Canadian nationality law
|This article is part of a series|
|Immigration to Canada
History of immigration to Canada
Economic impact of immigration
Canadian immigration and refugee law
Immigration Act, 1976
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Permanent Resident Card
|Canadian nationality law|
|History of nationality law
Citizenship Act 1946
Oath of Citizenship
|Citizenship and Immigration Canada
"Canadians of convenience"
|Demographics of Canada|
Population by year
Canadian citizenship is typically obtained by birth in Canada, birth abroad when at least one parent is a Canadian citizen and was born or naturalized in Canada, or by adoption abroad by at least one Canadian citizen. It can also be granted to a permanent resident who has lived in Canada for 1095 days during the four years prior to applying, can function in the French or English language and passes a Canadian knowledge test. Details and exceptions to these general rules are explained below.
History of Canadian citizenship 
After Canadian Confederation in 1867, the country's nationality law closely mirrored that of the United Kingdom and all Canadians were classified as British subjects. Section 91(25) of the British North America Act, 1867 (now the Constitution Act, 1867), however, gave the Parliament of Canada authority over "Naturalization and Aliens". The Immigration Act, 1910, for example, created the status of Canadian citizen. This distinguished those British subjects who were born, naturalized, or domiciled in Canada from those who were not, but was only applied for the purpose of determining whether someone was free of immigration controls. The Naturalization Act, 1914, increased the period of residence required to qualify for naturalization in Canada as a British subject from three years to five years. A separate additional status of Canadian national was created under the Canadian Nationals Act, 1921, in order that Canada could participate in international fora separately from the UK.
Canadian independence was obtained incrementally over the ensuing years. In 1931, with the Imperial Parliament's ratification of the Statute of Westminster, the United Kingdom ceased to have legislative control over Canada. At that time, Canada's naturalization laws consisted of a hodgepodge of confusing acts, which still retained the term British subject as the designation for Canadian nationals. This eventually conflicted with the nationalism that rose amongst Canadians following the Second World War and the accompanying desire to have Canada's sovereign status reflected in distinct nationalistic symbols. This, plus the muddled nature of existing nationality law, prompted the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act, 1946, which took effect on 1 January 1947. On that date, Canadian citizenship was conferred on most Canadians classified as British subjects. Subsequently, on 1 April 1949, Canadian nationality law was extended to Newfoundland, upon the British colony joining Canada as a province.
Canadian nationality law was substantially revised on 15 February 1977, when the new Citizenship Act came into force. From that date, multiple citizenship became legal. However, those who lost Canadian citizenship before that date did not automatically have it restored until 17 April 2009, when Bill C-37 became law.
Birth in Canada 
|British & Commonwealth
|Commonwealth nationality laws|
|Classes of citizens and subjects|
|Rights and visas|
In general, everyone born in Canada from 1947 or later acquires Canadian citizenship at birth. The only exceptions concern children born to diplomats, where additional requirements apply.
Section 3(2) of the current act states that Canadian citizenship is not granted to a child born in Canada if, at the time of his/her birth, neither of his/her parents was a Canadian citizen or Canadian permanent resident and either parent was a diplomatic or consular officer or other representative or employee of a foreign government in Canada or an employee of such a person.
However, should the immigration status of the parents of such persons change to permanent resident, they may be granted citizenship immediately, or when the parents acquire citizenship through naturalization, at the discretion of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Canadian citizenship by descent 
Every person born outside Canada after 15 February 1977, who has a Canadian parent at the time of birth, is automatically a Canadian citizen by descent. Every such person whose Canadian parent or parents were also not born in Canada and obtained their citizenship at birth by descent (second generation born abroad) must have successfully applied to maintain their Canadian citizenship before their 28th birthday, that is, if their 28th birthday took place before 17 April 2009. People falling into that category who did not take steps to maintain their citizenship lost their citizenship on that birthday. With Bill C-37 coming into effect on 17 April 2009, there is no longer a requirement or any allowance to apply to maintain citizenship.
