Telegraph Journal: Miramichi-born senior citizen says she'll continue to push for her Canadian citizenship

Page A5, Benjamin Shingler, Telegraph-Journal

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MIRAMICHI - Sitting in her tidy Miramichi bungalow, Theresa Kenney smiles as she clutches a small Canadian flag.

The energetic 94-year-old has been fighting to be recognized as a Canadian citizen ever since she returned to her country of birth six years ago.

Born in Miramichi, Kenny moved to Boston, Mass. with her mother when she was 13 years old, shortly after her father died.

She has lived in the United States for most of her life, most recently in Florida, but returned to Miramichi in 2004.

Later this fall, Kenney expects to finally receive her permanent residency status, which means her medical treatments will be covered under medicare.

But she is concerned she may have to wait several more years before finally being recognized as a Canadian citizen.

"If I have to wait another three years, I may not be around to receive it. I may have gone to the other side," says Kenney, a former Catholic nun and retired school teacher.

When the time comes, Kenney says she plans to be buried at the fabled St Michael's Cemetery in Miramichi, in a plot next to her father's.

"I love Canada," she says. "And I wanted to be near my father."

Kenney says she filed all the necessary paperwork long ago, but was told it had been misplaced, forcing further delays and meetings with immigration officials in Moncton.

Her local MLA Bill Fraser, along with outgoing Minister of State for Seniors Cheryl Lavoie, has been pressing Ottawa to speed up the process.

Fraser says he has been following her case since 2007, but grew increasingly concerned earlier this year after Kenney injured her hand, and found that she couldn't receive proper medical attention because she wasn't covered under medicare.

"I called immigration myself, and they said, 'It takes many, many years,' and I said, 'She doesn't have many years," recalls Fraser, who was re-elected last month as the Liberal MLA for Miramichi-Bay du Vin.

"When she passes away, she wants to be buried as a Canadian citizen in Chatham."

Kenney's situation is not uncommon, according to citizenship advocate Don Chapman.

He says hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens have been stripped of their citizenship by "arcane provisions" of the 1947 Citizenship Act.

Chapman says there are at least a dozen ways for Canadians to lose their citizenship.

In Kenney's case, she appears to have complicated matters because she became an American citizen prior to 1977.

"If we are truly going to be the compassionate and caring country we believe that we are, then this is kind of situation that we need to address," says Chapman, who is pushing the federal government to reform the system.

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration did not return a request for comment Thursday.

"If I had known this process would have taken as long as it has, I probably never would have started it," Kenney says. "If I was a good politician, I would try to simplify it."