Our Canadian war dead deserve the honour of their citizenship

Largely a repeat of previous columns, with Chapman remaining in denial about Canadian soldiers being British subjects at the time. The distinct Canadian citizenship, versus British subjects resident in Canada, only became a legal reality upon the implementation of the first Canadian citizenship act in 1947:

Over the course of both world wars, 111,000 servicemen wearing Canadian uniforms gave their lives, their last full measure of devotion. Our government calls them Canadian heroes but not Canadian citizens. They’re embraced as British Subjects only.

That means the Brits fought all our infamous “Canadian” battles — from the Somme, Arras, and Vimy Ridge during the First World War, to Dieppe and D-Day in the Second.

This is an egregious rewrite of history, perpetrated by former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King — the force behind deliberate deceptions as to the origin of Canadian citizenship.

That means the Brits fought all our infamous ‘Canadian’ battles

In 1867 our first governor general announced, with pride, that Canada had just created a new nationality. Over time, often controversial legislation evolved further the definition of Canadian citizenship. In 1943 as a rallying cry to the soldiers heading into war, Ottawa published a booklet saying they were fighting as “citizens of Canada,” a widely accepted belief, both then and now. Numerous Supreme Court decisions upheld this as truth.

Nonetheless, like a magical sleight of hand, in January 1947, King had himself sworn in as Canada’s first-ever citizen. While historic nonsense, today’s government buys into it, thus refusing to accept our war dead.

This June 6, on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, will we be honouring Canadian or British soldiers?

Canadians don’t seem to care — a stark contrast to our southern neighbours. If the U.S. rejected their war dead, Americans would be screaming — and rightly so. In Canada, the Lost Canadians organization is almost alone in embracing our heroes as also having been citizens.

During the Harper years we filed a petition asking the government to recognize them. The Conservatives refused. Next came the Trudeau government, responding similarly. Interesting how both sides publicly and eagerly embrace “our” soldiers, like on Remembrance Day or the 75th anniversary of D-Day, but behind the scenes with double-standard clarity, they snub with equal enthusiasm.

Don’t our Canadian heroes deserve better?

Mackenzie King’s racist and anti-Semitic ways are well documented. Catering to his base, he wanted to rid Canada of what they considered to be “undesirables.” Targeted were Asians, starting with Japanese-Canadians. In the mid-1940s Mackenzie King’s cabinet issued an Order in Council cancelling their citizenship. The Supreme Court upheld that Order in 1946, leading to 4,000 people first being stripped of their Canadian citizenship and their legal rights, then deported. Seven hundred were children born in Canada.

How can you cancel citizenship in 1946 if it didn’t exist till 1947? You can’t in law, but you can through grandstanding and creating false narratives.

To explain King’s about-face, it had everything to do with getting rid of the Japanese-Canadians. At the time, in 1946, the United Nations considered the deportation of one’s own citizens to be a “crime against humanity,” especially after what had just happened in Germany. To avoid running afoul of international opinion, King cancelled the citizenship of Japanese-Canadians. Almost 4,000, most of them born or naturalized Canadians, were sent to Japan. Almost immediately afterwards King had himself sworn in as “Canada’s first Canadian citizen.”

It was a lie then, and it’s a lie now. The problem is that for 72 years, Canada has denied citizenship to people born before 1947, saying it didn’t exist until then.

Lost Canadians has advocated for legislation to correct the pre-1947 citizenship anomalies. To date there have been seven bills correcting most of the citizenship problems. But not, as of yet, for those who gave their lives for Canada in the world wars.

This D-Day, who will you be honouring? Every Canadian prime minister should be proud to call Canada’s fallen heroes “citizens.” Whomever is buried in the Tomb of Canada’s Unknown Soldier should not be a foreigner.

‘No longer a citizen’: Government letter tells mom of 4 she’s not Canadian | CBC News

IRCC has to do better in these cases, both substantively as well in their communications with those who fell between the cracks. The Mennonite Central Committee, referred to in the article, has been productive and helpful in resolving comparable cases:

Anneliese Demos thought she was a Canadian until she got a letter in the mail last Friday.

The 39-year-old Winnipeg woman has four kids, has been married for 19 years, works two full-time jobs and pays taxes every year.

“My life is here.”

She came to Canada when she was just two years old and still has the government-issued citizenship card she received when her parents moved to Steinbach, Man. from Paraguay in 1980.

“This is my home. It’s Canada. I’ve lived here all my life,” she said.
But the government has informed Anneliese she’s in fact not a Canadian citizen and has cancelled the certificate that had proved she was.

“I have determined that you are not entitled to hold a Canadian citizenship certificate,” reads a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada dated Dec. 22, 2017.

The letter from the registrar of citizenship then asks for Demos to return her citizenship certificate to the citizenship and passport division in Ottawa.

“It kind of makes you worry, like what are they going to do to me?” Demos said.

2009 law repeal wasn’t retroactive

Anneliese is a so-called “Lost Canadian” due to a law that required second-generation Canadians who were born outside Canada to re-apply for citizenship before turning 28.
The Harper government repealed the law in 2009 but didn’t make it retroactive, meaning it was too late for anyone who missed the deadline before their 28th birthday. It is an issue that has affected many Mennonites such as Anneliese.