2009 amendments to the Citizenship Act 
Bill C-37 came into effect on 17 April 2009, which changed the rules for Canadian citizenship. Individuals born outside of Canada can now become Canadian citizens by descent if one of their parents is a citizen of Canada either by having been born in Canada or by naturalization. The new law limits citizenship by descent to one generation born outside Canada. One of the changes instituted by the Government of Canada, is the "first generation limitation," considered a punitive measure by some against naturalized citizens who reside abroad for lengthy periods of time. Jason Kenney Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said the following in the House of Commons of Canada on June 10, 2010: "That's why we must protect the values of Canadian citizenship and must take steps against those who would cheapen it.... We will strengthen the new limitation on the ability to acquire citizenship for the second generation born abroad."  The new rules would not confer a Canadian citizenship on children born outside of Canada to parents who were themselves Canadian citizens by birth but not born in Canada. Thus the new rule makes a distinction between Canadian citizens born in Canada and immigrants granted citizenship on the one hand and citizens by birth who were born outside Canada on the other who have attenuated rights to pass on citizenship to their children.
In a scenario, the new rules would apply like this: A child is born in Brazil in 2005 (before the new rules came in effect) to a Canadian citizen father, who himself is a born abroad citizen by descent, and a Brazilian mother who is only a Permanent Resident of Canada. Child automatically becomes a Canadian citizen through a simple application process. Another child born after April 17, 2009 in the same scenario would not be considered a Canadian citizen. The child is considered born past "first generation limitation" and the parents (the father) would have to sponsor the child to Canada to become a Permanent Resident, (a lengthy process which may take from one to four years) Once the Permanent Residency is granted, a Canadian parent can apply for Canadian citizenship on behalf of the child, without the required three-year-residency rule, however.
Every person born outside Canada but within one generation of the native-born or naturalized citizen parent is automatically a Canadian citizen by descent (retroactive to date of birth or date citizenship was lost). The second generation born abroad, however, is not a citizen of Canada at birth. Such an individual might even be stateless if without claim to any other citizenship. (This situation actually occurred to a child born in China to a father who is a Canadian citizen born outside Canada.) The second generation born abroad can gain Canadian citizenship only by immigrating to Canada; this can be done by the Canadian citizen's parents sponsoring as a dependent children, a category with fewer requirements, which would also take less time than most other immigration application categories.
Under new rules, introduced in 2009, foreign nationals being adopted by Canadian citizens can now acquire Canadian citizenship immediately upon completion of the adoption, without entering Canada as a permanent resident as under the previous rules.
Naturalization as a Canadian citizen 
- is aged 18 years or over
- is a permanent resident
- has lived in Canada for a total of 1095 days during the four years preceding the application for citizenship, including two years as a permanent resident
- has knowledge of Canada (as demonstrated by taking a test, which is required as part of the application process, but only if the applicant is between 18 and 54 years of age)
- is not a subject to any criminal prohibitions
- is not a war criminal
- is able to speak English or French well enough to communicate with people
Children aged under 18 
The naturalization requirements for children under 18 are different from those for adults.
- the child should be a permanent resident
- a parent of the child should be a Canadian citizen or in the process of applying for Canadian citizenship
The residence and other requirements do not normally apply to those aged under 18.
Citizenship ceremonies 
All applicants for Canadian citizenship aged 14 or over must attend a citizenship ceremony as the final stage of their application.
Canadian citizenship by adoption 
In May 2006 the Canadian government introduced draft legislation, Bill C-14: An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act (Adoption) which is designed to allow adopted children the right to apply for immediate citizenship. This bill received Royal Assent on 22 June 2007.
Bill C-14 consists of only four clauses. Clause 1 amends section 3 of the Citizenship Act so that adopted children who attain citizenship without first obtaining permanent resident status are Canadian citizens. Clause 2 applies to adopted children who are minors and also to those who are at least 18 years of age; it amends section 5 of the Citizenship Act and provides that, subject to certain conditions, the Minister shall grant citizenship to children who are adopted abroad after 14 February 1977. Clause 2 also has a special provision for adoptions that are under the jurisdiction of Quebec.
