Photo of Canadian flags in Ottawa via Paguma on Flickr
Jackie Scott and Linda Missal De Cock have collectively lived in Canada for over a century. Scott, the daughter of a war bride and Canadian soldier, arrived in Canada from England in 1948, and resided here for over half her life. De Cock, meanwhile, has lived in Canada for 69 out of 70 years. The women, living on opposite ends of the country, went to school, married, and carved a life out for themselves in Canada.
But bizarrely -- even as Canada accepts 250,000 new immigrant Canadians a year -- government has denied such individuals citizenship.
They are among the"Lost Canadians," a group of Canadians who have been denied or stripped of citizenship by federal government due to legal technicalities. While the majority of these cases have been resolved through the 2009 Bill C-37, An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act,some people are waiting years to receive the same citizenship papers that others -- such as Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar -- was granted within weeks.
Lost Canadians: from citizens into refugees
"Canada's doing everything completely backwards," Lost Canadians advocate Don Chapman commented on the issue.
"The objective is to turn immigrants and refugees into Canadian citizens -- not the other way around."
Chapman, who was born in Canada to Canadian parents, has experienced the same situation that he sees others go through today. An airline pilot, Chapman is as Canadian as people come: his great-grandfather was one of the Fathers of Confederation, and the Chapman Learning Commons at the UBC Library is named after Chapman's father, Dr. Lloyd Chapman.
Yet he was among some over 200,000 Canadians who were denied citizenship due to outdated laws -- some still being enforced by the government -- which treats women and children as property of their husband or father.
After years of advocating, Chapman proved that there were tens of thousands of cases like his own and helped push through Bill C-37. But it was an incomplete solution, he said, which inexplicably excluded people born prior to 1947, while creating a whole new category of stateless Lost Canadians born abroad.
Chapman often receives distressed calls and emails from people from Canada and around the world who believed themselves Canadian citizens and recently discovered that they may not be. In some cases, children born abroad since 2009 to a Canadian parent are stateless, causing significant troubles for their families. Without citizenship, passports and travel documents, as well as health insurance and pensions, become difficult or downright impossible to obtain.
CBC report on Lost Canadians who remained stateless after Bill C-37
A "flaw" in the Canadian citizenship system?
In Chapman's view, there is a "fundamental flaw" in the system to deal with citizenship issues in Canada, and it's causing headaches for long-term Canadians who have long contributed to the country.
"I've had military people on this (Lost Canadians) boat," Chapman said. "I've had people say, 'If I'd known that Canada would do this to me, I would have never volunteered to be in the military.' And why would you?"
One particularly sad case, he noted, was Guy Valllière, a Quebec-born and raised former soldier who went to serve in the Second World War.
In 2006, authorities told him that he no longer had citizenship, and was therefore ineligible for health care coverage.
"I had every possible piece of ID imaginable, such as a SIN card, a Canadian birth certificate, the names of my brothers and sisters and my father's papers—in short everything that the Régie de l'assurance-maladie (health insurance authority) was requesting," he pleaded with the government in 2007.
"Yet, I was denied coverage and asked to provide proof of my citizenship. I am at a loss to understand... I feel like a nobody, worse than an immigrant or even a terrorist."
Valllière died in 2009, without Canadian citizenship.
Bill Doobenen, a Canadian-born former Air Force member and engineer, encountered similar treatment as authorities tried to deport both he and his wife in 2008. He still remembers how he -- a legitimate Canadian -- was forced to apply for refugee status to Canada, then nearly deported.
"The Liberal Party will change this -- I'll attempt to get Minister Jason Kenney to talk about the (Lost Canadians) problem," said Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, hearing about the struggle of the "Lost...
Jenny Uechi is the Managing Editor of The Vancouver Observer. She is a writer and editor with an interest in mixed cultures, art and social issues. She recently worked as a news director at NHK World...Read Jenny Uechi's bio »