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Writing for The Conversation Canada

March 13, 2024

With almost 56,000 reads (and counting) Lois Harder’s January 9, 2024 article on the recent court ruling to end Canada’s second-generation citizenship cut-off is the most-read piece in The Conversation Canada so far this year. UVic’s dean of Social Sciences explains why she wanted to write and share her knowledge on this particular topic with the broader public.


What was your goal in writing for The Conversation?

It’s the closest thing we’ve got to a ‘public square of ideas,’ and I think it’s important for researchers whose work touches on topical issues to contribute to the discussion.

What sparked you to write “What a recent court ruling on Canada's Citizenship Act means for 'lost Canadians'”?

I was an expert witness on a court case that was recently decided, and that will result in a very consequential change to the Citizenship Act.  I wanted to draw attention to the findings in that case (Bjorkquist et al. v. Canada (Attorney General)), as well as engage people in a broader consideration of the significance of birth and ‘connection’ in determining our citizenship.

Your article has had more than 55,000 reads (and counting) in 10 countries on five continents: were you expecting that?

I was not expecting that level of uptake — but I’m very gratified. I’ve been working in this area for about 15 years and I’ve published a fair amount in this field — including a book in 2022 — but none of that work has had the attention of this short piece. You labour alone for a long time, so when you lift your head up and it turns out that people are paying attention, it’s kind of mind-blowing.

Why do you think it’s been so popular?

The ‘lost Canadians’ are quite a phenomenon. The phrase refers to people who thought they had Canadian citizenship, but then turned out not to have it after all. That situation just seems so wrong. For example, how can you receive a passport or a citizenship card, and then learn that it was “issued in error” when the time comes to renew it? So I think people who have encountered those situations, or worry that they might, or know people who have (and there are many of them) find the topic very compelling. 

In the case that I was involved with, the parties to the lawsuit were Canadian citizens who were born abroad. They came back to Canada as children, went to school here and see their primary national attachment as Canada. But they are also interested in international opportunities and have pursued work abroad. As they have established their families, they have discovered that any of their children born abroad would not be Canadian citizens because, in 2009, the Citizenship Act was amended to put a hard, second-generation cut-off on the transmission of citizenship. The law offers no opportunity to demonstrate that they have a strong connection to Canada, and thus grounds for their children to be Canadian citizens. It’s a very blunt instrument. There are many Canadians who can imagine themselves in this situation, or are currently affected by the rule, so they are interested in what’s going on.

Would you write for The Conversation again?

Yes — for sure. The Conversation offers a powerful opportunity to share your research with a broad audience. The process of pitching, writing and submission was straightforward. It’s important to follow the guidelines and to familiarize yourself with the tone of Conversation articles — that helps to cut down on editorial back and forth. And writing for a general audience helps to hone your argument and build your writing chops.

What, if anything, did you gain from writing for The Conversation?

I was able to communicate my research to a much wider audience and, I hope, add some nuance to the citizenship conversation.

Not every article hits a high-water mark like Harder’s did, but without exception they reach a broader audience than academic writing alone can do.

A selection of other UVic-authored articles published in January and February include:

These, and all of UVic scholars’ contributions to public knowledge, are important evidence-based stories that the public deserves to know about.

Learn how you can pitch your story at The Conversation Canada or at La Conversation Canada, or contact UVic’s Rachel Goldsworthy for more information.