Liberals take strong stand on Lost Canadian rights

Left out and left behind, the remaining Lost Canadians get a beacon of hope in a Liberal promise.

Liberal Citizenship critic Justin Trudeau announced today that a Liberal government would make Lost Canadian cases a priority of their administration.

“It's not right that a country that is a leader in rights and freedoms would have a law that would have your parents' gender or parents' marital status result in a person losing their citizenship,” Trudeau told the Vancouver Observer over the phone about the Liberals Friday media release.

“I am looking forward to the Conservatives being agreeable to this. The ball is in their court. We are not looking to get into a big battle over this and hopefully they will find some of our reforms agreeable…if not, we will bring it ourselves when we form a government.”

The announcement is a breath of hope for remaining Lost Canadians like Jackie Scott, who after more than five years of applications is still being denied her citizenship because she was born out of wedlock before Canada’s first citizenship act in 1947.

“This is a tremendous step forward. Finally a political party that understands the inequities in the Citizenship Act and the unfair treatment of the 5% left behind Lost Canadians,” Scott said.

Canada’s most recent citizenship legislation, 2008’s Bill C-37, re-enfranchised thousands of Canadians whose citizenship had been taken from them due to antiquated and sexist laws. It did not, however, return citizenship to all of them.

“Mr. Harper, maybe I shouldn’t be asking you this question, just as you shouldn’t be asking me, but were you born in wedlock?  That question is inappropriate as is your decision to deny me citizenship because of it,” Scott said.

 Celyeste Power, Press Secretary for Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, told the Vancouver Observer that the Conservative government was aware of outstanding problems.

“Our government takes this issue very seriously and we sympathize with those whose citizenship had been questioned because of outdated citizenship laws.”

Power would not comment specifically on the new Liberal promise or specific Lost Canadian examples. 

 “This bill (Bill- C-37) resolved the majority of cases and for those unresolved we continue to work with them on a case by case basis.”

Many Lost Canadians are still finding that the case-by-case process, known as a 5.4 special grant of citizenship, counts them out.

“I think the Conservative government has always held that 5.4 covers people. But we have seen that it has not been effective in working for people who deserve to be Canadian,” Trudeau said.

One time Lost Canadian-turned advocate, Don Chapman, said he was happy about today’s Liberal media release adding that he was looking forward to more action on the issue.

“Putting out a Lost Canadian press release effectively makes equality of rights and ongoing discrimination an election issue. I now call on all the other political parties to join Mr. Ignatieff, as the rights of citizenship belong to all Canadians- not just those of one particular party.”

Read more about Lost Canadians here.

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