Many people, including Anneliese, weren’t even aware of the law.

Advocate says hardship ‘so unnecessary’

Bill Janzen, ​retired ​director of the Ottawa office of the Mennonite Central Committee, said ​he’s worked on more than 200 Lost Canadian cases since retiring in 2008.

​That’s usually meant doing extensive research into a person’s past, searching for records that prove where they went to school and lived and then taking the case with a plea to Canada’s immigration minister asking citizenship be granted due to unusual or special hardship.

To do that, it’s meant looking for documentation that doesn’t always exist anymore, especially for Mennonites who went to school in one-room country schools. “It just seemed so unnecessary that one had to deal with this on an individual basis in such detail when there could have been and should have been a global solution,” Janzen said.

Anneliese’s problems began in 2012 when she tried to get a passport to travel as a celebration of beating breast cancer. Anneliese said a clerk advised her she might have an issue because of her birth year and home country.

Officials denied her passport application and sent her a proof of citizenship form to fill out. She completed it and received a certificate and letter in the mail telling her she was a Canadian citizen, and allowing her to get a passport. She thought the issue was resolved until last Friday.

“Just when you thought it was fixed then you’re like, ‘oh now you’re like no longer a citizen.'”

Anneliese said two out of her six siblings have also had the same problem. Her sister was able to get it fixed after three years but her brother is still in limbo and she said a cousin was deported for two months because of similar circumstances. “It’s stupid,” she said.

Anneliese worries she may now be deported back to Paraguay even though she hasn’t been there since she was two. “We don’t know that family from a hole in the wall.”

‘I don’t even dare try to leave the country’

Her passport is set to expire in April but she fears she wouldn’t even be able to get back in Canada if she tried to use it.

“I don’t even dare try to leave the country.”

Her husband is worried, too.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do [if Anneliese is deported], like who would drive the kids to school?” said John Demos.

Anneliese is planning on holding on to the proof of citizenship document issued in 2012 the government now wants back. “I’m tempted to keep it.”

​Janzen said he had hope the Liberal government would fix the problem but nothing changed.

“I thought we could go somewhere but we didn’t.”​

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, holds a news conference to update Canadians on the possible impacts of recent immigration-related decisions made by President Donald Trump, in Ottawa on Sunday, January 29, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Janzen has spent years working on this issue and said government staffers were aware of the problem — and hoped to fix it years ago — but they were too late.

​”The officials then told me that ‘we know it would be a mess and we hope to abolish this provision before anyone turns 28 under it.'”

Government aware of problem

The Liberal government is aware of people who have lost or never been able to get citizenship due to the issue and is considering making legal changes, said Jaswal Hursh, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Hursh said “a small number of affected individuals remain” and the government encourages people with similar stories to come forward as they are being dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The government didn’t respond to questions about how Anneliese was able to obtain a Canadian passport if she wasn’t considered a Canadian citizen.

via ‘No longer a citizen’: Government letter tells mom of 4 she’s not Canadian | CBC News

Canadian citizenship still not equal for all, due to ongoing issues with legislation | National Observer

Notable that the cases being mentioned are either related to missing documentation or the first generation cut-off, indicating that previous legislative changes in C-37 and C-24 have addressed the legal gaps.

There would appear to be scope for IRCC to treat such cases more expeditiously than appears to be the case.

But the numbers are small: an IRCC briefing note of February 2017 indicated:

  • “Since 2010, 384 people have received a discretionary grant of citizenship ….; 326 were Lost Canadian cases, with almost all involving people who “failed to take steps required by the previous law to retain citizenship.”

And of course, those affected by the first generation cut-off rule can always obtain citizenship through becoming a permanent resident and meet the residency and other requirements:

Imagine living your entire life as a Canadian, then suddenly finding out you’re not actually a citizen.

Consider what it would be like to grow up in Canada with Canadian parents, but then have a baby in another country and discover your child is not entitled to Canadian citizenship.

It’s happened to many people over the past few decades, as Canada has changed its citizenship laws. Those laws keep changing and although most of the changes are for the better, each time it happens, someone is surprised to find out they don’t qualify for citizenship.

Don Chapman, author of The Lost Canadians: A Struggle for Citizenship Rights, Equality, and Identity, has been an advocate for the “Lost Canadians” for years, after his struggles with losing citizenship and fighting to regain it.

Loopholes in the law

Chapman warns that citizenship in Canada is not written into constitutional law. He argues the problem that has plagued Canadian citizenship for more than 100 years is that citizenship laws — which still have discriminatory loopholes — keep changing, depending on which government takes power.

“Citizenship is a constitutional right in the United States,” Chapman said in an interview with National Observer. “In Canada, it is a privilege and it’s a legislated privilege, so that means that the government — if we got a Donald Trump in Canada — could say, ‘You didn’t vote for me, I’m cancelling your citizenship.’”

Chapman said he still receives panicked calls from Canadians who turn to him for help after learning they don’t have citizenship status. Having been through the ordeal of regaining status himself, he found that Canada’s laws need a lot of work.

In 2007, he learned up to 200,000 Canadians were affected by arcane provisions of the law that stripped them of citizenship, often without their knowledge, and while many of these have been resolved as a result of legislation he helped create, others still are struggling with the problem.

