Saeima approves dual citizenship for Latvian woman in Canada

A woman in Canada has become a dual citizen of Latvia by an unanimous vote of the Saeima, while a bill that would extend dual citizenship privileges to a broad class of individuals remains under consideration.

In an 83-0 vote on Oct. 21, the parliament without debate recognized Agra Vāgnere as a citizen based on her contributions to the Latvian diaspora community in Canada, especially in Toronto.

Born in Latvia, Vāgnere moved to Canada in 1989, two years before her homeland regained its independence from the Soviet Union. She married and became a Canadian citizen.

Under transitional rules in Latvia’s citizenship law, Vāgnere could have registered as a Latvian citizen up to July 1995 and kept her Canadian citizenship. After the deadline, the law forbids dual citizenship for anyone who becomes a Latvian national.

However, the citizenship law makes provision for the Saeima to grant citizenship to persons for special merit in service to Latvia.

Vāgnere missed the 1995 deadline, but appealed recently to the Saeima for help. Her case, supported by Latvian Interior Minister Linda Mūrniece and Mārtiņš Sausiņš, chair of the World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība), got the backing of the Saeima’s commission overseeing the citizenship law. The commission on Oct. 14 submitted a bill asking that Vāgnere be recognized as a Latvian citizen because of her contributions to the Latvian community and for defending Latvia’s interests abroad.

The bill made it to the floor of the Saeima on Oct. 21. Pēteris Tabūns, chair of the citizenship law commission, asked the parliament to give the bill expedited consideration, meaning that it would not have to go through the usual three readings before a final vote. The Saeima passed the bill on its second reading.

Although President Valdis Zatlers still has to sign off, Vāgnere’s profile in the Latvian social network already sports the tagline “LV pilsone” (Citizen of Latvia).

It will be worth watching what might happen after the newly elected 10th Saeima convenes on Nov. 2. Will other diaspora Latvians follow Vāgnere’s lead and seek the parliament’s assistance in becoming dual citizens?

In the meantime, many other Latvians in the diaspora may be hoping that another bill submitted Oct. 14 could be their ticket to dual citizenship. Six members of the Vienotība (Unity) coalition proposed a set of amendments to the citizenship law that would remove various barriers to dual nationality.

The bill was referred to committee on Oct. 21. If the legislation could make it back to the floor for a first reading before the 9th Saeima closes down, then the 10th Saeima could pick it up for consideration. However, as the newspaper Diena reported, that is unlikely given that the 9th Saeima’s final meeting is Oct. 28.

In that case, those eager for dual citizenship will just have to hope that Vienotība—which promised to make changes to the citizenship law an issue for the next Saeima—will follow through.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

3 thoughts on “Saeima approves dual citizenship for Latvian woman in Canada

  1. I too was born in Latvian in 1937 but had to leave with relatives 1944. I would dearly love to have a document showing my citizenship of my native country. I do have a birth certificate showing my birth in Riga. Thank you.

  2. What about everyone else??? – not just PBLA commitee members!! Misinformation when I applied for citizenship meant that my eldest daughter can now not be granted citizenship whilst my youngest does. She has attended playgroup, latvian primary,high school and latvian summer camps, is in the latvian guide organisation, attends the local latvian church. Sings in a latvian choir and dances, already participating in several Latvian folkfestivals. Been to Latvia twice – participated in ALA’s Sveika Latvija. I could still go on… Despite all my letters, and the fact that she is an active member of our local latvian community and continuing to maintain her latvian heritage so strongly for a person her age (18), she cannot be granted dual citizenship! Isn’t she just as worthy? However she has not been on a PBLA commitee. Dual citizenship should not be a right for some individuals it should be for all who request!!

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