Death of former MP Andrew Telegdi and the “Lost Canadians”

I wasn’t aware of Telegdi’s role with respect to “Lost Canadians” as most of this occurred before I assumed responsibility for citizenship policy but clear that he played a strong role in helping the main advocate, Don Chapman, and the others who had been affected.

The following letter by Marion Vermeersch is an example:

For me, it all started when my brother and I learned our family had citizenship stripped in 2004 when he (by now retired from the Canadian Navy) went to get a passport.    I soon learned that we had lots of company, as the Canadian War Brides Museum in Fredericton was flooded with calls like mine,  family members of WWII veterans and War Brides who had just learned they were no longer Canadian citizens.  The curator there, Melynda Jarratt,  put us in touch with Don Chapman and the Lost Canadians:   now we learned we were just one of 12 groups – 12 “reasons” for stripping citizenship, all of which sounded ridiculous (born out of wedlock,  born on a CF Base overseas, etc.)

By 2007, the government was studying the matter and invited several Lost Canadians regularly to testify.   It was my turn in March, 2007 to go to Ottawa – nervous and naive, but wanting to help the thousands of us out of citizenship at that time.  When I got there,  Don Chapman was waiting for me and several other Lost Canadians, and that was when I met Mr. Andrew Telegdi,  the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Andrew was very welcoming,   helped us with procedures to ensure that our process of testifying before the Committee was heard by the members of the four political parties present.   He provided excellent leadership, courteous, orderly and patient,    His presence really helped to lessen the intimidation some of us felt in speaking before the Committee,  not all of whom seemed to be favourably disposed towards the idea of citizenship for us.

And what a nice man he was!  Andrew took time from what must have been a busy schedule to talk to us (along with Jim Karygiannis, another supportive MP) at lunch and showed us some of the Parliament Buildings,   even arranging for us to see some of the budget debate going on in the House.   It was truly empowering,  I found, to know that I was far from alone and that we had him there working to support our cause,   that here we had an MP who truly understood and cared about Canadian citizenship and social justice.

Under Andrew’s work in parliament,  we were able to see amendments made to the Citizenship Act in 2009 which restored citizenship for many.   Andrew continued to work for years afterwards as an advisor and advocate for Lost Canadians among all his other causes,  whether his party was in government or not.

This is a big loss for us as remaining Lost Canadians, especially for Don Chapman who has lost a friend as well as someone to share the load of work in fighting for our citizenship.     I hope that Andrew’s work towards democracy and justice in citizenship will be recognized and remembered,