The ‘Lost Canadians’ lose their citizenship status for a variety of reasons, and come from all walks of life. They include children, seniors, well-established business owners as well as vulnerable youth. Mennonites as well as Indigenous people and multi-generational Canadians born across the border.

How do you prove Canadian citizenship?

Stephanie Fenner is a classic example. She just received her citizenship last Monday, after fighting for status for years. Born in El Paso, Texas, she came with her parents at the age of three and came to Lumby, B.C. She never questioned she was a Canadian citizen, having grown up her whole life around B.C. and Alberta.

“I grew up in Canada thinking I was Canadian until I was a teenager – when I was about to get my drivers’ license, my parents decided to tell me I had no paperwork,” she said. Her mother was a Dutch landed immigrant in Canada and her father worked in the U.S. military, but they’d never registered her when they came to Canada.

Stephanie Fenner, 25, has lived in Canada since age 3, but she only just received citizenship in January 2018. She said she applied four times for citizenship and was rejected consistently despite having records showing she attended school and lived in Canada since an early age. Video by Jenny Uechi

Fenner says while her family was partly responsible for her lack of citizenship, she’d never imagined at age 17 that it would take her a total of eight long years, and continual rejections to applications, before she would finally get to receive citizenship.

And she wasn’t alone. At the ceremony, she met Squamish, B.C. resident Byrdie Funk, who lived in Canada her entire life since she was two months old, but had also been denied citizenship due to arcane provisions of the law.

They listened to each other’s stories, and shared the roadblocks they’d faced while trying to prove they were bona fide Canadians.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people told me, ‘Oh, well, you can just get married (to a Canadian) and that’s going to solve all your problems,'” Fenner said.

“People told me that all the time too!” Funk agreed emphatically. “They’re like, ‘Your husband’s Canadian, so that fixes it all.’ It actually doesn’t. Nor is that the point.”

Both Fenner and Funk had substantial documentation to prove they were fully Canadian, but nevertheless were left waiting for years, during which they were essentially stateless. Fenner especially suffered, lacking heath insurance coverage since she stopped being covered under her mother’s care at age 21, and having no social insurance number, meaning she couldn’t work legally in Canada.

“I had to pay $200 for a tetanus shot, and that’s really hard because I couldn’t work,” she said. “I went through a lot of hard experiences in the last eight years. I was sleeping on people’s couches. I was often in situations I didn’t want to be in. I had no money.”

Fenner said she’d applied and been rejected four times by the Canadian government, and that instead of being accepted, she eventually started getting calls from Canadian Border Services Agency. She started to feel a real fear of being deported to a country she hadn’t lived in since she was a child.

She credits her common-law husband for supporting her to get this far, and says she’s looking forward to starting her new life out of the shadow of statelessness.

Fenner and Funk’s years-long struggle with immigration and citizenship authorities highlights an uncomfortable reality about the murkiness of Canadian citizenship. How do Canadians prove their citizenship? In Funk’s case, she had it stripped away without her knowledge in 2008, due to a provision in the law stating anyone born abroad between Feb. 15, 1977, and April 16, 1981, to Canadian parents who were also born abroad had to apply keep their citizenship by age 27 or lose her status. Funk remembers she wasn’t even aware of the existence of such a rule, nor informed of it. For Fenner, she could provide documents proving she’d lived in Canada and been educated here since her earliest days, but proving Canadian status turned out to be much harder than it seemed.

“I actually think a lot more Canadians are affected than we realize. They just haven’t come forward,” Funk said. Just last week, a mother of four in Winnipeg got a jarring letter that she wasn’t entitled have citizenship, even though her whole life was built in Canada.

Fenner had in fact received Don Chapman’s contact after her friend saw a news story about Qia Gunster young man from Prince George who had been in a very similar predicament.

Many of the problems causing “Lost Canadians” have been addressed in recent legislation, but another outstanding issue is the issue of second-generation Canadians born abroad. They’re not considered Canadians, even if their Canadian parent has significant attachment to the country.

Alberta-raised woman’s daughters not eligible for citizenship

Victoria Maruyama’s two daughters, Akari, 8, and Arisa, 6, are in a different situation.

They can’t get Canadian citizenship, despite the fact their mother is a Canadian citizen who grew up in Edmonton, attending public school, and then lived in Vancouver while she went to the University of British Columbia.

After graduation, she moved to Japan to teach English and make some money to pay off her student loans. She ended up staying, getting married and having Akari and Arisa.

The reason the two girls are not Canadian: Victoria was born in Hong Kong to a Canadian father and Hong Kong mother. She moved to Canada when she was just one year old, but because she was herself born abroad, she cannot pass on Canadian citizenship to her children who are also born abroad.

That’s because of the changes made in 2009, just before Akari was born, that make second-generation born abroad children ineligible for Canadian citizenship.

Maruyama couldn’t believe her daughters might not be considered Canadian.

“Surely this can’t apply to me … I’m as Canadian as they come,” she said. “I understand … that they don’t want to give full rights of Canadian citizenship to people who are claiming it as a backup, … but this is not what my children are. This is my home country.”

