 2017. Petkov was branded a traitor by his colleagues. Both Mateva and Petkov told DW that senior politicians have not been keen to stop the deals.

Ancestry certificates offer citizenship in Romania and Hungary, too. In Romania, the deal mainly affects people from Moldova, where two-thirds of the population are of Romanian descent. Ukraine is also home to people of Romanian and Hungarian descent. Regional media report that fake certificates have been sold in Romania and Hungary for years. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians are believed to have secured Romanian or Hungarian citizenship in this manner.

‘Security risks’

There’s also a brisk trade in golden visas in the European Union. Non-EU citizens can buy citizenship or a permanent residence in many countries by coming in as investors. EU member states such as Bulgaria, Greece, Great Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Hungary and Cyprus have offered or still offer such programs.

Transparency International and Global Witness report that at least 6,000 people have bought citizenship and more than 100,000 have received residency in this manner over the past decade. The total income, the NGOs report, amounted to at least €25 billion ($28.5billion). Golden visa programs encourage money laundering and offer businesspeople a safe haven, the NGOs report. They urge the European Union to put a stop to this practice.

Hungary’s golden visa program ran until 2017. Though there is almost no official information, Hungarian investigative journalists have repeatedly — most recently three weeks ago — published findings on the program’s beneficiaries. According to the reporters, Russian politicians, relatives of high-ranking Russian secret service officials and confidants of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad have received Hungarian citizenship or residency. Ghaith Pharaon, a Saudi businessman who died in 2017 and was wanted by the US for bank fraud and money laundering, also allegedly received a Hungarian residence permit and applied for citizenship.

“This business practice poses security risks, not only for Hungary but the entire European Union,” Andras Petho, an editor with Hungary’s Direkt36 center for investigative journalism, told DW.

He pointed out an “interesting contradiction.”

The Hungarian government minces no words when speaking out against immigration. “At the same time, lots of people from outside the EU are being brought into the country by way of the golden visa program,” Petho said, “people hardly anyone has checked.”

Source: Brisk business in EU golden visas and citizenship scams

Myths about shared culture have no place in the citizenship debate: Kenan Malik

Interesting and valid reflections that culture has never. been as monolithic as some immigration critics, looking back with nostalgia, imagine:

What links Mike Leigh’s new film, Peterloo, to Donald Trump’s threat to deprive children born to undocumented migrants of the right to US citizenship? It might seem an odd question, best left to Only Connect fans. But answering it helps give an insight into some of the ways we think about immigration and citizenship.

Trump wants to restrict the scope of the 14th amendment, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born on US soil. It’s the latest move in a long history of attacks on “birthright citizenship”, a history defined by a desire to create fears about an “alien” presence and to cast some Americans as not truly belonging to the nation.

There is more to the debate, however, than fearmongering. It speaks to wider questions about the nature of citizenship and of national belonging. It has resonance on this side of the Atlantic too.

The United States, according to Trump, is the only nation “stupid” enough to permit birthright citizenship. In fact, virtually every country in the Americas does so. But not one in Europe. Yet this is not a New World/Old World divide. The roots of both birthright citizenship and opposition to it lie in Europe.

Two broad approaches to citizenship are formally labelled jus soli and jus sanguinis. Jus soli (right of the soil) is the right to citizenship of anyone born in a country. Jus sanguinis (right of blood) defines citizenship as an inheritance through one or both parents, who themselves need be citizens. What Americans call birthright citizenship is jus soli (though both forms of citizenship can be a birthright, automatically conferred at birth).

The distinction between the two has traditionally been seen as that between French and German conceptions of citizenship. The French republican tradition views citizenship from a universalist perspective, without regard for ethnicity or culture. German nationalism draws upon Romantic ideas of the Volk, rooted in a specific history, culture and race.

The reality is more complicated. For a start, the US concept of birthright citizenship derives not from French republicanism but from English common law. More importantly, jus soli and jus sanguinis have long been intertwined in policy. France introduced in the 19th century a “blood” element to citizenship: only those born in France with a French parent are automatically granted citizenship at birth.

In Britain, the 1981 Nationality Act restricted automatic citizenship at birth to those at least one of whose parents was British or had permanent residency rights.

