In Asad v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), Justice James Russell sided with the government and denied citizenship to a Pakistani child who was being cared for by a Canadian couple.
Rahim Ahmed was born in Pakistan in 2008 and less than a year later, Owais Ahmed Asad and his wife, who are both Canadian, entered into a deed of adoption with his parents and were appointed his guardians.
In 2013, the Canadian government denied Ahmed’s application for citizenship. The government argued that no provision for adoption exists in Pakistan and thus Ahmed was not actually Asad’s child. This meant that he could not be granted automatic citizenship, which the adopted children of Canadian citizens are entitled to.
Russell denied the couple’s appeal and stated that they did not establish to the court that the adoption severed the legal relationship between the child and his biological parents.
“In my view, the adoption deed and related documentation do not establish that, under the law of Pakistan, a severance has occurred in this case,” he wrote. “We do not know whether these parties could, by agreement, sever the biological relationship as a matter of law.”
Canada had accepted adoptions from Pakistan until last year when the Canadian High Commission for Pakistan recommended they stop.
The High Commission raised concerns that adoption is not actually permissible under Pakistani law.
Like many other Muslim-majority countries, Pakistan relies on Sharia for much of its civil law, which generally does not recognize adoption. Instead, kafala, a strengthened-form of guardianship, is generally seen by most jurisdictions that use Sharia as an acceptable alternative to adoption.
The government has maintained that kafala is a fundamentally different institution than Canadian adoption and is not covered under the Hague Convention on adoption.
Though Pakistan, like most Muslim-majority countries, is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, adoptions from the country are allowed by most other Western nations, including the United Kingdom and the United States.
Pakistan is now one of five countries, along with Georgia, Guatemala, Liberia, and Nepal, from which Canada does not allow any adoptions.
In June, the government of Saskatchewan wrote a non-objection letter to the federal government in support of a Saskatoon couple who had been unable to gain a visa for their adopted Pakistani child.