The family lives in Edmonton now, but the girls are in the country on visitors’ visas, which must be renewed every six months. They don’t qualify for medical coverage.

“We feel Canadian – we’ve been raised Canadian, but we’re not Canadian enough according to the government,” Maruyama said, adding that if she was an immigrant, her kids would be considered Canadian. “That’s the craziness there.”

She has applied again for both kids, at a cost of about $300. Her application has been in for about five months now. Her children are here in Canada as visitors, and their status runs out at the end of January. Advocates say forcing the children to leave would be a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Two classes of Canadians – those born abroad lose out

Patrick Chandler, similarly, is a born abroad Canadian experiencing trouble with his children’s citizenship. He was born in Libya, while his dad was a naturalized Canadian who had immigrated from Ireland. His mother was born in the United States to a Canadian mother and an Iraqi father. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side died fighting for Canada in the Second World War.

Chandler’s parents were in Libya, working as teachers. They moved home to Canada when Chandler was just two years old. He was raised in Canada and attended school here until adulthood. When he was 20, he travelled to China and ended up staying a while – about 10 years. While there, he had a baby with a Chinese woman, who is now his wife. At the time the baby, Rachel Chandler, was born, the couple were not married, which meant she was not entitled to Chinese citizenship.

Patrick was shocked when he found out his daughter was in fact stateless. Rachel was not entitled to Canadian citizenship either, due to a change in the law made in 2009, which stated that babies born abroad, to parents who are also born abroad, are not entitled to Canadian citizenship.

“This has essentially created a second-class of citizen. I do not have the same rights written into law, as other Canadians do,” Chandler said in a recent interview with the National Observer. “I can’t pass on my citizenship to my kids if they’re born abroad. It’s a huge violation of human rights and the rights of a child.”

It was the Canadian government that suggested Patrick try Ireland, the country his father emigrated from to come to Canada, because that country passes on citizenship to grandchildren. Eventually, Rachel was able to get her Irish citizenship, which seemed strange as neither she nor her father Patrick had ever lived there before.

“How absurd is that?” Patrick said.

Patrick and his wife had another baby, a son, but because they were married by the time of his birth, the son, Ryan, is entitled to Chinese citizenship.

Patrick is now working for the B.C. government and he would like to bring his family here. At the moment, they have applied to immigrate at a cost of about $1,500, using the standard channels. If they were to come on a visitor’s visa, they wouldn’t have the same rights, such as to a public education or to healthcare. In China, the family pays about $20,000 a year for private school for their daughter. She is not entitled to a public school education because she is not Chinese.

A citizenship ombudsman could help, advocates say

Both Maruyama and Chandler would like to see a citizenship ombudsman position created, so that citizenship decisions are made by a human being, rather than simply based on a check list.

Chandler would like to see a clause in the Citizenship Act that says if a citizen can demonstrate a significant connection to the country, such as living here for many years or attending school here, it doesn’t matter where they were born.

“A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. You devalue the citizenship of every Canadian in this place, in this country, when you break it down and make it conditional,” now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during an election debate in 2015.

Although he was talking about the possibility of taking away citizenship from someone who has committed terrorism, his words sound hypocritical to Canadians like Maruyama and Chandler ,who are Canadian, but not equal to others in terms of their rights to pass on their citizenship to their children.

The Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada refused to comment on any specific case. However, in a statement, they said 2009 changes to the Citizenship Act introduced a one-generation limit to citizenship by descent. Prior to then, citizenship could be passed on to endless generations born outside of Canada.

“The changes prevented the passing on of automatic citizenship to those born abroad in a second or subsequent generation who may have little or no attachment to Canada,” the ministry said in an emailed response to National Observer questions.

The ministry said children born to Canadian parents who are not eligible for citizenship at birth may be sponsored for permanent residence by their parents. Once they are permanent residents, the parents can apply for a grant of citizenship. Applicants who have been turned down for citizenship can seek leave for judicial review before the Federal Court, the ministry said.

Canada’s chance to be a ‘beacon of light’

Chapman says this could be rectified with a bill to modify the Citizenship Act, a bill that allows all first-generation Canadians who are born abroad the right to prove their substantial connection to Canada, just like an immigrant does. He says he is working on a bill that will say just that, and that will also immediately recognize any stateless child born to a Canadian parent as a Canadian.

“We can show the world we are a beacon of light – this is where we were and where we are going. We need to do a new citizenship act that is inclusive and modern… and let’s change our identity from we’re English and French to we’re Indigenous, French, English and multicultural officially, because that’s what we are,” Chapman said.

People who immigrate to Canada pass on citizenship as though they were born in the country.

The rules governing citizenship frequently change – just last week, the CBC reported that there was a 17,500 surge in citizenship applications after the government relaxed the language and residency rules. Those new rules came into effect on October 11, 2017, as a result of Bill C-6, which received Royal Assent in June.

Further changes are expected in 2018.

via Canadian citizenship still not equal for all, due to ongoing issues with legislation | National Observer

‘I have no country’: After more than 60 years in Canada, B.C. woman discovers she doesn’t have citizenship

There are always some people who fall through the cracks and where the issue (and solution) apparently lies with respect to the administrative processes of IRCC rather than the need for a legislative fix (C-37 and C-24 fixed the legislative gaps for “lost Canadians”):

Irene Gyselinck arrived in Canada as a refugee from Germany on Aug. 25, 1951, with her mother and brother. She was just a one-year-old, and has never known any other home since.