In both countries, wariness about jus soli was driven by the sense that certain groups were incompatible with the nation. In the 19th century, Jews were cast as the unassimilable “other”. More recently, North Africans or West Indians were given that role. Today, it’s often Muslims.

Today, too, such fears have been recast in the debate about populism and social fragmentation. The philosopher Michael Walzer, influential in communitarian and postliberal circles, argues that in the past there existed an organic relationship between the political community and the cultural community. This allowed for “language, history and culture [to] come together… to produce a collective consciousness” and “a world of common meanings”.

Immigration has served to disrupt this, making societies seem more fragmented. For nations to flourish, Walzer insists, they must regulate immigration and citizenship so as to protect their historical and cultural integrity.

The lesson that some, such as the academic Eric Kaufmann, draw from this is the need to employ racial and cultural criteria in selecting immigrants. There is nothing racist, Kaufmann insists, in an immigration policy that seeks to maintain the “white share of the population”. It is a pragmatic response to assuage social anxiety and protect cultural integrity. Fear of populism and the triumph of identity politics have transformed what we imagine is racist.

Enter Peterloo. Leigh’s austere, harrowing portrayal of working-class struggles for democracy does not touch upon the question of immigration. In exposing the fractures of 19th-century Britain, however, it exposes, too, the myth that, until disrupted by immigration, nations existed as organic political and cultural communities defined by a “collective consciousness”. Societies have always ruptured along class, religious, cultural and ideological lines. From the English Civil War to the anti-slavery struggles to the suffragettes to the miners’ strike British history is one of contestation. As is that of all countries. Obsession with immigration has made us blind to that history.

On neither side of the Atlantic will it help in thinking about charged issues around immigration and citizenship to cling to historical myths or be blinkered to the consequences of our answers.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/04/myths-cultural-integrity-no-place-immigration-debate

Canada needs an honest debate about birthright citizenship: Konrad Yakabuski

Good balanced piece by Yakabuski ahead of the government’s response to the petition by Steveston—Richmond East MP Peschisolido (Yet another petition on birth tourism).

I am working on an analysis of the numbers based upon hospital financial data for non-residents (includes some other temporary residents and Canadian expatriates) – stayed tuned:

No one was surprised to learn that Donald Trump was wrong when he declared that the United States is “the only country in the world” that grants birthright citizenship. The U.S. President rarely lets the facts get in the way of an opportunity to score political points on the backs of immigrants.

Unsurprisingly, he was also wrong in suggesting he could revoke U.S. birthright citizenship, which is entrenched in the U.S. Constitution, with the simple stroke of his own pen. But on the eve of midterm elections that will determine control of the U.S. Congress, stoking outrage toward illegal immigrants who give birth on American soil is par for the course for Mr. Trump.

Unfortunately for Canada’s Conservatives, who adopted a resolution at their August convention calling for an end to “birth tourism” in this country, Mr. Trump’s outburst now risks tainting our own debate about birthright citizenship. Even before the U.S. President evoked ending birthright citizenship in his country, opponents seized on the passage of the Tory resolution to score points of their own. New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh attacked the “division and hate” peddled by Conservatives. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, accused the Tories of seeking to “strip people born in Canada” of their Canadian passports.

To be clear, any attempt by the Conservatives to scapegoat certain immigrants for political gain should be condemned. But so should Liberal and NDP attempts to tar the Tories with labels they don’t deserve merely for raising concerns about a phenomenon that undermines the integrity of our immigration laws. Birth tourism, the practice of foreign women coming to Canada to have their babies merely to obtain a Canadian passport for their offspring, is by all accounts a real and growing problem. Is it a big enough problem to warrant an end to birthright citizenship here? Unfortunately, we don’t have good enough data to know. Statistics Canada data on births to non-resident mothers provide an incomplete picture and conflict with evidence reported by hospitals.

In the United States, birthright citizenship emerged as a constitutional principle in the wake of the U.S. Civil War to ensure that freed slaves were entitled to all the rights and privileges of white citizens. It is rooted, hence, in that country’s long struggle against slavery and racial discrimination. Any attempt to deprive those born on American soil of U.S. citizenship would not only require a near-impossible constitutional amendment, it would needlessly reopen old wounds.

