Published Monday December 28th, 2009
NEGUAC - The daughter of a Canadian war bride is being denied her old age pension until she provides more documentation proving her citizenship.
Rita Rousselle, who arrived in Canada as a toddler and now lives in Saint-Wilfred, turned 65 last April but has yet to receive her first old age pension cheque.
For years, Rousselle has voted in federal, provincial and municipal elections, held a social insurance number, and contributed to the Canadian pension plan - still, the federal government wants further proof she is a citizen.
"I said to my children when I found this out, 'Well, it looks like I'm not Canadian,' " Rousselle, a mother of six children, says in mock disbelief.
Rita's father, Augustine Rousselle, served overseas in the North Shore Regiment of New Brunswick during the Second World War, where he married the English-born Elise Kate Pierce in 1944.
In 1947, the young couple boarded the Queen Mary to Halifax with Rita, then two-and-a-half years old, took the train to Miramichi, and eventually settled in Saint-Wilfred, about 15 km west of Neguac.
Rousselle has provided the Canadian government with her English birth certificate, a baptism certificate from the Catholic Church in New Brunswick, and a marriage licence proving the union with her Canadian husband.
But for reasons unclear to Rousselle, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada remains unsatisfied.
After more than a year of correspondence with the federal department, during which she handed over more than a half dozen documents, Rousselle says she received another letter this month requesting her father's New Brunswick birth certificate and her parents' British marriage licence, both of which she has been unable to track down.
"Where can I go to get that?" she asks, explaining that both her parents have been dead for 20 years.
Rousselle says her trouble with the federal government is especially mystifying because her mother, who was born in England, received her old age pension without a hiccup.
"There is something definitely wrong here, and I definitely feel it is the bureaucracy," says Carmel Robichaud, MLA for Miramichi-Bay Neguac, who is trying to help Rousselle solve the problem.
Jon Stone, a spokesman for Canadian Citizenship and Immigration in Atlantic Canada, acknowledges that cases like this one, where it's difficult for a person to prove their citizenship, are more common amongst the children of war brides.
"That happens in a number of cases, and we do see a number of cases resolved," he says, adding that he couldn't comment on the specific case for privacy reasons.
He says every effort is made to ensure such cases are dealt with quickly and efficiently, while at the same ensuring there is sufficient proof of citizenship.
Stone says that the problem amongst the children of war brides is due to the fact that, in many cases, they arrived in Canada immediately after the Second World War, prior to when the Canadian Citizenship Act took effect on Jan. 1, 1947.
As a consequence, some children of war brides were never registered as citizens, he says.
Robichaud says Rousselle's problem is particularly troubling, considering the federal government's efforts in recent years to pay tribute to Canadian war brides.
Roughly 48,000 young women who met and married Canadian servicemen during the Second World War immigrated to Canada in the years immediately afterwards, according to the website of Veterans' Affairs Canada.
Rousselle is hoping to rectify the situation soon, since she is counting on the extra income to fund her retirement years. She says she'd be in an even more difficult situation if she didn't still work seasonally, at a campground near her Saint-Wilfred home during the summer. For now, Rousselle continues to receive her unemployment cheques during the winter.
"If it wasn't for that, I don't know what I'd do," she says.