Loss of Canadian citizenship 
Under current law there is no provision for involuntary loss of Canadian citizenship except:
- naturalized Canadians can have their citizenship revoked if convicted of fraud in relation to their citizenship application, or their original admission to Canada as an immigrant
Many Canadians lost their citizenship prior to 15 February 1977 through:
- naturalization in another country
- long residence overseas (prior to 1967)
- if a child, based on a parent's loss of Canadian citizenship
A Canadian citizen who holds another nationality may in some cases renounce their Canadian status.
Lost Canadians 
In February 2007, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration held hearings on so-called Lost Canadians, who found out recently, on applying for passports, that for various reasons they may not be Canadian citizens as they thought. Don Chapman, a witness before the committee, estimated that 700,000 Canadians have either lost their citizenship or are at risk of having it stripped. However, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley said her office has had just 881 calls on the subject. On 19 February 2007, she signed documents granting citizenship to 33 such individuals. Some of the reasons citizenship may have been lost is if the individual was born out of wedlock before 1977, or to a father who took a second citizenship. Another reason is if the child was born outside Canada, and failed to confirm their citizenship before turning 24 or 28. Some of the people affected reside in towns near the southern border, and hence were born in American hospitals. Others, particularly Mennonites, were born to Canadian parents in Mexico or Paraguay. An investigation by the CBC, based on Canadian census data, concluded that the problem could affect an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 individuals currently residing in Canada.
On 29 May 2007, Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley announced her proposal to amend the Citizenship Act. Under the proposal, anyone naturalized in Canada since 1947 would have citizenship even if they lost it under the 1947 Act. Also, anyone born since 1947 outside the country to a Canadian mother or father, in or out of wedlock, would have citizenship if they are the first generation born abroad. Appearing before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Finley asserted that as of 24 May 2007, there were only 285 cases of individuals in Canada whose citizenship status needs to be resolved. Under the proposed legislation, anyone born before 1947 to a Canadian citizen abroad would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis; such individuals would have to apply for a ministerial permit.
Bill C-37, which received Royal Assent on 17 April 2009, amended the Citizenship Act to give Canadian citizenship to those who lost or never had it, due to outdated provisions in existing and former legislation. The law came into effect on 17 April 2009.
Resumption of Canadian citizenship 
Former Canadian citizens who lost their citizenship as adults are generally required to obtain landed immigrant (permanent resident) status under normal rules and live in Canada for one year in order to resume Canadian citizenship. Former Canadians who lost British subject status before 1947 have no specific rights to Canadian citizenship, except in the case of women who lost British subject status on marriage to a foreign man.
On 22 September 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney agreed to a redress package for Japanese-Canadians deported from Canada between 1941 and 1946 (about 4,000 in total) and their descendants. The package authorized a special grant of Canadian citizenship for any such person. All descendants of deported persons were also eligible for the grant of citizenship provided that they were living on 22 September 1988, regardless of whether the person actually deported from Canada was still alive.
The Royal Family 
Though she resides predominantly in the United Kingdom and it is uncertain whether or not a monarch is subject to his or her own citizenship laws, the Queen of Canada is considered to be Canadian. She and those others in the Royal Family who do not meet the requirements of Canadian citizenship (there are four Canadian citizens within the Royal Family) are not classified by either the government or some royal experts as foreigners to Canada;[n 1] in the Canadian context, members of the Royal Family are subjects specifically of the monarch of Canada. Members of the Royal Family have also, on occasion, declared themselves to be Canadian and called Canada "home".[n 2]
Judicial review of provisions of current and previous citizenship acts 
There has been a number of court decisions dealing with the subject of Canadian citizenship. In particular, the interpretation of the 3 year (1,095 day) residence requirement enacted by the 1977 Citizenship Act, which does not define the term "residence" and, further, prohibits an appeal of a Federal Court decision in a citizenship matter to the Federal Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, has "led to a great deal of mischief and agony"  and generated considerable judicial controversy.
Over the years 2 principal schools of thought with respect to residence have emerged from the Federal Court.