But after more than 60 years in Canada, Gyselinck discovered she’s not actually Canadian.

Gyselinck, 67, grew up in Manitoba and now lives in Deep Cove, B.C. Over the course of her life, she has worked as a welder, car detailer, and artist, among other things. She also married, had two children and was widowed.

She always had a social insurance number, health insurance and paid her taxes.

The realization that she’s not a Canadian citizen has sent her life into a tailspin, leaving her unable to acquire valid identification and at risk of losing her health insurance.

“I always felt like I was part of the system,” she said. “Now, I feel I’ve been here for 66 years and I don’t count.”

The discovery

Gyselinck discovered her status when she tried to enter the U.S. in March 2012 without a passport. Prior to 2009, Canadians entering the U.S. by car were not required to have a passport, and Gyselinck travelled there many times, using her driver’s license as ID.

But this time, Homeland officials turned her back, urging her to get proper travel documents. They said she had no proof she had a right to re-enter Canada, and would need to apply for a temporary visa to return home.

After several hours of confusion, she was eventually escorted back into Canada.

“It really, really confused me and scared me,” said Gyselinck, who immediately applied for a record of her citizenship. Since then, she’s been in a back-and-forth battle with Immigration Canada, trying to obtain documents proving her status as a permanent resident.

To her shock, she discovered she never became a citizen.

The only person who might know how that happened is her 95-year-old mother. But she has debilitating dementia and alzheimers, and is unable to explain how or why her daughter, unlike other family members, slipped through the cracks. Gyselinck does not know why her mother did not fill out the paper work for her to become a Canadian citizen.

Immigration Canada would not comment on how many of these cases exist.

Gyselink does not have German citizenship, either, which makes her effectively stateless.

She says her lack of citizenship likely went undetected for so long because she never applied for a passport or voted, as she preferred to remain politically unengaged.

She said her older brother, who was also born in Germany, was issued a passport when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy at 18. Gyselinck said she now realizes that had she applied for citizenship before the age of 21, she might have avoided the situation she now finds herself in.

“I realized I have no country,” she said. “I’m an undocumented immigrant.”

Panic sets in

In March 2013, Gyselinck’s husband suddenly died. Shortly afterwards, she applied for the survivor benefit allowance, but because of her lack of documentation, found that she wasn’t eligible.

“I didn’t even have time to grieve,” she said.

Gyselinck took steps to apply for a permanent residency card, with the goal of eventually becoming a Canadian citizen. But she soon discovered that her situation was so uncommon, she faced roadblocks at nearly every step in the process.

In June 2013, she sent an application to Immigration Canada to receive a replacement copy of her record of landing at Halifax’s Pier 21, but it was returned and marked “incomplete.”

A few months later she re-applied, and this time received no response at all.

After two years of back and forth, she eventually received confirmation from Immigration Canada that she is a permanent resident. However, she still lacked the proper identification that would allow her to apply for citizenship.

In March 2017, Gyselinck received a letter from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) stating that under a new system, her B.C. health card and driver’s license would be issued together. Because one of her ID cards included her middle initial and the other didn’t, she was asked to come to an ICBC office to update the IDs to avoid problems with her health insurance.​

Gyselinck headed to the office to fix what she thought would be a minor clerical issue. But ICBC told her that without a record of landing, passport or permanent resident card, she couldn’t renew her cards under the new system — or her health insurance.

With a major surgery scheduled in February, panic set in. ​

Gyselinck said the back and forth with Immigration Canada has been emotionally devastating, and that she now suffers severe insomnia.

“It’s totally consumed me, the anxiety and stress has caused me to go onto medication,” she said, adding that she’s retired and cannot afford an immigration lawyer.

“It’s really affected me emotionally, it’s isolated me. I’m always in panic mode, so people just don’t want to talk to me.”

‘Very betrayed’

Immigration Canada confirmed to CBC News that Gyselinck arrived in Canada in 1951 and, according to their records, is not a citizen.

They said children who arrive in Canada at a young age must apply for citizenship along with their parents.

A spokesperson for Immigration Canada initially responded to CBC’s request for information by directing Gyselinck to apply for a permanent residency card.

After CBC asked specific questions about the hurdles Gyselinck faced in trying to apply, Immigration Canada assigned a case worker to the file.

The B.C. health ministry has now told Gyselinck that her health number will remain active until February so she can undergo her surgery.

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said cases like Gyselinck’s are not as uncommon as they might seem — especially in cases from decades ago. Immigrant parents might not have applied for citizenship for their children because they didn’t understand the process, or couldn’t afford to.

“The person has worked so hard to get a solution and they’re only at the permanent residence confirmation decision,” he said. He added that Gyselinck “should be allowed to immediately apply for citizenship, because she obviously qualifies.”

Gyselinck said her experience has left her feeling “very betrayed.”

