The billion-dollar Lost Canadians citizenship battle heads for court
Fed up with being denied what they call their birthright, Lost Canadians are just days from filing lawsuits that will settle the matter for good. The question: Why is Ottawa fighting them?
Scott and her mother came to in January of 1948, just months before the government stopped sponsoring travel for war brides and children of servicemen. Her parents married in May of that year.
“My ‘crime’ is that I was born out of wedlock,” Scott says. “I was never told of the circumstances of my birth and I only found out many years later. For my parents’ generation, it was a stigma to have a child or be born out of wedlock and it was never a topic of discussion. It was something that was kept secret.
“Because of the circumstances of my birth, [Citizensip and Immigration Canada] is discriminating against me based on gender, labelling me ‘illegitimate’ even in today’s society, contrary to Federal Court orders issued in cases that have been appealed and won because of this type of discrimination,” she says.
Scott’s story takes a slightly different turn than Bramah’s, though.
At 22 years old, she joined her husband in the U.S., where he had moved for a job in California. Her husband got a visa; Scott remained a resident alien until 2005, when she had to take out American citizenship.
She thought she retained the Canadian citizenship that she assumed she had, but found out in 2004 that she had none, having been born out of wedlock in 1945.
“I was neither Canadian or American: I was stateless,” Scott says.
“Canada has recognized dual citizenship since 1977 and if I'd known that applying for U.S. citzenship would disqualify or prejudice my being recognized as a Canadian citizen, I would not have done so. However, I never had any reason to doubt my Canadian citizenship. All my family, including my mother who naturalized in 1955, is Canadian."
Scott has applied for a special grant of citizenship known as a “Section 5.4”, but was denied.
“My father volunteered to defend this country in World War Two,” she says. “I believe he would be ashamed and angry that his daughter is being denied her birthright.”
A mysterious silence
So why, given the potential cost, both financial and human, is there a simpler way to resolve the problem for the remaining Lost Canadians?
Chapman says the real solution is to just give them citizenship cards.
Because the government has refused to answer virtually all questions on the matter – including The Vancouver Observer’s – it is hard to say why that hasn’t happened.
Both the NDP and the Liberals have backed the cause.
In 2009, after the latest version of the citizenship act was passed, Minister Jason Kenney told CBC News that one reason for the remaining exclusions was to prevent people who live permanently outside the country and never pay taxes from passing on citizenship to their children.
"We think citizenship is so important. It is such an important Canadian value and privilege that we want to limit it to those people who have some kind of enduring presence or commitment to Canada," Kenney said.
Critics were quick to note that with almost three million Canadians living abroad, a broader definition of citizenship, and dual citizenships, should be considered.
Peter Bramah and his colleagues could not agree more.
It remains to be seen if the courts will as well.
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