In Canada, the issue is not nearly as fraught with symbolism as it is south of the border. Birthright citizenship is a feature of our immigration law, not the Constitution, and can be changed with an act of Parliament. What’s more, federal lawyers recently argued that Canadian citizenship could not be claimed by the Canadian-born children of Russian spies, insisting that even this Liberal government believes the principle of birthright citizenship has its limits.

In most cases, foreigners who travel to Canada to give birth are not desperate, nor are their children at risk of becoming stateless, since they would inherit their parents’ citizenship, anyway. Most appear willing to pay hefty non-resident medical fees to have their babies delivered at Canadian hospitals or stay at for-profit “birth houses” catering to Chinese tourists.

Canada would not be the first country to end birthright citizenship, in part to end the practice of birth tourism. Several developed countries, including Australia, have done so in recent decades. As Canada becomes one of the last “rich” countries outside of the United States to grant automatic citizenship to those born on its soil, we should expect the incidence of birth tourism to increase in the future. That suggests we need to be prepared to have this debate, sooner or later.

The August Conservative resolution called for legislation to eliminate birthright citizenship “unless one of the parents of the child born in Canada is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.” Leader Andrew Scheer insisted the policy was aimed strictly at ending “abuse” of our immigration laws, adding: “Conservatives recognize that there are many Canadians who have been born in Canada by parents who have come here to stay and have contributed greatly to our country. I will not end the core policy that facilitates this.”

It would be premature to change our immigration laws before we evaluate alternatives, such as stricter visa requirements, to prevent birth tourism. Ottawa also needs to collect better data to determine the scope of the problem. But we should not let the spectre of Mr. Trump stop us from having a debate about our immigration laws that, if we wait too long, could become inevitable.

Source: Canada needs an honest debate about birthright citizenship: Konrad Yakabuski

How Canada barred adoptions from Muslim countries — and used Shariah law to do it

Not as simple as presented in the article. Shariah is the basis for family law in Pakistan and government policy is to obey local laws in adoptions, although it appears to be the case that the exceptions granted by Pakistani courts were not fully factored in.

And I don’t buy the assertion by some of those quoted in the article that national security concerns (regarding babies or toddlers) were a significant consideration:

At the Pakistani orphanage where he was abandoned at birth, little Imran packed his things and said goodbye to the children who weren’t so lucky.

At four years old, Imran believed he would finally have a family.

“Say goodbye to me,” he said. “My mom is coming to take me to Canada.”

That was two years ago. He never made it — all because of a controversial policy that’s kept hopeful Canadians separated from children they had created a space for in their hearts and their homes.

But after a year-long investigation by The Fifth Estate, that may change. The federal government says it will review a decision going back to 2013 when Canada banned adoptions from Pakistan without warning.

At the time, dozens of families’ lives were put on hold — many who had already been matched with a child.

Sarah was one of those hopeful parents, ready to bring Imran home from the orphanage in northern Pakistan. But a world away in Toronto, she finds herself a mother without a son.

The Fifth Estate has agreed to conceal Imran and Sarah’s identities because she feared going public might make it impossible for them to be together.

Mother and child in the eyes of Pakistan, Sarah is too afraid to send Imran photos of herself, worried she’ll become just another person to let him down.

“What if it never happens? I’m going to be the second mother that abandons him?”

She’s not alone.

The Fifth Estate has found Canada quietly extended the same restriction to virtually all Muslim countries. The reason: According to the federal government, adoptions aren’t permissible under Shariah law— even if parents had court orders from Islamic countries explicitly authorizing them.

Documents obtained through access to information legislation reveal the extent to which Canadian officials were delving into the particulars of Shariah law and in the process, bringing adoptions from Muslim countries to a near-halt.

And while the current government may have inherited the policy from its predecessor, families whose lives were brought to a standstill as a result of the Conservative-era decision are calling on the Liberal administration to explain why it has upheld a ban based on a murky set of religious principles they say the Canadian government has no business wading into.

