Thanks for the update! Audrey Macklin's "chance to do the right thing" for citizenship rights lost when she chooses to ignore Lost Canadians

University of Toronto professor Audrey Macklin at a press conference for Canadian citizen and Guantanamo Bay detainee, Omar Khadr.

Robert Addington is one of the Lost Canadians' staunch supporters, having attended most, if not all, the Parliamentary and Senate Committee hearings on Lost Canadian Citizenship when Bill S-2 and Bill C-37 were making their way through the system over the course of the past five years.

Robert is also an inveterate "Letter to the Editor" writer and he follows up on articles which touch upon citizenship themes by writing to editors, journalists, op-ed contributors and, in this case, Professor Audrey Macklin, a law professor at the University of Toronto who just happens to be co-counsel for the intervenors in the Khadr case which was recently heard - and lost - before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Professor Macklin co-authored an op-ed piece in today's Globe and Mail, calling upon the Prime Minister of Canada to "do the right thing" and bring Omar Khadr home. Click here to read the original Globe and Mail article. In it, she and her two co-authors also described the current political / judicial state of affairs in the most chilling way:

When the highest court in the land advises the government that the government is breaking the law, and affirms that a request for repatriation would be an appropriate remedy for that breach, a government has two choices: A government that operates according to the rule of law will undertake to remedy the wrong because it understands that the government is not above the law. A government that operates according to the rule of men will calculate that if no votes will be gained by obeying the law, and some votes might even be lost, then the law deserves no respect unless and until backed up by the force of a court order. There are people who think it is okay to break the law if they can get away with it. We should be deeply worried if our government guided itself according to the same moral logic.

Perhaps sensing that he had an ally in Professor Macklin, Robert Addington picked up a pen (or keyboard in this case) and shot off a friendly, informative note to her in support of her defense of Omar Khadr and comparing the flagrant violation of his rights as a citizen to the way Lost Canadians have been treated since 1947. (As it turns out, this is his second letter to Professor Macklin supporting her stance on the Omar Khadr case).

What is interesting about Robert's letter to Professor Macklin is how, after supporting her defense of Omar Khadr and making a cogent argument in defense of Lost Canadians who are similarly being denied their citizenship rights - as is Mr. Khadr - all Prof. Macklin can say is: "Thanks for the update."

One would think that Professor Macklin would jump at the opportunity to expand her base of support to include another group of Canadians who are also being disenfranchised, but apparently not.

It's the same old story all over again

Unfortunately, her response is no big suprrise to me. I personally spoke to Prof. Macklin in 2005 and got a similar brush off. It seems when the "rights" under discussion are those of Canadian born citizens, children born of female Canadian citizens, World War Two War Brides, their children and grandchildren, Mennonites, Border Babies, Military Brats, and Canadian veterans who risked their lives during the Second World War in defense of Canada, the "rights" to Canadian citizenship don't matter.

How sad.

Here's Robert Addington's letter, and Prof. Macklin's response:

February 2, 2010

Dear Professor Macklin:

Further to our correspondence of last March, I fully agree with your article in today’s Globe and Mail. Omar Khadr belongs to an obnoxious and deservedly unpopular family but, as you have pointed out before, citizenship is not a popularity contest.

I also want to bring you up to date on the Lost Canadians: people who are excluded from citizenship or are having difficulty claiming it, because of obscure technicalities in the citizenship law.

The passage of Bill C-37, which came into force last April 17th, was by any standard a remarkable political achievement for a loosely-organized group with little political clout. Since April 17th, former Lost Canadians have been claiming their citizenship and some of those living abroad are planning to take up residence in Canada. On the negative side, we still have about 80 people who are excluded (sadly, we had a couple of deaths in 2009). These are the known cases; there may well be more. (A back-bench Conservative M.P. has told me there may be as many as 200.) Among them are out-of-wedlock War Bride children, and Mennonites born in Mexico or Paraguay who are excluded because their parents’ and in some cases their grandparents’ religious marriages outside Canada were not recognized by the civil law.

The Minister continues to ignore us. He is said to have a list of 18 priorities, none of which has anything to do with citizenship. Last Oct. 22 a small group of Lost Canadians and supporters (I among them) gathered in Ottawa for a news conference and a demonstration (in heavy rain) in front of the Parliament Buildings. To view Terry Milewski’s report for The National, click below (note the Minister’s dismissive comment):

In this video clip, Don Chapman, the chief advocate for the Lost Canadians, speaks about the remaining 81 cases (You will note in particular his remarks on the continuing discrimination against women in our citizenship law.):

Jacqueline Scott is a War Bride child who is excluded from citizenship solely because she was born out of wedlock, even though her parents later married. To read her story, click below:

We’re also finding War Bride children who were born in wedlock but are still having difficulty claiming their citizenship and now, as they turn 65, collecting their Old Age Security Pension. Below are two recent cases: one here in London, the other in New Brunswick.

Both cases are sadly typical of the shabby treatment some War Bride children have received over the years. There will be more such cases in 2010 as another age cohort of War Bride children turns 65. The problem with this group that the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946 (s. 4) gave them the status of ‘natural-born Canadian citizens’, which to me means they are deemed born in Canada, but because they were in fact born outside Canada they don’t have Canadian birth certificates. Those who have never travelled outside North America have never had to prove their citizenship. Now, 63 years after the fact, they are being told to apply for Certificates of Canadian Citizenship. On the face of it this is not unreasonable, but the required supporting documents from other countries can be expensive and difficult to obtain.

I believe the government has made a political calculation that this problem will eventually solve itself by natural attrition. (‘Oh well, they’ll all be dead in a few years, so who cares?’) What a shabby, cynical way to make citizenship policy or indeed any public policy.

We’re still pursuing the political route but are also preparing legal arguments for a possible class-action suit in the Federal Court. If that happens, the Minister will find himself defending the indefensible. He may win legally, but not politically.. Either way, the egg will be on his face, not ours.

I know of no other democratic country that has treated a comparable group in this insulting, unconscionable and politically indefensible way. Why Canada?

Yours truly,

Robert Addington

___ Her Response ____

From: Audrey Macklin
Sent: 2-Feb-10 10:26 AM
Subject: RE: A chance to do the right thing

Thanks for the update!