Early on, in 1978, Associate Chief Justice Arthur L. Thurlow in Papadogiorgakis (Re),  2 F.C. 208  , opined that residency entails more than a mere counting of days. He held that residency is a matter of the degree to which a person, in mind or fact, settles into or maintains or centralizes his or her ordinary mode of living, including social relations, interests and conveniences. The question becomes whether an applicant’s linkages suggest that Canada is his or her home, regardless of any absences from the country.
In Koo (Re),1992 CanLII 2417 (FC),  1 FC 286, Justice Barbara Reed further elaborated that in residency cases the question before the Court is whether Canada is the country in which an applicant has centralized his or her mode of existence. Resolving such a question involves consideration of several factors:
- Was the individual physically present in Canada for a long period prior to recent absences which occurred immediately before the application for citizenship?
- Where are the applicant's immediate family and dependents (and extended family) resident?
- Does the pattern of physical presence in Canada indicate a returning home or merely visiting the country?
- What is the extent of the physical absences - if an applicant is only a few days short of the 1095 day total it is easier to find deemed residence than if those absences are extensive?
- Is the physical absence caused by a clearly temporary situation such as employment as a missionary abroad, following a course of study abroad as a student, accepting temporary employment abroad, accompanying a spouse who has accepted temporary employment abroad?
- What is the quality of the connection with Canada: is it more substantial than that which exists with any other country?
The general principle is that the quality of residence in Canada must be more substantial than elsewhere.
In contrast, a line of jurisprudence flowing from the decision in Re Pourghasemi (1993), 62 F.T.R. 122, 19 Imm. L.R. (2d) 259, emphasized how important it is for a potential new citizen to be immersed in Canadian society and that a person cannot reside in a place where the person is not physically present. Thus, it is necessary for a potential citizen to establish that he or she has been physically present in Canada for the requisite period of time.
In the words of Justice Francis Muldoon:
It is clear that the purpose of paragraph 5(1)(c) is to ensure that everyone who is granted precious Canadian citizenship has become, or at least has been compulsorily presented with the everyday opportunity to become "Canadianized." This happens by "rubbing elbows" with Canadians in shopping malls, corner stores, libraries, concert halls, auto repair shops, pubs, cabarets, elevators, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples - in a word wherever one can meet and converse with Canadians - during the prescribed three years. One can observe Canadian society for all its virtues, decadence, values, dangers and freedoms, just as it is. That is little enough time in which to become Canadianized. If a citizenship candidate misses that qualifying experience, then Canadian citizenship can be conferred, in effect, on a person who is still a foreigner in experience, social adaptation, and often in thought and outlook... So those who would throw in their lot with Canadians by becoming citizens must first throw in their lot with Canadians by residing among Canadians, in Canada, during three of the preceding four years, in order to Canadianize themselves. It is not something one can do while abroad, for Canadian life and society exist only in Canada and nowhere else.
The co-existence of such disparate, yet equally valid approaches has led some judges to comment that the citizenship "law is in a sorry state," that "there cannot be two correct interpretations of a statute," that "it does not engender confidence in the system for conferring citizenship if an applicant is, in the course of a single application, subjected to different legal tests because of the differing legal views of the Citizenship Court," that there's a "scandalous incertitude in the law," and that "there is no doubt that a review of the citizenship decisions of this Court, on that issue, demonstrates that the process of gaining citizenship in such circumstances is akin to a lottery."
In 2010 it seemed that a relative judicial consensus with respect to decision-making in residence cases might emerge. In several Federal Court decisions it was held that the Citizenship Judge must apply a hybrid two-test approach by firstly ascertaining whether, on the balance of probabilities, the applicant has accumulated 1,095 days of physical presence. If so, the residency requirement is considered to have been met. If not, then the judge must additionally assess the application under the "centralized mode of existence" approach, guided by the non-exhaustive factors set out in Koo (Re).
However, most recently, this compromise formula was rejected by the Federal Court judges, who continued to plead for legislative intervention as the means to settle the residency requirement debacle.
A few of the other major decisions are:
Glynos v. Canada,  3 F.C. 691 (F.C.A.). The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the child of a Canadian mother had the right to be granted Canadian citizenship, despite the fact that the responsible parent of the child (i.e. the father) had naturalized as a U.S. citizen before 15 February 1977 and had thus lost his Canadian citizenship.
