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As Australia ousts MPs with dual citizenship, Canada’s Parliament embraces many in its ranks

At least 56 foreign-born members, 22 with dual or triple citizenship, hold seats in House of Commons, Senate

By Kathleen Harris

As a dual citizenship debacle rocks Australia’s political world, Canada’s Parliament embraces sitting MPs and Senators who were born around the world and hold dual, or even triple, citizenship.

There are now at least 56 sitting parliamentarians — 44 MPs and 12 senators — born in countries outside Canada, according to information from the Library of Parliament and websites.

At least 22 of them have citizenship from other countries, CBC News confirmed through queries to parliamentarians’ offices.

That figure does not include MPs and senators who hold citizenship through descent, naturalization or marriage.

Canadian MPs hold citizenship from various countries, including Afghanistan, Lebanon, Portugal, Poland, Pakistan, Syria, the United States and the United Kingdom.

That dual citizenship would disqualify them from holding office in Australia, where Section 44 of the Constitution bars anyone who is a citizen of a “foreign power” from sitting in Parliament.

Several Australian parliamentarians have been forced to resign, produce documentation, or had their case sent to the High Court for review, leaving Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government without its majority and facing a possible early election.

Politicians of all stripes are scrambling to prove they have never held other citizenship or have renounced it in what is being called a constitutional crisis.

Dual citizens welcome in Canada’s parliament

In Canada, the only requirements for seeking a seat in the House of Commons are that you are a Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, and not serving prison sentence of more than two years. To be a senator in Canada, an individual has to be at least 30 years old, a resident of the province they represent, and own property worth at least $4,000 in that province.

Liberal MP Salma Zahid, who holds Canadian, U.K. and Pakistani citizenships, does not judge any other country’s rules around who is qualified to serve. But she says she is proud that Canada’s government, which has 338 seats in the House of Commons and 105 in the Senate, reflects its population.

“Other than our Indigenous nation, everyone else came to Canada from somewhere else,” she said. “It’s really amazing to see such a big diversity in the House of Commons, because it really is important that people see themselves represented.”

Born around the world

Zahid was born in England while her father was studying at university, so holds U.K. citizenship by birth. Her family returned to Pakistan three months later, where she was naturalized as a Pakistani citizen, then she received Canadian citizenship after immigrating to Canada as an adult with her husband and son.

Many Canadian parliamentarians born in countries such as India and China have had their citizenship terminated, either by choice or due to citizenship revocation rules of those countries.

Some MPs and senators who hold dual citizenship are:

  • Conservative MP Ziad Aboultaif (Lebanon).
  • Liberal MP Omar Alghabra (Syrian citizenship, born in Saudi Arabia).
  • Liberal MP Faycal El-Khoury (Lebanon).
  • Liberal MP Andy Fillmore (United States).
  • Liberal MP Peter Fonseca (Portugal).
  • Conservative MP Peter Kent (United Kingdom).
  • Liberal MP Iqra Khalid (Pakistan).
  • Conservative MP Tom Kmiec (Poland).
  • Liberal MP Michael Levitt (United Kingdom).
  • Liberal MP Alexandra Mendes (Portugal).
  • Liberal MP Maryam Monsef (Afghanistan citizenship, born in Iran).
  • Liberal MP Eva Nassif (Lebanon).
  • Conservative MP Alex Nuttall (United Kingdom).
  • Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez (Argentina).
  • Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara (Lebanon).
  • Conservative Sen. Salma Ataullahjan (Pakistan).
  • Independent Sen. Tony Dean (United Kingdom).
  • Independent Sen. Rosa Galvez (Peru).
  • Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer (United Kingdom citizenship, born in Uganda).

Others, like Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree, who was born in Sri Lanka, NDP MP Jenny Kwan, who was born in Hong Kong, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who was born in the U.S., told CBC News they aren’t even certain of their citizenship status from their countries of birth.

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