A chance for a new life

It was 2012 when Imran was left a newborn at the Ceena Health and Welfare Services centre in northern Pakistan. The non-profit organization provides health and education support as well as care for abandoned babies in the remote valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan — a place where pregnancy outside marriage is highly taboo and can come with extreme danger to mother and child.

In this region, it isn’t unheard of for babies deemed illegitimate to be buried alive or left in dumpsters.

Some years earlier, Sarah made up her mind that she wanted to adopt and began working to get the necessary approvals.

In Canada, provinces and territories decide whether to allow an adoption after an in-depth application and interview process called a home study and extensive background checks. When the Ontario government sent Sarah a letter approving her to go ahead with the adoption process from Pakistan, her future looked bright.

All that was left was to be matched with a child who needed a home.

Adopting from Pakistan isn’t straightforward. Like Canada, the country’s laws are based on the British system. But they also draw from Islamic tradition, which generally holds that a child’s biological ties must never be severed.

In Pakistan, one of few options for children in need is a guardianship, which can be compared to fostering. A guardianship is the legal form of what’s known in many Muslim countries as kafala: a child receives the care that comes with being part of a family but the guardians don’t replace biological parents.

Pakistan has no official adoption law. But to provide a chance at a new life for the tens of thousands of orphaned or abandoned children there, the courts can grant permission to a guardian to take a child abroad for adoption — as they did for Imran.

Each year, Pakistan’s courts allow dozens of children to be taken to countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom for adoption.

It was the same for Canadian parents until 2013, when the federal government abruptly closed the door, leaving the lives of more than 50 families on hold.

According to the federal government at the time, continuing with adoptions from Pakistan violated Canada’s commitment to the Hague Convention on international adoption. Under the convention, it argued, it could only process adoptions where a parent-child relationship was created in the child’s home country — something it argued was impossible under Shariah law.

That’s a view not shared by the United States and United Kingdom, which are also Hague Convention members. Both countries allow citizens who have been approved for adoptions to bring their child home through a Pakistan court order. Back at home, the adoption process is finalized under domestic laws.

Why the sudden change in Canadian policy? The answers aren’t immediately clear.

‘Strictly prohibited under Shariah’

Emails from 2013 show federal officials were rounding up support from the provinces and territories for the ban, with bureaucrats becoming increasingly preoccupied with the intricacies of Islamic law.

“It is reasonable to assume that … a change in the child’s parentage is strictly prohibited under Shariah law,” reads one document dated June 2013 from federal officials to the provinces and territories.

“In the Islamic view, the child does not become a true child of the ‘adoptive’ parents…. Kafala, then, neither terminates the birth parent-child relationship nor grants full parental rights to the person (guardian),” it goes on.

For Canada to be in the business of interpreting Shariah law is baffling, said Sarah.

“I have had two judges, Pakistani judges from courts over there, say ‘Take this child, go to Canada and adopt him,’ ” she said. “So the judges in Pakistan don’t understand their own faith? Their own laws? But Canada knows better?”

Emails from federal officials in 2013 show the push for the ban appeared to the originate with Canada’s High Commission in Islamabad, which said the number of adoption cases was growing exponentially. In response to the push, federal officials hurried to put the policy in place, not wanting to tip off Canadian families or adoption agencies until they did so.

And while at first some provinces seemed to resist the push coming from the High Commission, by July 2, parents were waking up to a notice posted on the government’s website telling them adoptions were no longer possible.

Exceptions were supposed to be made for families far enough into the process. But while Sarah and several others began their adoptions well ahead of the ban, many found themselves facing roadblocks when the policy came into effect.

Saskatoon-based immigration lawyer Haidah Amirzadeh, who has taken on numerous cases of Canadians separated from the children they’re the guardians of, wonders if the ban wasn’t simply part of a federal government attempt to limit immigration from Muslim countries.

I would say it was politically motivated,” Amirzadeh said.

Whether or not that was the case is difficult to say. The documents obtained by The Fifth Estate surrounding the adoption ban don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Multiple pages are redacted.

But one of them, dated June 25, 2013, is a memo marked “secret,” titled “Canadian programming to counter the terrorist threat from Pakistan.”

