We were so proud to present before the Senate on December 6 in Ottawa in support of the Honourable Senator Mobina Jaffer’s proposed Bill S-235 - An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This bill will ensure that children and youth in care across Canada are able to obtain citizenship, allowing them to achieve the permanency and sense of belonging they urgently need and deserve.
Our CEO, Mary Beth Moellenkamp, and our Child Welfare Centre of Excellence (CWICE) team – Liz Okai, Danielle Ungara and Fatima Mukai – were part of the panel which presented before the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The proposed bill would assist minors (youth under 18 years of age) to become Canadian citizens, upon leaving care or ending agreements of service, when certain conditions are in place, including:
The individual resided in Canada the full year prior; they lived in specific housing arrangements (e.g. foster or group care) under court order with provincial child welfare authorities; and the individual is not returning to their parent’s care.
The proposed bill does not consider one’s immigration status during the 365 days prior to leaving care or ending the service agreement.
The proposed bill could differentially impact children and youth, including:
Potential impact on dual citizens;
Limited application of stay of removals for children and youth in care or involved with child welfare agencies; and
Exclusion of children and youth not yet ready to cease child welfare services.
Many thanks to our fellow members of the panel Terence Hamilton, Policy Specialist with UNICEF Canada and all of the passionate Senators for their feedback and guidance to move this important work forward on a national scale. Our appreciation also goes out to the incredible panel that presented prior to us who demonstrated the impact this bill would have on the children and youth its meant to serve - thank you to Fatuma Alyaan (former youth in care), Shalini Konanur (South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario), Andrew Brouwer (Legal Aid Ontario), and Danette Edwards (Black Legal Action Centre).
We will continue to share developments with you as the bill progresses through the legislative process. In the meantime, our CWICE team will work to identify and develop new partnerships with local, provincial, and federal organizations to incorporate these changes across the sector when they are implemented.
Background on Bill S-235 & Roundtable Discussions at Peel CAS available here