Benner v. Canada (Secretary of State), 1997 CanLII 376 (SCC), 1997 1 SCR 358. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that children born abroad before 15 February 1977 of Canadian mothers were to be treated the same as those of Canadian fathers (i.e. granted citizenship upon application without the requirements of a security check or taking a citizenship oath).
Canada (Attorney General) v. McKenna, 1998 CanLII 9098 (FCA), 1999 1 FC 401. The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Minister had to establish a bona fide justification pursuant to section 15(g) of the Canadian Human Rights Act for the discriminatory practice in the Act on adoptive parentage, where children born abroad to Canadian citizens obtain "automatic" citizenship while children adopted outside Canada must gain admission to Canada as permanent residents, as mandated by paragraph 5(2)(a ) of the Citizenship Act, which incorporates by reference the requirements imposed by the Immigration Act pertaining to permanent resident status. However, it also declared that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had overreached itself in declaring that the granting of citizenship was a service customarily available to the general public, and had breached the rules of natural justice by failing to notify the Minister that the provisions of the Citizenship Act were being questioned.
Taylor v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, 2007 FCA 349. The Federal Court of Canada had ruled in September 2006 that an individual born abroad and out of wedlock to a Canadian serviceman father and a non-Canadian mother acquired citizenship upon arrival in Canada after World War II and did not subsequently lose Canadian citizenship while living abroad. This was reversed by the Federal Court of Appeal in November 2007, which held that Taylor had lost his Canadian citizenship under section 20 of the 1947 Act (absence from Canada for ten consecutive years), and therefore the court could not grant his request. However, he was now able to request a grant of citizenship under section 5(4) (special cases) of the current Act, and citizenship was subsequently granted in December 2007.
Rights and responsibilities of citizens 
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, citizens are:
- Entitled to enjoy the rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (all persons present in Canada have these rights, regardless of citizenship).
- Able to vote in political elections upon reaching the age of 18 (provided they are not absent from Canada for more than 5 years and intend to resume residency in Canada).
- Able to run for political office upon reaching the age of 18.
- Able to obtain a Canadian passport.
- Able to prevent risk of getting deported from Canada (if the subject born outside Canada, but is naturalized).
- Able to work for the Federal government (where citizenship is usually required/preferred).
- Allowed to live outside Canada indefinitely while retaining the right to return.
- Able to pass on Canadian citizenship to children born outside Canada (to the first generation only).
Citizens are responsible for:
- Serving on jury when reaching the age of majority, and if selected.
- Obeying Canada's laws.
- Respecting the rights and freedoms of others.
- Helping others in the community.
- Caring for and protecting the Canadian heritage and environment.
- Eliminating discrimination and injustice.
Documentary proof of Canadian citizenship 
For people who acquired citizenship by birth within Canada on or after 15 February 1977, a birth certificate issued by the province or territory concerned is adequate proof of the fact. Those born before that date must take note of the various rules concerning loss of citizenship that were previously in force, in order to confirm their status.
For people who acquired citizenship by birth outside Canada under the 1947 Act, a certificate of registration of birth abroad or a certificate of retention of Canadian citizenship issued before 15 February 1977 would also constitute proof of citizenship.
Otherwise, a certificate of Canadian citizenship (known under previous legislation as a "certificate of naturalization") is the only legal proof of such status. It is issued to permanent residents who have applied for Canadian citizenship and have sworn the required oath of citizenship. It is also issued at the request of any other Canadian citizen, but could take many months to be issued. It is illegal to be in possession of more than one certificate of citizenship or naturalization.
A Canadian passport, while more appropriately known as a travel or identity document, is also seen as proof of Canadian citizenship, but it is issued only after review of other documentary proof, as noted above.
