Immigration Minister Diane Finley says there are a relatively small number of Canadians who have been deprived of their citizenship because of aberrations in the law — despite other reports which have estimated that number to be in the thousands.

The department is working to help about 450people who thought they were citizens but are not, because oflegal requirements that in some cases date back more than 50 years, Finley told a parliamentary committee.

She is also using herministerial discretion to give citizenship to 33 "lost Canadians" — people who needa passport immediately, and have to be a citizen to get one.

Finley's assessment of the number of people affected is much smaller than the thousands identified in a CBC investigation. According to Canadian census data, there are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people in Canada who could find out they've lost their citizenship if they apply for a passport.

NDP immigration critic Bill Siksay said the government doesn't have any solid figures and likely has no idea how many will come forward. "So, it could be significantly more," he said.

Finley told the committee that each case will be dealt with on its individual merits because the problems fall into several categories.

"I wish to reassure all stakeholders that in the vast majority of cases, anyone born in Canada is a Canadian citizen." Butshe also admitted that generalization won't applyto everyone.

The non-citizens, sometimes people who have lived in Canada most of their lives, are Canadians who lost their citizenship because of quirks in the law. In one case, anyone who lived outside the country on their 24th birthday between 1947 and 1977 had to sign a form to keep their citizenship.

Failure to sign the form meant the loss of citizenship.

In another case,people born in U.S. hospitals — often because they were closer — were deemed not to be citizensunless they later registered as Canadians.

The issue came tothe fore as Canadians applied to get passports after the U.S. toughened entryrules.

Finleyhas promised that the government will speed up the citizenship process for the affected Canadians, cutting the wait time forcitizenship to eight months from three years.

She also said she's willing to consider changing the law toclose loopholes that accidentally deprive people of their citizenship.