Citizenship Minister Jason Kenny Challenges Lost Canadians

Colin McPhail, Editor-in-Chief of The Brunswickan and Don Chapman, Fredericton, NB, November 6, 2010.

On November 3, 2010, the editor of the University of New Brunswick's student newspaper The Brunswickan wrote a feature article on Lost Canadians called "Lost Canadians The Biggest Story You've Never Heard".

While there were, admittedly, some factual errors in the article, the editor gladly made the changes to the on-line version which you can read here.

Little did we know that the Bruns article went all the way up the food chain to the Minister of Citizenship, Jason Kenney himself, prompting the Minister to write a letter to the editor of the Bruns in which he issued a challenge to Don Chapman to substantiate his allegations of discrimination against the Lost Canadians. WEll, there's nothing we love better than a challenge, so here we go.

Below is the Letter to the Editor from Minister Kenney, followed by two responses, one from Don Chapman and the other from War Bride historian, Melynda Jarratt.

Lost Canadians: claims don't match the facts
The Honourable Jason Kenney - Submitted

November 10, 2010 5:00 AM ADT

Dear Editor:

Click here to read the original Letter to the Editor

The editorial "Lost Canadians: the biggest story you've never heard" contains factual errors that create confusion about a serious subject.

Our government has taken significant and concrete action to help all of the "Lost Canadians" including making significant changes to the law in 2009. I challenge Mr. Chapman to tell us how he has determined there are hundreds of thousands of "Lost Canadians." This figure is sensational and cannot be substantiated.

I also challenge Mr. Chapman to explain how he determines that Canadian law has left a multitude of stateless babies. This is also sensational. His example of a baby born in Japan to a born-abroad father and his Canadian wife is false. The child would be a Canadian citizen under both the 1977 law and the law amended in 2009.

In addition, the information given by Mr. Chapman in regard to Senator Dallaire and certain other cases does not match our records.
It is true that many people will be turning 65 in the next few years and some will be asked for a proof of Canadian citizenship when they apply for pension benefits.

This does not mean they are not citizens - just that a certificate that proves citizenship is required before benefits can be received.

I only wish Mr. Chapman had more regard for the facts than fear-mongering that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are about to lose their citizenship.
The Honourable Jason Kenney
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

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Lost Canadians: Let the dialogue begin

Letters to the Editor

Click here to read the original Letter to the Editor

It’s the wrong way for dialogue, but for the first time, Mr. Kenney, you’re communicating. Hopefully this signals a start.

Regarding your letter to the editor, I fully agree that the story contained many factual errors. After it was printed, I met with the writer to point out his mistakes, and he gladly agreed to print the corrections. That happened days before your letter accusing me of being “sensational” and “fear-mongering.” I did no such thing. Besides, when have you ever accepted every word in the press as being factual? Often reporters just get the story wrong. And then sometimes so do Citizenship Ministers.

To clarify, there’s nothing close to a million ‘stateless’ people. Of course not.

However, there could be upwards of one-million ‘Lost Canadians.’ No one will ever really know the actual numbers, but last August your own department admitted that there were at least 750,000. You challenged me to tell you how I determined there being “hundreds of thousands of Lost Canadians,” saying the figure “cannot be substantiated,” here’s how I did it… Last Mar. 8 during question period on the floor of the House of Commons, you spoke these exact words, as published in the Hansard, “This government, Parliament and the Liberal Party adopted Bill C-37 in the last Parliament to correct the Citizenship Act to welcome back to Canadian citizenship hundreds of thousands of lost Canadians.”

You, Minister Kenney, you are my substantiation.

Stateless babies. We know there were at least three, now at least two. Ireland, not Canada and certainly not you, came to the rescue for one of those children. The point here is that under current law and under certain circumstances, immigrant Canadian citizens actually have more rights than Canadian-born citizens. I proposed a solution which would have respected equality of rights for all Canadians, would have avoided the stateless problem for these three Canadian families, and preserve the value of citizenship by not allowing ‘citizenship of convenience.’ Two years ago when I forewarned you of this, you refused to listen.

Regarding Senator Dallaire, just because CIC has no record of his citizenship problems doesn’t mean it did not happen. Senator Dallaire has agreed to go on record with me in a Voice America broadcast of In Discussion with David Gibbons later this month, where he will tell his own story of being a Lost Canadian. I invite you to join us.

You admit there are potential problems for Canadians and their pension benefits. I’m not suggesting that everyone who can’t prove their citizenship is not a Canadian.

Most are, but if you won’t recognize them, what’s the point of being a citizen when the privileges that go with it are being denied, including hard-earned pensions?

Will you correct the pension problem now or wait till Canadians are adversely affected, as you did with the stateless babies? And what happens to those people you deny?

Bill C-37 welcomed “hundreds of thousands” of Lost Canadians. That was for the most part a Conservative victory. Diane Finley said it covered 95 per cent of the people. Put another way, it left out 5 per cent. As an airline pilot we’re never satisfied with leaving people behind - the heroics on the Hudson River a prime example.

Everyone got rescued. Similarly, you have a wonderful opportunity to welcome back the last 5 per cent. Are there 1,000 or 10,000 people so affected? No one knows, but you are ignoring them for the worst of reasons - maybe because they were born out-of wedlock, or before 1947 or because of gender discrimination against women. You knowingly allowed Guy Valliere to die without citizenship. Guy was born, grew-up, lived, had a family and even fought for Canada in WWII. He did not deserve to go to his grave disenfranchised.