“I’ve always been proud to be Canadian, so to speak, because I thought I was. And I still consider myself a Canadian after all this.”

via ‘I have no country’: After more than 60 years in Canada, B.C. woman discovers she doesn’t have citizenship – British Columbia – CBC News

Dutch love-child fathered by First Nations’ Canadian veteran finds lost identity, gets citizenship

A nice story about one “lost Canadian” whose situation was addressed in the further measures regarding “lost Canadians” in the 2014 C-24 legislation, reminding us of the complexities of families and identities:

Six weeks before Christmas a retired Dutch carpenter named Will van Ee met with Sabine Nolke, Canada’s ambassador to the Netherlands at the Canadian embassy in The Hague. Van Ee brought a small bottle of liqueur crafted in his small hometown of Sas van Gent, near the Belgian border, as a gift.

The two drank coffee and chatted for about an hour. Conversation shifted from the German-born ambassador’s roots to van Ee’s father’s war record to their shared passion for Canada before a photographer arrived to capture what was, for van Ee, an occasion 70 years in the making.

It was the day Van Ee, the illegitimate son of an aboriginal Canadian soldier and a Dutch girl who met during the end days of the Second World war, became a Canadian.

“I am a carpenter, a bricklayer and a furniture-maker,” van Ee says from Holland. “So I have always said, well, my body is definitely Dutch. But, in my heart, I am a Canadian, because that is how I truly feel, and I feel very connected to my native roots.”

Van Ee spent years searching for his Canadian family. Now he is a full-status member of the Sagamok Anishnawbeck First Nation in Northern Ontario, has a totem pole in his backyard (that he carved) and, after his November meeting with the ambassador – his Canadian citizenship.

It is a lost identity that stayed hidden from him until well into adulthood.

The Dutch refer to “the wild summer of 1945.” The war was over and about 170,000 Canadian soldiers were stationed in a country that nearly starved to death under German occupation. Young people let loose. Couples, from two different worlds, drew close. Dutch clergy scolded the older generation for letting their daughters run wild. The Canadian military scolded the soldiers, while Ottawa took the position that children born out of wedlock to Canadian servicemen were not Canada’s responsibility. But the party didn’t stop. There were 7,000 illegitimate births in Holland in 1946.

Will van Ee was one of them.

His mother, Hendrike Herber, married Albert van Ee a few years later. The couple had seven additional children. The eldest harboured suspicions about his true origins, and thought he might actually be Japanese or Italian.

“I was the only sibling with dark skin,” van Ee says, chuckling. “The real Dutch — all blond hair and blue eyes — but not me.”

But he was loved and happy, and only became interested in digging into the past after getting married in the late 1970s. His mother grew quiet when he started asking questions. Van Ee believes out of a sense of “shame,” and from knowing, perhaps, that her true “love,” wasn’t the man she married. The truth came out after a cousin gave van Ee an old photograph. Hendrike is glowing in the image, alongside a beaming Canadian soldier named Walter Majeki. Van Ee’s aunt told her nephew that their family loved Walter, and then he had left.

“My mother once told my wife that had Walter called for her — even after she had children with Albert — that she would have gone to Canada,” van Ee says.

Courtesy Will van Ee

Courtesy Will van EeWill van Ee is now a Canadian citizen and a full-status member of the Sagamok Anishnawbeck First Nation.

But how to find Walter, almost 40 years after the fact, in a pre-Google world? Van Ee enlisted Olga Rains, a Dutch war bride in Peterborough, Ont., dedicated to reuniting other so-called “Liberation” children with their Canadian families. (Post-war estimates put the number of European-born children fathered — and abandoned — by Canadian soldiers at 30,000.)

Rains told van Ee that his father appeared to be First Nation. She had Walter Majeki’s photo published in several Canadian newspapers. In 1984, the son he left behind picked up the phone and dialed a number for Walter’s brother, Neil, in Latchford, Ont.

“I was shaking,” van Ee recalls.

Soon after he was on a flight to Toronto to meet his uncle and a cousin, Richard.

“When my father first saw Willy getting off that plane he said to me, ‘My God, there is Walter, my own brother,’ ” Richard Majeki says from North Bay, Ont. “Willy was a Majeki from the get-go.”

The story, as van Ee heard it from the Majeki clan and his father’s oldest childhood friends — and that he believes in his heart to be true, is that Walter returned from the war with every intention of sending for Hendrike. But his mother forbid the relationship. She said European girls were “no good.” Richard Majeki recalls a conversation with his father, Neil, in which he said that Walter spoke to him of Hendrike on only one occasion. Walter said that he hoped she would love and “look after” their child. And then he moved to Milwaukee, leaving behind a box of photographs of the Dutch girl he fell for during the wild summer of 1945.

Walter worked in a brewery. He married an American. They started a family. He died in 1972.

“I believe 100 per cent that my parents truly loved one another,” van Ee says. “It changed me, finding my father — even though we never met. I came to wish that I had started looking for him much earlier in my life.”

The Sagamok Anishnawbeck First Nation welcomed van Ee as one of its own at a traditional ceremony in Massey, Ont. Sweet-grass was burned, a pipe smoked and van Ee informed that his ancestors had “tears in their eyes,” over his return.

“I felt something that day,” he says.

He went fishing with his father’s best friends off Manitoulin Island. They said they felt as though their old friend had come home to them. Uncle Neil gave van Ee two miniature totem poles as gifts. The Dutch carpenter carved a giant replica — and put it in his backyard.

