Halifax Chronicle Herald: Who stands on guard for lost Canadians?

Who stands on guard for lost Canadians?

Wed. Mar 10

Click here to read original article in the Halifax Chronicle Herald

We weren’t surprised to see the Harper government take advantage of last week’s throne speech to make an announcement that would appeal to women, since International Women’s Day (March 8) was around the corner.

We were surprised, however, to discover that the Conservative plan to even out the patriarchal playing field consisted, briefly, of striking a parliamentary committee to study proposed changes to our national anthem! Apparently, Stephen Harper was so concerned about gender discrimination in Canada that he wanted to replace "In all thy sons command" with "Thou dost in us command." When it comes to gender discrimination, Stephen Harper has a lot more to be concerned about than five words in our national anthem.

We know of at least 100 Canadian-born men and women, their children and grandchildren whose citizenship is not recognized because of gender discrimination that is openly practised at Canada’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC). Not only is it a flagrant violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a Supreme Court decision (Benner v. Canada), but it contradicts the spirit of numerous United Nations Conventions on Human Rights to which Canada is a signatory.

If your connection to Canada is through a female Canadian — a grandmother or mother — your application for citizenship will be turned down. But if your connection is male — grandfather or father — welcome aboard.

Here we are, in the second decade of the 21st century, and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney defends this discriminatory practice, and even endorses it by refusing to change the offending sections of the act.

The victims of this discrimination are young and old, male and female, Canadian-born and foreign-born children of Canadians. They include 83-year-old Quebec-born Second World War veteran Guy Valliere, who died in February 2009 waiting for his citizenship to be recognized; and three-year-old Casey Neal, a cute toddler who was born in the United States and whose application was turned down at Christmas because her Canadian connection is through her grandmother. Yet Casey’s adorable cousin, two-year-old Darcey Miller, who was also born in the U.S., had no problem obtaining Canadian citizenship last year because his connection is through his grandfather.
Senator Lorna Milne, on March 8, 2009, International Women’s Day, raised the issue in the Senate:

Senator Milne: Honourable senators, it is International Women’s Week, in 2009, and this Conservative government is still actively discriminating against women.

Senator Manning: No.

Senator Tkachuk: No.

Senator Milne: … Less than a month ago, a Canadian World War II veteran … died while still disenfranchised in his own country. The only reason for his disenfranchisement is that he was born to a Canadian mother and an American father. Due to the arcane provisions of the Citizenship Act, it is much easier to obtain and regain Canadian citizenship if your relationship to Canada is through a man instead of a woman. Can the leader of the government in the Senate explain why … a father’s family is more important than a mother’s in determining citizenship?

It has been one year since Senator Milne brought up this issue in the Red Chamber and nothing has changed. Can the prime minister explain why, in 2010, Canadian citizens are still being discriminated against on the basis of gender by CIC? And as progressive women and men celebrate women’s achievements during International Women’s Week, can the many activists who know about this issue explain why they have not come to the defence of their sisters and brothers who are the victims of gender discrimination at CIC?

Melynda Jarratt is a historian and authority on Canadian War Brides, who is writing a book on the Lost Canadians. Don Chapman is the leader of the Lost Canadians.