You did that Mr. Kenney, and you were wrong.

You’re also wrong in allowing any sort of discrimination to continue. Current citizenship law, as you interpret it, violates two Supreme Court decisions, three UN Conventions on human rights, our Constitution and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I challenge you to prove my statement wrong. I also challenge you to a public debate - the loser issues a public apology and the winner being the Canadian public.

Two years ago you became Canada’s Citizenship Minister and ever since have refused to meet with me. You’ve ‘challenged’ me very publicly and I gladly accept. Would you like to meet in Ottawa, at a public debate, In Discussion with David Gibbons, the newsroom of the Brunswickan? Just tell me where and when? My objective is to fix defective law to make citizenship more secure and your government more accepting.

Let’s hope you feel likewise. Credit will go to where credit is due, meaning you can be the hero. Correct the law and I go away. It would also give true meaning to Stephen Harper’s words of a few weeks ago, “we believe that a government must work in the interest of its people, not the other way around.”

Minister Kenney, you and the Prime Minister have the power to put the Lost Canadian issue to bed. Why not just do it?

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Don Chapman

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Lost Canadians: Minister gets it wrong

Letter to the Editor

Click here to read the original Letter to the Editor

I was surprised, if not amused, to see the Letter to the Editor from Hon. Jason Kenney the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, which appeared in the Brunswickan last week in response to Colin McPhail’s feature “Lost Canadians: the biggest story you’ve never heard” (November 3, 2010).

Surprised, because it’s one of those rare occasions since Mr. Kenney became Minister of Citizenship in Oct. 2008 that he’s actually said anything on the Lost Canadian file. Amused, because he chose The Brunswickan as the place to make his stand.

Unlike his predecessor, the former Minister of Citizenship Diane Finley, Mr. Kenney has been eerily silent on the issue, refusing to dialogue with Don Chapman, who as leader of the Lost Canadians brought about significant and mostly positive changes to the Citizenship Act in 2009 with the introduction of Bill C-37, the Lost Canadian bill.

However, even Diane Finley had to admit when the bill was introduced in April 2008 that it did not embrace all the Lost Canadians, and that about five percent would remain “Lost,” their cases dealt with on an individual basis.

These five percent include the born out of wedlock children of War Brides and Canadian servicemen who married after the baby was born. It also includes the born-abroad children of Canadian women who cannot pass on citizenship because of gender and a new group of babies who have been made stateless since April 2009 due to a quirk of the legislation that creates statelessness in second generation born abroad Canadians.

This is the truth, but I don’t see mention of that in Mr. Kenney’s Letter to the Editor. Instead of setting the record straight, I get the feeling that the purpose of Mr. Kenney’s letter was to take a political jab at Don Chapman in a forum where his communications people thought he wouldn’t get much resistance.

Yes, Mr. Kenney is correct in saying there were some factual errors and typos in the original article (which were corrected last Sunday in consultation with the Editor and now appear in the on line version at These are the kind of mistakes which happen when an enthusiastic young person tries to grapple with a huge subject like the Lost Canadians in one sitting. It’s not for the feint-hearted and I give credit to the writer for taking on the task.

But the fact is that much of the original article accurately reflected the issue of marital status and gender discrimination of these remaining five percent of Lost Canadians which is a violation of the Charter, two Supreme Court Decisions (Benner 1997 and Augier 2004), the Legitimation Act of 1921, three United Nations Conventions on Human Rights and the rule of law: you’ll notice the Minister makes no mention of those points in his letter.

Rather, he chooses to criticize Mr. Chapman and call him a fear-mongerer for telling the truth about the numbers of Lost Canadians 750,000 to one million, numbers which come from Mr. Kenney’s own Department) and the fact that pensioners should be worried if they can’t prove their citizenship. Well, it’s the truth. If they are among the five percent, their pensions could be at risk - even Jason Kenney agrees with that and I quote from his own Letter to the Editor: “A certificate that proves citizenship is required before benefits can be received.”

What makes the Minister’s letter even more interesting is how he chose to dispute Mr. Chapman’s statements about Lost Canadians in a student run newspaper but has failed, time and time again, to challenge Mr. Chapman in other publications including the Vancouver Observer, which won the Canadian Online Publishers Award in September for best article - beating out the Globe and Mail and CBC mind you - for its 10 part investigative series on Lost Canadians. Why hasn’t Mr. Kenney written a Letter to the Editor of that newspaper?

Again, correct me if I am wrong, but it’s my understanding that Mr. Kenney also didn’t bother to dispute Mr. Chapman’s statements in newspapers, television and radio internationally and nationally, from Voice America, The Economist and the United Nations Refugee Magazine, to the Vancouver Sun, the Toronto Sun, the Montreal Gazette, CBC Television and Radio, the Tom Young Show, the Telegraph Journal and even locally, the Daily Gleaner, to name just a few of the media outlets which have covered essentially the same story that appeared in the Brunswickan last week.

I am left to assume that the only reason he chose to dispute the Brunswickan article is because his people at CIC thought they could bully a young university newspaper editor easier than they could the editor of any other newspaper in this country.

About the only good thing to come out of Mr. Kenney’s Letter to the Editor is that he opened the door to dialogue: I for one am looking forward to Mr. Kenney opening the door even wider and accepting an invitation to discuss the problems facing these five percent of Lost Canadians whose rights are being trampled on by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

Melynda Jarratt War Bride historian, author and supporter of the Lost Canadians