For decades the Canadian Government issued both a commemorative certificate of Canadian Citizenship and a Credit Card sized Certificate commonly called a Canadian Citizenship Card, which featured a photograph of the Canadian, along with biographical information such as name, height and eye colour. Using these cards as photo identification was problematic. There was no legal requirement to periodically update the cards to take into account physical changes caused by aging, and the card lacked modern security features. Many Canadians who obtained Citizenship as children continued to use cards issued to them as children as legal photo identification well into adulthood. Furthermore, obtaining a replacement photo card when the original was lost or stolen was time consuming, often taking many months, which could delay obtaining other forms of photo ID such as a passport. In 2012 the Government of Canada decided to discontinue the photo cards. The commorative certificates have been redesigned and are now recognized as the legitimate proof of Canadian Citizenship. In making this change the Government asserted that this change would make the document more secure, and ensure that proof of Canadian Citizenship would no longer be used as an ID or travel document, and cited the prohibitive cost of replacing card making equipment and updating the photo ID cards with modern security features.
Commonwealth Citizenship 
Under British law, Canadians are Commonwealth citizens and hence are entitled to certain rights in the United Kingdom:
- access to the British working holiday visa scheme
- for those with a British born grandparent, access to the UK Ancestry Entry Clearance
- for those born before 1983 who meet the requirements, Right of Abode in the United Kingdom
- if resident in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, the right to vote and stand for public office there
Commonwealth citizenship also imparts rights within other Commonwealth realms although many of these have now been repealed.
- While abroad in a country where Canada does not have a consular office, Canadians may receive assistance from an Australian consular office under the Canada-Australia Consular Services Sharing Agreement. In areas where neither Country is represented Canadians may receive assistance from a British office. In cases where a Canadian needs an emergency travel document and Canada does not maintain a consular office, Canadians may obtain, as Commonwealth citizens, a British emergency passport.
See also 
- Nationality law
- Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada
- Oath of Citizenship (Canada)
- Permanent resident (Canada)
- Canadian passport
- Passport Canada
- Immigration to Canada
- Canadians of convenience
- Lost Canadians
- Honorary Canadian citizenship
- Visa requirements for Canadian citizens
- The Department of National Defence, in its manual The Honours, Flags and Heritage Structure of the Canadian Forces, separates the monarch of Canada and Canadian Royal Family from "foreign sovereigns and members of reigning foreign families, [and] heads of state of foreign countries..."
- Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, said in 1951 that when in Canada she was "amongst fellow countrymen". When queen, she, in 1983, before departing the United States for Canada, said "I'm going home to Canada tomorrow" and, in 2005, said she agreed with the statement earlier made by her mother, Queen Elizabeth, that Canada felt like a "home away from home." Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, refused honorary appointment to the Order of Canada on the grounds that, as the royal consort of the Queen, he was Canadian, and thus entitled to a substantive appointment.
- S.C. 1910, c. 27
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- "Learn about the new law".
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- McCreery, Christopher (22 July 2005), "Christopher McCreery", The Globe and Mail, retrieved 10 May 2012
- Department of National Defence 1999, p. 4-1-7
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- Valpy, Michael (28 September 2002). "The Fresh Prince". The Globe and Mail.[dead link]
- "Imran v. Canada". Federal Court of Canada. 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2010-08-10.
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- [dead link]
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- Who is Joe Taylor ?
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- [dead link]
Further reading 
- Kelley, Ninette; Michael J. Trebilcock (2010), The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy (2nd ed.), University of Toronto Press, ISBN 978-0-8020-9536-7
- DeRocco David, John F. Chabot (2008) From Sea to Sea to Sea: A Newcomer's Guide to Canada Full Blast Productions, ISBN 978-0-9784738-4-6
- Noorani, Nick; Sabrina Noorani (2008), Arrival Survival Canada: A Handbook for New Immigrants, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-542891-9
- Stanford Frances, (2003) Citizenship and Immigration : Becomming a Canadian! S&S Learning Materials, ISBN 1-55035-746-8
- How to become a citizen
- Canada Citizenship Act & Regulations
- CIC Citizenship Policy Manuals
- Globe and Mail article on "Lost Canadians"
- Legal Resource for Foreign Brides
- legal case of immigration fraud
- Revised Statutes of Canada 1970, containing Canadian Citizenship Act 1946 (88MB PDF file)