|Jackie Scott is the daughter of a Canadian War Bride|
and a Canadian Second World War veteran who has
been denied Canadian citizenship because she was
born out of wedlock before 1947.
Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK , THE CANADIAN PRESS
Jackie Scott should not need to go to court to get the Canadian citizenship that is hers by right, and which she eminently deserves.
Scott, who is 68, is one of the thousands of so-called Lost Canadians who have been denied citizenship because of a quirk in the law that should not be countenanced in today’s Canada.
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Scott’s father, John Ellis, put his life on the line to fight for Canada during the Second World War. At the time, even though Canada was a bona fide country, its citizens were considered British subjects. But born in Canada, John Ellis had no doubt he was a Canadian, going to war for his country. The Canadian government itself thought so in 1943. A document issued by the Department of National Defence on the “historic rights of Canadians as they were going overseas,” stated that the soldiers “were fighting as citizens of Canada, not as merely British subjects.”
So there was no doubt when John Ellis was going to war that he was Canadian. While abroad, he fell in love with a British woman and had a child with her out of wedlock. The family moved to Canada in 1948 and they got married. But the year before, when Canada finally passed its own citizenship laws to make Canadians Canadian, it limited citizenship to war children born out of wedlock after 1947, the year Canadians were formally recognized as citizens. Those like Scott, who were born before 1947, didn’t make the cut. Scott actually didn’t find out she wasn’t Canadian until 2005, when she was denied a citizenship certificate. She fought to get her citizenship, but the government claimed that because her soldier-father was “British” when she was born in 1945, she doesn’t qualify to be Canadian. This was the same soldier that according to the DND in 1943, went to war as a Canadian citizen. Clearly one arm of the government didn’t know what the other arm was doing. And the fact that she was born out of wedlock also counted against her, never mind that this is 21st century Canada, not 19th-century Victorian Britain.
“My father fought for Canada. Why should they deny his daughter what really should be hers?” Scott once told the CBC.
“They consider me to be, in this day and age, a bastard. That’s how they still deem me. And I’ve been denied based on that.”
Scott deserves better, as do other war babies born out of wedlock. It is totally unacceptable that some children of soldiers who fought for Canada in the Second World War and have lived in this country for decades are still denied citizenship based on some archaic and absurd notion of puritanism.
The whole mess stems from changes made to the citizenship laws in 1977 that denied citizenship for thousands of people who came to be known as “Lost Canadians.” These included people denied citizenship for being born abroad and out of wedlock in the case of those with a Canadian father, or being born to a Canadian mother who had no right to pass citizenship to her child. Others included children who lost their citizenship because their parents moved to countries like the U.S. and became citizens.
In fairness, the government revamped the law in 2009, allowing about 750,000 “lost Canadians” to get back their citizenship, but many still fell through the cracks. The war children remain some of the thousands who are basically stateless.
Canadian citizenship is something to be valued and treated with pride, and the government has every right to guard it jealously to ensure that only those who are deserving, get it.
But none is more deserving of Canadian citizenship than Jackie Scott, as well as the battalion of other children of servicemen and women who fought for Canada. These Canadians — and yes, they are Canadian — deserve better from their government.
The new minister of citizenship and immigration should act immediately to give these people what rightfully belongs to them. It is the decent thing to do.
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