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This Article is part of the Lost Canadians special report See the full report

Kafkaesque citizenship laws bestow rights, and take them away

Old laws continue to strip Canadian's the right to call themsleves citizens. Yet, in true Kafkaesque form, some Lost Canadians argue that there are even older laws that do make them Canadian.  Ninth in a ten part series about an injustice that may outlive many of its victims.

Navigating the extensive family of Canadian citizenship laws leaves a paper cut that could shred a moose. There is the son, Bill C–37, (male personal pro-noun intentional); the father, 1977 amendments to the prior citizenship act; the cousins, various legal challenges, precedents and Supreme Court Rulings over the years; the carefree uncle, The Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the grandfather, 1947 Citizenship Act; the great grandfather, the Legitimization Act of 1927; and the great great grandfather, British law that governed much of the Commonwealth up until the end of WW2. Oh, and we forgot to mention the godparents, lending wise but disregarded authority: the various provincial legitimacy acts strewn across the federation for the past 100 years. Lost Canadian cases in one-way or another are affected by every generation of this lineage.

Bill C–37 was supposed to save jurists and applicants like Jackie Scott, Denise Tessier, and Sandy Burke, from this quagmire. Yet one look at Jackie Scott’s third bat against Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and it is clear that for her, Bill C-37 has muddied the waters even more.

Scott claims that the Federal government is ignoring provincial laws, the 1921 Legitimation Act of Ontario to be exact, established for foreign born children of WW1 veterans. She said these laws make her a citizen even under the old sexist immigration regime. But no one in CIC seems to know these laws, she said.

A civil servant who has worked for Citizenship and Immigration Canada for more than a decade, and who advocates incognito for citizenship reform, spoke to the Vancouver Observer on terms of anonymity. According to the civil servant, neither the government or ministry employees know the full extent of Canadian law. 

"Being that the laws are so very specific, you can count on the political ministers not having a's quite frightening when you really think about it, that the gatekeepers of who you are, are really this ignorant," said Lost Canadian and long time advocate, Don Chapman.

All provinces have legitimacy laws, some dating to 1918, which legitimize children born out of wedlock, if the parents eventually marry. There is no such law at the federal level because legitimacy falls under provincial jurisdiction. However, an addition to the Citizenship Act in 1952 stated that the Minister may “grant a certificate of citizenship to a person who has been lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence” and who “at any time in a province of Canada pursuant to the law of that province… has been legitimized” and if the father “by such legitimation is a Canadian citizen.”

In plain terms, Jackie Scott said this suggests a precedent that federal law respected provincial mandates over legitimacy. And because Scott claims to have reasonable proof of her father having made the appropriate steps to ‘legitimize’ her in 1955 under Ontario law, she is Canadian.

“In all my years at CIC, and I’ve been there for about 12, I’ve never heard anyone even mention it,” says the anonymous insider, regarding provincial legitimization law.


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Special reports

Lost Canadians

Canadian children of World War II veterans, war brides, even those once labeled by the law "bastards", and "lunatics".  Many  lived in Canada their whole lives, paid taxes, and carried...