The memo, addressed to the then-minister of foreign affairs, was sent just days before the moratorium went into place and raises the question of what national security could have had to do with banning adoptions from Pakistan.

For Osgoode Hall law professor Faisal Bhabha, who researches the intersection of law and religion, the idea of the federal government concerning itself with religious doctrine isn’t new, but it is unnerving. He argues the Harper government in particular tended to invoke conservative beliefs in the context of national security — where he argues they used it to stereotype people.

“This is another form of profiling in a way,” he said. “I would not put any nefarious motive beyond the previous government.”

Canadian officials quietly expand ban

In the aftermath of the ban, heartbroken parents took to the media worried they’d never be united with their adopted children. At the time, the hope among some parents and advocates was that the policy might eventually be overturned.

But until now, it appears the federal government has only defended the decision. As recently as 2017, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office did exactly that.

“The legal regime in Pakistan does not allow for or recognize the concept of adoption,” read a letter from Hussen’s office to one parent still fighting the ban. Guardianship orders, it continued, don’t allow children to be adopted in a guardian’s country of residence.

There was no acknowledgement by the federal government that the Pakistani courts routinely grant explicit permission to parents living abroad to complete adoptions in their home countries.

The Fifth Estate contacted Pakistan’s High Commission in Ottawa, which said Canada’s claim that Pakistan doesn’t allow for adoptions is simply false.

“We believe that the ban from the Canadian government is unjustified,” commission press minister Nadeem Kiani said in an interview. “Citizens of Canada should be allowed to adopt children from Pakistan.”

While on paper the ban applies only to Pakistan, it appears Canadian officials extended the same reasoning to adoptions from almost any Muslim country. In 2015, CBC News obtained hundreds of pages of documents about the decision, uncovering that Canada hadn’t ruled out broadening it.

In 2017, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada confirmed Pakistan wasn’t alone.

While on paper the ban applies only to Pakistan, it appears Canadian officials extended the same reasoning to adoptions from any Muslim country. (Habiba Nosheen/CBC)

“Under federal law, the same rules would apply to a kafala/guardianship order from any foreign state,” wrote Nancy Caron.

As it turns out, Canadian officials have been restricting adoptions from various Muslim countries on an ad hoc basis for at least a decade — saying those countries don’t allow adoption and citing Shariah law.

Court documents show Canadian visa agents did just that in cases dating back to 2008 involving Iran, Sudan and Iraq. And as recently as 2017, four orphaned brothers were barred from coming to Canada from Yemen on the same grounds.

Amirzadeh says she’s seen cases from Qatar, Afghanistan and Algeria blocked for the same reason.

‘Not for the state to make decisions’ about religion

For Bhabha, Canada’s argument that adoption is prohibited in Shariah law amounts to outright discrimination.

“It imposes a burden on adoptions that pertain only to children that have a particular ethnic, national, religious identity,” he said. “It can deny them the benefit of being adopted.”

Besides, he said, “it’s not for the Canadian state to make a decision based on what is Shariah-compliant … it’s not for the state to make decisions about what the correct interpretation of a religion is.”

And while the ban originated with the previous government, Bhabha argues it’s up to the current one to explain why it has continued to implement it.

The Fifth Estate made multiple requests for an interview with Hussen. He declined, instead sending a statement through his spokesperson.

“We have asked the department to initiate a review of this policy and begin consultations with Pakistan as well as provincial and territorial governments to determine a path forward to regularize adoptions from Pakistan,” press secretary Mathieu Genest said in an email dated Oct. 5.

“Harmonizing the laws of two countries can often be challenging and rather than trying to overcome these obstacles, the Harper government imposed a moratorium on all adoptions from Pakistan.”

How long that review might take and whether Canadians in the process of adopting when the ban went into place can expect action in the meantime, the email didn’t say. Genest also didn’t say whether Canadians blocked from adopting from other Muslim countries can expect any relief from this review.

“This decision has not been revisited by this government until it was brought to our attention.”

Source: How Canada barred adoptions from Muslim countries — and used Shariah law to do it

Immigration minister’s stern warning to Australian citizenship applicants

Some echoes of the previous Canadian Conservative’s language when passing C-24, along with the sharp decline in citizenship approvals until additional funding and efforts to eliminate the backlog:

Australia’s recently appointed Immigration and Citizenship minister has issued a stern warning to citizenship applicants amid a rising application backlog and dwindling citizenship conferrals  [grants].