“We are proud to know Willy,” Richard Majeki says. “He is one of us.”

Van Ee wrote to Walter’s widow in Milwaukee asking if he could visit. He received a reply through a lawyer requesting he never contact the family again.

“That was hard,” he says.

What van Ee has found in three trips to Northern Ontario over the past 30 years is a sense of belonging.

“I now know where I come from,” he says.

Wilhemus van Ee became a full-status member of his tribe in 1992. But getting Canadian citizenship was more complicated. Involving, as it did – until the legislation was amended in 2015 — an archaic law barring individuals born out of wedlock to a foreign mother, prior to 1947, the right to citizenship.

“My father fought for Canada and here I was fighting to become Canadian,” van Ee says.

Four weeks after his audience with the ambassador, the 70-year-old received his Canadian passport. He is planning a trip to Canada soon.

Source: Dutch love-child fathered by First Nations’ Canadian veteran finds lost identity, gets citizenship | National Post

Canadian citizenship must be a constitutional right: Chapman misses the mark

While I have a great deal of respect for Don Chapman and other advocates who successfully pushed the previous government to address the issue of “lost Canadians” in C-37 (2009) and C-24 (2014), I find his latest op-ed misses the mark, arguing for opening up the constitution to add citizenship as a right in the Constitution.

Apart from the fact that no government in their right mind would open up the Constitution given the divisive process that would result (been there, done that!), their column makes assertions about numbers (“many”) without any real serious look at the data.

The data we have primarily consists of the demand for citizenship proofs. The 2009 and 2014 changes to the Citizenship Act addressed the majority of the potential cases; however, the number of annual proofs did not change significantly, suggesting less demand than Chapman and other advocates claimed.

citizenship-proofs-2010-15

That is not to say that some cases remain, but that they are best dealt with individually through consideration for a discretionary grant of citizenship (s 5(4) of the Act).

Moreover, as one of my former colleagues noted:

mark-on-chapman

Chapman also engages in fear mongering with respect to Canadian dual nationals living in the US being forced to renounce their US citizenship in order to avoid potential revocation in cases of acts of terrorism or treason. C-6, currently in the Senate, will repeal this provision and thus address the major Charter violation that treats dual nationals separately from “mono-nationals”:

The practical implication is that the more than 100,000 Canadian casualties from the First and Second World Wars never lived to become citizens, and many of their children have spent decades fighting for their right to citizenship, denied them simply because their fathers did not survive the war. The hallmark of former minister of citizenship and immigration Jason Kenney was the consistency with which he denied these applicants. Although many of these Canadians eventually regained their citizenship through parliamentary victories, too many died as they were simply waited out by Ottawa.

Particularly heinous is the untold number of Indigenous Canadians that are currently stateless because their parents never registered their births, rightfully fearing their children would be sent to a residential school. Now adults, these Canadians have no rights or benefits. They are citizens of nowhere, unable to legally work, marry, attend school, buy a home, get a loan, drive a car or even take a bus, train or plane without identification. They are ghosts in their own land, forced to live in the shadows.

Even recent amendments that reinstated citizenship to some have left many others stateless, and did nothing to prevent that reinstated status from being stripped in the future.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s policies further complicated citizenship rights, making second-class citizens of anyone with dual-citizenship status. With the current political turmoil in the United States, thousands of these dual citizens – especially targeted professionals such as journalists and human-rights workers – now face the painful option of renouncing their U.S. citizenship, fearing their second-class status in Canada could, on a whim from our leadership, force them to live in Mr. Trump’s United States.

Our national identity has no foundation if we have no inherent rights, and Mr. Trump’s idle threats against his own people prove how urgent it is to give serious thought to our Canadian citizenship – what it actually is, how we get it and how it’s lost.

As we approach our 150th birthday, this is the perfect time to focus on defining and protecting our identity. It is time to make citizenship a constitutional right. Pierre Trudeau gave us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Wouldn’t it be fitting for the Prime Minister to take the final step to true nationhood: an inviolable, constitutional right of citizenship.

Source: Canadian citizenship must be a constitutional right – The Globe and Mail

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,

University class takes on case of B.C. woman stripped of citizenship [Lost Canadian]

Good learning exercise (unclear whether the the person in question applied for an exemption, the normal route in such cases, which on the facts presented in the article, would likely have been granted):

A group of university students in Squamish, B.C., is hoping their school work will help change the life of a woman whose Canadian citizenship was stripped under a little-known policy.

Leanne Roderick, an instructor at Quest University, wanted the 20 students in her democracy and justice class to meet someone who was really wrestling with representative democracy in Canada, so she introduced them to a local woman named Byrdie Funk.

Funk was born in Mexico to Canadian parents and moved to a small community in Manitoba when she was two months old. Though her upbringing was quintessentially Canadian, Funk learned earlier this year that her nationality had been revoked.

An unknown number of people born abroad to Canadian parents between 1977 and 1981 were stripped of their nationality because they were unaware of an obscure piece of legislation requiring them to apply to retain their citizenship before the age of 28.

The American election made immigration a popular topic of conversation, and Roderick wanted her students to see how a real person was impacted by government policy.

