Grandad, why aren't we Canadian?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 February, 2009, 12:00am

Canadians in Hong Kong are worried about rules soon to take effect that will strip their future grandchildren of the right to Canadian citizenship.

Under the revision to the Citizenship Law, from April, grandchildren of expatriate Canadians will not get citizenship if they are born or adopted outside Canada.

Some expatriate Canadians in Hong Kong want Ottawa to reconsider the change.

The city's Canadian expat community is the biggest anywhere.

Andrew Work, executive director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and the father of two foreign-born children, said: 'It saddens me a little to think that a bureaucrat in Canada would be making decisions about how Canadian they are or are not.'

W.K. Yuen, who gained his Canadian citizenship 22 years ago and works for a multinational company in Hong Kong, worried that the rule change might deprive the country of talented people if their children's lack of citizenship hindered their return to Canada.

'Canadians are famous for their mobility, given the country's multi-ethnic population. People having overseas work experience can contribute to their country when they go back,' he said.

Allan Nichols, executive director of the Canadian Expat Association, said the change had caused a lot of distress among Canadians abroad.

Still, Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council and a Canadian citizen since emigrating to Canada in the 1990s, said: 'I am not very worried. It will be up to my son and daughter whether to give birth in Canada.'

The Canadian government says the change is meant to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. The government agency concerned could not be contacted for comment about whether the change would be reconsidered.

Other countries have rules similar to those Canada is introducing.

The UK Border Agency's webpage says: 'A citizen otherwise than by descent can pass on British citizenship automatically to his/her children born outside the United Kingdom. But any children born outside the United Kingdom will be British citizens by descent, and cannot normally pass their citizenship to their own children born abroad. However, they can register their children as British citizens in certain circumstances.'

As for Australia, if a baby is born outside the country to at least one Australian parent, an application can be made for 'citizenship by descent', a consular spokesman said. If a child is adopted outside Australia by at least one Australian parent, the child can also become a citizen if certain requirements are met.

Later, if the 'child by descent' or adoption becomes a parent, he or she must have lived in Australia for two years for their own child to become an Australian citizen.

Under United States law, for a child born outside the country to married US citizens to be treated as a citizen, at least one parent must have lived in the US prior to the child's birth.

The rules are more complicated for children born to two unwed Americans abroad or if only one parent is a US citizen.