“Australian citizenship is a privilege and it should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia,” David Coleman, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship said in a recent statement.

“Any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values will be considered as part of the citizenship application process, including violence against women and children, involvement in gangs or organised crime, and any behaviour that threatens our national security,” he added.

Australian citizenship approvals plunge to 15-year low

While Australian citizenship approvals have fallen to the lowest level since 2002-03, the number of citizenship applications awaiting processing is at a record high with migrants waiting longer than ever before to pledge their allegiance to Australia.

The warning comes in the wake of Australian citizenship conferrals plunging to 80,652 in 2017-18 – the lowest in 15 years. The Department of Home Affairs attributed the decline in citizenship approvals to an enhanced focus on security measures. The minister says he makes no apologies for it.

“Those who choose to become Australian citizens are making a solemn commitment to our democracy, to our way of life. And that commitment, made by five million people over the past 70 years has helped secure and enrich our nation.

“We will always work to make the system as functional and effective as possible for legitimate applicants. However, we make no apologies for ensuring only those who meet our security and character requirements are given the privilege of Australian citizenship,” said Mr Coleman.

The most common reasons for Australian citizenship refusals

Over 4,000 migrants were refused Australian citizenship last year. Here are some of the most common reasons that can have your citizenship application knocked back.

Citizenship applicants are currently waiting 17-19 months to know the outcome of their applications with the backlog ballooning to nearly 245,000. According to the Department of Home Affairs, 244,765 were waiting for the processing of their applications, as of 30th June this year.

Mr Coleman said more investment and resources, including 150 additional staff, are being directed towards processing of citizenship applications.

“Applications are at a record high—we are a country that many people want to live in and be a part of… We are investing heavily to meet this demand, while also protecting the security and integrity of the system to ensure only legitimate applications are approved.”

A pair of shoes costs Indian migrant Australian citizenship
An Indian national has been refused Australian citizenship for not disclosing his court conviction over a stolen pair of shoes and possessing a credit card that was suspected to be stolen.

The minister said, as a result of boosting resources, more than 33,800 citizenship applications were processed during the first three months of the current financial year as compared to 18,700 during the same period last year.

The Department says one of the reasons behind increasing waiting times is an increase in cases requiring “complex identity assessment”.

“The Government has established a 50-person task force within the Department of Home Affairs to deal with highly complex citizenship applications and ensure they are dealt with as efficiently as possible,” Mr Coleman said.

Source: Immigration minister’s stern warning to Australian citizenship applicants

No plans to change citizenship laws for children born in Ireland to foreign parents, says Justice Minister

Consistent with most of Europe:

There are no plans to change citizenship laws for children born in Ireland to foreign parents.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan says the current rules that someone born here to foreign parents does not get automatic citizenship were approved by a majority of people in a 2004 referendum.

It follows the case of a Co Wicklow nine-year-old who faces deportation to China after being born and raised here.

Eric Zhi Ying Xue, who is in 4th class in St Cronan’s school in Bray, was born and has lived all his life in Ireland.

His mother has had her application to remain in the State rejected.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan says the government won’t be taking another look at the laws around deportation orders.

“I see no plans,” said Mr Flanagan. “I have no plans at present to revisit the 27th Amendment of Bunreacht na hÉireann which was passed by an overwhelming majority of the people back in 2004.

“The changes made to the legislation after the referendum, these were put through the Dáil and the Seanad at the time.

“What they did do, was to bring Ireland into line with the vast majority of states across the European Union.”

Source: No plans to change citizenship laws for children born in Ireland to foreign parents, says Justice Minister

Swiss citizenship fees vary widely across country: report

Most aspects of citizenship procedures are administered at the cantonal level with considerable variation between cantons:
Swiss citizenship doesn’t come cheap. While the cost of filing an application with federal authorities is relatively low (100 Swiss francs for an adult, or 150 francs for a couple), cantonal and communal authorities also charge non-refundable administrative fees which can seriously mount up.