“To be able to sit down with someone and hear their story, a very real story, I just wanted to put a face on this big issue of citizenship in Canada,” she explained.

After Funk spoke to the class, Roderick tasked them with developing a policy brief advising government on how politicians could help so-called lost Canadians.

The results were surprising, the instructor said, with students delivering in-depth, well-researched plans that included suggestions of private members’ bills and amendments to the Citizenship Act.

“They really are passionate. I think that age range kind of gets a bad rap sometimes, but they really do care and they really do want to be politically engaged citizens,” Roderick said.

Several students forwarded their work to MPs and cabinet ministers, encouraging them to get involved in Funk’s case.

Third-year student Ellie Fraser sent her policy brief to four MPs, but said not one responded, even with a note thanking her for writing.

Source: University class takes on case of B.C. woman stripped of citizenship | CTV News

Government officials were aware of arcane law that stripped Canadians born abroad of citizenship

“Lost Canadians, the Mennonite angle:

“The Canadian government was aware and warned repeatedly years before an arcane law began stripping longtime Canadians of their citizenship, says a man who spent decades lobbying for change.

Bill Janzen, the former head of the Mennonite Central Committee’s office in Ottawa, said he and his colleagues met with the federal government throughout the 1980s and 1990s to find a fix to the so-called 28-year rule.

The provision was part of a 1977 law that automatically removed citizenship from people born abroad to Canadian parents who were also born outside the country.

“The government holds a big responsibility for this,” Janzen said. “They’ve created a mess.”

The law applies to people born between Feb. 15, 1977, and April 16, 1981, no matter how quickly after their birth they moved to Canada. It was rescinded in 2009, but the change didn’t apply retroactively.

The only way to prevent the automatic loss of citizenship was to apply to retain it before the age of 28 — a detail legal experts contend the government failed to adequately communicate to those affected.

Janzen said he has heard numerous stories of people going to citizenship officials and being told they had never heard of the law.

“They said, ’Don’t worry about it. Go home and enjoy Canada… Once a Canadian, always a Canadian,’ ” Janzen said, noting that officials often pointed out the absence of any expiry date on their citizenship cards.

“It happened again and again and again.”

Janzen has helped more than 180 people navigate the expensive and time-intensive process of regaining their citizenship over the years, So far, 160 requests have been approved.

Immigration Minister John McCallum could not be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in an email the government advised those affected “when possible” of the need to apply before the age of 28 to retain their citizenship.

“As we do not have data on the number of individuals who might have been impacted, we were unable to advise people systematically,” Sonia Lesage wrote, adding that the number of people who remain affected is “very small.”

Lesage said the immigration minister has discretionary authority to grant citizenship in “cases of special and unusual hardship” and she encouraged anyone who thinks they might be affected to contact the department.

…Janzen said cost is a big challenge for many of the people caught by the 28-year rule, some of whom are “desperately poor.”“If your basic legal status is not settled, it’s so paralyzing,” he said. “For some of them, they’ve known there’s a problem and they’ve not known how to solve it (so) they’ve lived under the wire secretly. That’s no way to live.”

While other cases do exist, the issue appears to have had a disproportionate impact on Canada’s Mennonite community.

James Schellenberg of the Mennonite Central Committee described many of those affected as descendants of Mennonites who, by and large, left Canada in the 1920s for Mexico, Paraguay and elsewhere in Central and South America.

Starting in 2003, two years before the first of those who were affected began turning 28, Mennonite officials put advertisements warning of the law in newspapers popular among Mennonites.

Everyone I talked to seemed very confused. They didn’t know what exactly was going on.

Some people inquired at immigration offices but officials told them not to worry, said Marvin Dueck, an Ontario-based immigration lawyer who has worked on about 50 lost-citizenship cases.

“Once a Canadian, always a Canadian. That was a common response,” Dueck said. “And once a government official says that, why should they trust the Mennonite Central Committee?”

Arcane Law Continues To Strip Canadians Of Citizenship

More on the ‘Lost Canadians’ issue and the few remaining cases.

While one can always do more to communicate changes – and there were efforts to do so – it is not surprising that some people only become aware when they are confronted, through renewing a passport or moving back to Canada:

The [retention provisions of the 1977 Citizenship Act] law was drafted in the 1970s out of concern that citizenship could be passed along indefinitely to generations abroad who were less and less connected to Canada, said Audrey Macklin, a law professor at the University of Toronto.

Macklin said it wasn’t necessarily unfair, at least in theory, to require someone twice removed from being born in Canada to prove a connection to the country.

The problem, though, was rooted in the government’s inability to identify and inform those people that their citizenship would “evaporate” if they didn’t take specific steps to retain it, she said.

Lindsay Wemp, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said in an email that the immigration minister can offer discretionary citizenship in extraordinary circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Funk said she contacted Minister John McCallum’s office in July and has yet to receive a response.

Citizenship statuses on ‘narrow hinge’

Donald Galloway, a University of Victoria law professor, said he didn’t think the government has taken the necessary steps to let people know “the narrow hinge” their status was hanging on.

“I think it’s quite shocking to live in a country where the government creates these byzantine rules and says ‘Well, it’s up to you to know the details,'” he said.

Source: Arcane Law Continues To Strip Canadians Of Citizenship