Ian Munroe's parents on their wedding day June 19, 1944. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration wants to know if their son Ian, now age 65, was born before they were married or after. His citizenship depends on it.
(Chester, Nova Scotia - March 20, 2011) - A Nova Scotia man who came to Canada in June 1946 with his war bride mother has made a complaint of family status discrimination against the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (CIM).
Ian Munroe's complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission is the first of its kind in Canada and points to a controversial section of the Citizenship Act which allows for discrimination against war bride children who were born out of wedlock overseas during World War Two.
It also follows on the heels of an announcement by federal Liberal citizenship critic, Justin Trudeau, who called for changes to the Act on Friday.
“To have people treated differently depending on which parent had Canadian citizenship or whether or not their parents were married is anachronistic at best, and at worst, a violation of the Charter," Mr. Trudeau said.
Ian Munroe lives in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia. His father was a Canadian World War Two veteran and his mother a war bride from Paisley, Scotland. His parents were married in Scotland on June 19, 1944 and Ian was born more than a year later in Greenock on September 15, 1945. Ian and his mother arrived at Pier 21 on the Queen Mary and he has lived in Canada his entire life - but 65 years later, he still doesn't have his citizenship.
Ian went to school in Canada, married and raised a family. He even served 18 years in the Canadian Navy - but he has been fighting to have his citizenship recognized for more than 25 years since being told he wasn't a citizen. He's written letters to the editor, appeared on television and radio and has lobbied Conservative, Liberal and NDP Members of Parliament for help, all to no avail. When his best friend died in Maine, USA, three years ago, he didn't attend the funeral because he couldn't get a passport.
In November, 2010, Mr. Munroe was advised to apply to CIM for "Proof of Citizenship". He knew that some war bride children were having problems because they were born out of wedlock so he wrote a detailed cover letter and attached more than a dozen archival documents including his parents birth certificates, their wedding certificate, and his own birth certificate.
Two weeks ago, on March 8, Ian received a call from Stella Holiday, a CIM employee, asking whether he was born before or after his parents married in Scotland in 1944.
Ian says it's ironic that Ms. Holiday chose the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day to ask him such a private question about his family status when it is so obviously a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
"The fact that some bureaucrat at CIM can take away your citizenship if you were born out of wedlock 65 years ago makes me wonder what my father was fighting for during World War Two," Ian says. "Believe me, I know from experience: when you don't have citizenship, you're nothing."
Munroe doesn't know why Ms. Holiday phoned him up to ask about his family status when she had all the documentation which clearly show that he was born in wedlock. "I was born more than a year after my parents were married, but it's the principle of the matter that makes me boiling mad. I can't believe the government has the gall to ask me that question in the first place and what's worse, that they would use such a flimsy excuse to deny citizenship to any war bride child who happened to be born out of wedlock during the war!"
Munroe has an advocate in Don Chapman, the leader of the Lost Canadians. Chapman was born in Vancouver in 1954 and lost his citizenship when his father moved the family to the United States in 1961.
"There are 12 ways to lose your citizenship and being born out of wedlock to a war bride and a Canadian serviceman overseas is just one of them," says Chapman. "The Canadian government has been discriminating against war bride children since the end of World War Two and it's time that human rights activists and leaders of the women's movement demand a stop to it."
Chapman says the discrimination is larger than just the Canadian Human Rights Act: "It is in violation of Section 15 - the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, two Supreme Court decisions and numerous international human rights covenants to which Canada is a signatory including the Convention on the Rights of the Child."
Melynda Jarratt is a war bride historian from Fredericton, New Brunswick who has written extensively on the issue of so called "War Children" of World War Two. She says CIM applies a "Victorian moral code" to war bride children who were born out of wedlock overseas during the war.
"In the 1940s, it was socially unacceptable to have pre-marital sex and the unfortunate woman who found herself pregnant and unwed was a social outcast and her baby a 'bastard'. There were few options for unwed mothers and more often than not she had to give the baby up for adoption or else face the disapproval of her family, the Church and state."
Jarratt says times have changed for women and children's rights and there are few Canadians who don't have a divorced or single parent in the family. But she calls the "silence" from women's rights groups "deafening to the extreme".
"No politician or human rights activist today would dare defend such discrimination but it is happening all the time at the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and nobody with the authority or power to do anything about is taking a stand," says Jarratt. "I hope the Munroe case will wake up Canadians to the discrimination that is happening right here on their own doorstep to war bride children who were brought here at the invitation of the Canadian government in 1946."