Volume #13 - 728.|
RELATIONS AVEC LE COMMONWEALTH
Note du sous-secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures|
pour le secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures
le 11 janvier 1947|
RE MEETING OF COMMONWEALTH OFFICIALS IN LONDON ON NATIONALITY|
1. During the meeting of Commonwealth prime ministers in London last May, it was agreed to have a meeting to discuss nationality problems. At that time, preliminary discussions were held by a committee on which we were represented by Mr. N.A. Robertson and Mr. R.G. Robertson. Two main points emerged for discussion: the question of the legal status of married women for nationality purposes, and the situation created by the passing of the Canadian Citizenship Act.
The new meeting has now been set for Monday, February 3. Mr. Norman Robertson has agreed to head our delegation, and Mr. Wershof22 will go from the department. Dr. E.H. Coleman23 will go from the Secretary of State's Department. It is probable that the meeting will last about three weeks or less. At the forthcoming meeting, the discussion will mainly centre on working out the problems that will arise out of the adoption of our line of approach by the other Commonwealth countries. There was general agreement at last summer's discussions that such adoption on a general basis would be desirable.
2. While we have received no indication from the other countries as to the points they may be raising, the United Kingdom have forwarded to us a voluminous draft of a bill to establish a "Citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies", together with extensive notes. While in most respects this draft is along the same lines as our Act, it does differ in many particulars. It was recognized at last summer's discussions that complete uniformity in legislation was unnecessary under the new method of approach but, at the same time, it was felt that as close a measure of similarity was desirable as would not conflict with points which each country felt to be important from the domestic point of view. The United Kingdom will be particularly anxious about this, and they have indicated that they feel that identity would be desirable in the sections of the Acts dealing with the status of British subject, as distinct from the sections dealing with the various citizenships.
3. The main points of difference in substance between the United Kingdom draft and our Act are the following:
WITH REGARD TO THE STATUS OF BRITISH SUBJECT
The only real difference is that the effect of their Bill would be to cause Irish citizens to have the status of British subject if born or naturalized in Ireland up to the coming into force of the United Kingdom Act. Our Act has been drafted so as to have the status of British subject cease in the case of Irish citizens born or naturalized after 1935 (the date of passage of the Irish Nationality Act). The British will try to achieve uniformity of this point, and our only serious concern would seem to be as to the reaction of the Irish themselves. In general, the Irish want to be rid of the status of British subject but to retain all the general advantages in other countries of the Commonwealth which they would have as British subjects.
On the latter point we may have further representations from the Irish. If the other Commonwealth countries feel so inclined, we could perhaps agree to take action, by amendment of our Act or otherwise, to give Irish citizens the benefits British subjects receive so far as federal law is concerned. However, I do not see how we could make any promise about advantages that spring from provincial law.
WITH REGARD TO CITIZENSHIP
(a) Status of citizens of other parts of the Commonwealth:
In general, the tendency in the United Kingdom draft is to make it as easy as possible for citizens from other parts of the Commonwealth to become United Kingdom citizens; to avoid loss of United Kingdom citizenship upon acquisition of another commonwealth citizenship; and to make the difference between treatment of Commonwealth persons and aliens as great as possible. Our emphasis has been rather the reverse of this. The United Kingdom will try to get their emphasis accepted as generally as possible. So far as we are concerned, I think it would cause trouble if we attempted to amend our Act in such a direction. Particular points in this connection are the following:
(i) Citizens of other parts of the Commonwealth will acquire United Kingdom citizenship upon two years residence plus application. We require five years residence and the normal naturalization qualifications required of aliens.
(ii) Naturalized citizens of the United Kingdom will not be in danger of losing their United Kingdom citizenship no matter how long they may reside in another Commonwealth country. We regard residence in another Commonwealth country in the same light as residence in a foreign country, and a naturalized Canadian may suffer revocation or automatic loss if such residence keeps him out of Canada for six years. Our position seems to be more in accord with the logic of the new scheme by which persons are associated with one particular Commonwealth country.
(iii) If a United Kingdom citizen acquires citizenship in another Commonwealth country, he will not thereby sacrifice his United Kingdom citizenship. A Canadian citizen would cease to be a Canadian citizen in such circumstances. Our view has been that dual citizenship has as many practical disadvantages between Commonwealth countries as between others.
(b) Position of Women
(i) In the case of a non-Canadian woman marrying a Canadian, our Act requires that she come to Canada, reside one year, and he naturalized in order to acquire Canadian citizenship. The United Kingdom Bill requires simply that she apply for United Kingdom citizenship. They propose not to require normal naturalization, nor any landing in the United Kingdom. They also intend that there shall be no discretion to refuse the application if the woman is a British subject in her own right.
(ii) The United Kingdom Bill provides an easy method by which women who have hitherto lost their British status on marriage to an alien may reacquire United Kingdom citizenship. We do not have anything of this sort, and we have had a number of inquiries about it. If there are to be any amendments to our Citizenship Act pursuant to the meeting, it may be that something of this sort would he useful.
(c) The British are continuing the old concept of birth "within His Majesty's allegiance." One main effect of this has been to exclude the children of foreign diplomats from British status even though born on British soil, since they were not "within His Majesty's allegiance". This point was overlooked in drafting our Act. I do not think it would be desirable to reintroduce the "allegiance" concept, but we should probably have an amendment to provide a specific section covering diplomats, perhaps children of foreign employees of international organizations, and so forth.
There are other points of difference, but the above are the major ones.
4. While it is hard to know how the meeting will develop, I think it is safe to predict a United Kingdom effort to secure as complete uniformity as possible, both for practical considerations and also to retain the appearance, if not the fact, of common legislation on nationality. We cannot, I think, exclude entirely the possibility of some amendment of our Act to bring it into line with other views if there are points of real substance and general concern involved, but I think it would be most undesirable if the enthusiasm that has attended the Act were diluted or turned to criticism and division by an impression of reversion in any way from Canadian to imperial emphasis. Perhaps the following general principles might be a guide for our discussions on the question:
(a) While not excluding the possibility of amending the Canadian Citizenship Act, the government will be reluctant to put forward amendments other than those necessary to repair technical or substantive defects which practice may disclose.
(b) The government would not be prepared to amend the Act simply for the purpose of reducing the citizenship requirements for non-Canadian British subjects, of increasing the difference between their status in Canada and that of the aliens, or of blurring the principle of legal association of an individual with only one country of the Commonwealth.
(c) The government considers that the new method of approach does not require identity in citizenship legislation as between the different parts of the Commonwealth, and will not be prepared to amend the Canadian Citizenship Act for purposes of uniformity except in relation to points of substance which are of general concern and which do not conflict with considérations of importance from the point of view of Canada.
(d) Subject to the above considerations, the government will he glad to cooperate in trying to achieve a coordination of Citizenship laws which will enable adjustment of the present Commonwealth nationality legislation to the new approach with the least possible difficulty and which will provide as little difficulty as possible in future to the respective countries and their citizens.24
5. If you approve, possibly we should send a general note to Mr. Robertson outlining views along the above lines.
6. I feel that it would be desirable to issue a brief announcement immediately giving the composition of our delegation, the date of the meeting, and stressing that it is a meeting of experts to consider technical questions related to the general matter of nationality legislation. Our Citizenship Act should not, I think, be mentioned in connection with it.
22M.H. Wershof. Direction juridique.
24Le ministre sanctionna ces principes et ils furent transmis sous forme d'instructions à la délégation canadienne à la Conférence de Londres.