Citizenship Week: Canadians need to stand up to government injustice
This week is Citizenship Week in Canada—a time the government says we should "reflect on the value of citizenship, what it means to be Canadian, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship."
Okay, so let's do it.
After having my own citizenship cancelled as a six-year old Canadian-born toddler, it took 47 years to get it back. And I’m one of the lucky ones.
A woman named Donna Lewis was brought to Canada as a War bride child. Shortly afterwards, her father died in a London, Ontario hospital from injuries sustained as a Canadian soldier in battle. Donna was given up for adoption.
Today, more than six decades after arriving at Pier 21 in Halifax and being assured she was a citizen, the government has yet to fulfill that promise. Donna's been forced since childhood to fight both our bureaucracy and her fellow Canadians- the former putting up roadblock after roadblock and the latter not believing Canada could treat one their own with such disdain. The value of citizenship?
Try getting any benefits without it, like medical coverage, old-age pension, or passports. Too bad if you don’t like it: without citizenship, you can’t vote.
Donna’s spent a lifetime fighting for her rights—something her Canadian father died for. Ask Donna about the value of belonging. While you’re at it, ask her what it feels like to be shunned.
Responsibilities? Again, Donna's story is just so surreal that people discounted her. It was as though Canadians believed she must have done something wrong, and that she somehow deserved her fate. Nothing could be further from the truth. What's more, almost no one ever came forward to help.
Just this week after explaining Lost Canadians to several women, their best response was encouraging me to keep up the fight.
I've noticed that: this is an almost complete disconnect with Canadians. They sincerely want justice to be served, but the battle to right those historic wrongs is for someone else.
'Responsibility,' is a two-way street between the people and their government. Every individual has a responsibility to speak out against injustices, and the government's responsibility is to protect their people. In our Canada today, both sides can and must do better.
As Lost Canadians go forward with their longstanding, drag-out fight, a court challenge has been filed. The only way the government can defeat us is to argue that it’s okay to discriminate against people based entirely on age, gender, or family status (whether a person was born in or out of wedlock). Basically, the Charter is on trial.
There's also this: Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently stated Canadian citizenship didn’t exist prior to 1947. His bureaucrats then put it in writing. That means all 112,000 Canadian soldiers who fought and died in WWI and WWII were never citizens of Canada, which is tantamount to a complete rewrite of our history.
Canadian Citizenship Week should indeed be a reflection of what it means to be Canadian, of our collective rights and responsibilities, and more so, it's a time to engage.
Our fallen soldiers gave their all so we could live in a free country with rights. We are the beneficiary of their sacrifices. It's time we now speak out for them. They are Canadian citizen heroes. To suggest anything otherwise is disgraceful.
Lest we forget, lest we ignore.