Lost Canadians angered by ongoing age discrimination and gender injustice
Last month, Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney even stated that the government does not discriminate based on age, gender or marital status -- and yet here was a government authority, asking if Munroe's mother had given birth to him out of wedlock.
"She's not allowed to ask me what colour I am, what religion I am -- she's not allowed to ask me anything like that," he said.
Jarratt heard Munroe's story and urged him to file a complaint with the Canada Human Rights Commission, and his story soon began making the rounds in the press. From then on, authorities were not so slow to respond.
"One evening, I get a call from Stella (Holiday) and she tells me they're going to expedite my citizenship and I'd have it by the end of the week." Munroe didn't believe her, but did end up receiving his citizenship in the mail, after 25 years of trying. That brought his case to an end, but a question still haunted him.
"I called Stella and I asked her: What would have happened if my parents weren't married? She said, well, you'd be waiting another three or four years. And that made me really upset," he said.
"It means if you get someone who's turning 65, and finds out only then that they're not a citizen, they have to wait? That's three or four years of pension down the tubes."
Three or four years, sadly, is likely a conservative estimate. Jackie Scott, the daughter of a Canadian war veteran who was born out of wedlock, was rejected repeatedly over eight years until she finally took her case to court last month.
Red-flagged children from England and Scotland
"There is a cohort of these children who were born in 1946 and 1947 who are now applying for Old Age Security Pension (OAS)," Jarratt explained in an email. "They get caught in the trap because they have to say where they were born. As soon as they fill in the word England or Scotland , they get red flagged.
"The government...can deny other benefits until you prove when you arrived and if you qualify. If you were born out of wedlock before 1947 to a Canadian war bride and World War II veteran who married after your birth, you are out of luck.
"They will only grant citizenship from today forward, not retroactively, which means these people who have voted, had passports in the past, paid taxes, worked, served in the military like Senator Romeo Dallaire did before he found out he wasn’t a citizen, can have their citizenship taken away from them because they never actually had it in the first place."
Prejudice against older Canadians?
Leonard Johnson, 65, is feeling the effects of restrictive government policy today. Like many others in his situation, Johnson believed his whole life that he was a Canadian by virtue of being the son of a Scottish war bride and Canadian war veteran father. Last month, CIC sent him a letter saying that his pension was being put under review until he could provide "certified" proof of Canadian citizenship and a copy of his passport.
"I'm really upset," he said, his voice trembling as he spoke over the phone from Winnipeg. "The government was happy to take my money when I was making $130,000 a year as a truck driver. They never asked any questions then. Why didn't they tell me this before I turned 65?"
Like many Lost Canadians of his generation, Johnson is hardly a "Canadian of convenience," or people who take advantage of their citizenship only when it suits them. He has spent virtually his whole life in Canada, and ended up taking a British passport when it became clear that Canadian authorities weren't going to grant him his travel documents.
Johnson turned 65 last November, and had been receiving his pension for two months when he received the letter.
"I'm going through severe stress right now," he said. "Are they going to take away my pension?"
The application forms won't be easy for Johnson to complete. He went blind in one eye in 2006 and only has 20 per cent vision in his other eye. He has enlisted a friend to help him gather the documents, but each piece of information costs money to obtain. He has to pay $75 to apply for "Proof of Citizenship" and another $75 to obtain his father's birth certificate in Ontario, in addition to a fee to obtain his parents' marriage certificate in England. The financial costs weigh down on him heavily, since he has been surviving on just $866 a month on CPP since losing his eyesight.
"What makes me mad is that the government already has all this information about me, but they're making me go pay for it at the archives," Johnson said in frustration.
"I still work, too, part-time, unloading trucks, with what little I can see out of my one eye, and I'm still paying taxes for all this nonsense."
Having lived and worked in Canada his whole life, Johnson expressed a sense of betrayal by the government in their apparent willingness to accept new immigrants even as they shut out lifelong Canadian war bride children like himself.
"I think this government doesn't do enough to take care of its older people," he said bitterly. "They keep saying they need more immigrants coming here, but a lot of those guys haven't really done anything for Canada. And we've been here all our lives."