Those administrative fees can vary depend on factors including age, place of birth, and marital status, but also differ significantly depending on place of residence as a new study carried out by Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche shows.

This is despite attempts to bring these administrative costs in line across the country back in 2006.

The study reveals that administrative costs can range from 500–1,600 francs in the canton of Jura to 1,800–3,000 francs in Fribourg, depending on which commune you live in.

Costs in other cantons include 550 to 800 francs in canton Vaud, 1,000 francs in Valais and a fixed rate of 1,250 francs for adults over 25 in Geneva.

For the canton of Zurich, the cost is listed on the cantonal homepage as 1,200 francs for foreign-born adults aged over 25. However, the canton also notes there are additional cantonal costs to be factored in. According to Le Matin Dimanche, the fees in Zurich total 1,700 francs.

Contacted by Le Matin Dimanche, authorities in Fribourg said there was no political motivation behind the high administrative costs associated with citizenship in that canton. A spokesperson said costs of individual applications were calculated based on actual costs incurred.

The office of Swiss price watchdog, Stefan Meierhans, is now looking into the matter.

Source: Swiss citizenship fees vary widely across country: report

Tax evasion: blacklist of 21 countries with ‘golden passport’ schemes published

Will see if this leads to curbing this citizenship for sale practice:

A blacklist of 21 countries whose so-called “golden passport” schemes threaten international efforts to combat tax evasion has been published by the west’s leading economic thinktank.

Three European countries – Malta, Monaco and Cyprus – are among those nations flagged as operating high-risk schemes that sell either residency or citizenship in a report released on Tuesday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Paris-based body has raised the alarm about the fast-expanding $3bn (£2.3bn) citizenship by investment industry, which has turned nationality into a marketable commodity.

In exchange for donations to a sovereign trust fund, or investments in property or government bonds, foreign nationals can become citizens of countries in which they have never lived. Other schemes, such as that operated by the UK, offer residency in exchange for sizable investments.

The programme operated by Malta is particularly popular because as a European member state its nationals, including those who buy citizenship, can live and work anywhere in the EU. The country has, since 2014, sold citizenship to more than 700 people, most of them from Russia, the former Soviet bloc, China and the Middle East.

But concern is growing among political leaders, law enforcement and intelligence agencies that the schemes are open to abuse by criminals and sanctions-busting business people.

Transparency International and Global Witness, in a joint report published last week, described how the EU had gained nearly 100,000 new residents and 6,000 new citizens in the past decade through poorly managed arrangements that were “shrouded in secrecy”.

Also on the OECD blacklist are a handful of Caribbean nations that pioneered the modern-day methods for the marketing of citizenship. These include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Kitts and Nevis, which has sold 16,000 passports since relaunching its programme in 2006.

After analysing residence and citizenship schemes operated by 100 countries, the OECD says it is naming those jurisdictions that attract investors by offering low personal tax rates on income from foreign financial assets, while also not requiring an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the country.

Second passports can be misused by those wishing to “hide assets held abroad”, according to the thinktank. Its flagship initiative is a framework for countries to cooperate in the fight against tax evasion by sharing information. Known as the Common Reporting Standard, the framework allows for details of bank accounts an individual might hold abroad to be sent to their home tax office.

The OECD believes the ease with which the wealthiest individuals can obtain another nationality is undermining information sharing. If a UK national declares themselves as Cypriot, for example, information about their offshore bank accounts could be shared with Cyprus instead of Britain’s HM Revenue and Customs.

“Schemes can potentially be abused to misrepresent an individual’s jurisdiction of tax residence,” the OECD warned.

The final names on the list are Bahrain, Colombia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Montserrat, Panama, Qatar, Seychelles, Turks and Caicos Islands, United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu.

Together with the results of the analysis, the OECD is also publishing practical guidance that will enable financial institutions to identify and prevent cases of avoidance through the use of such schemes, by making sure that foreign income is reported to the actual jurisdiction of residence.

Source: Tax evasion: blacklist of 21 countries with ‘golden passport’ schemes published

A separate article on Cyprus’s scheme: Cyprus Has Revised Its Citizenship Program: Is It Too Little, Too Late?