Thousands of so-called "Lost Canadians" may have their day in court if a woman who's waited years to establish her own Canadian citizenship pursues a class-action lawsuit.
Jackie Scott, 68, went to court after she was refused citizenship despite having come to Canada with her British mother and her Canadian father at age two and spending most of her life here.
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A judicial review of that denial was to have started Monday in Vancouver, but as proceedings got under way, Scott chose to put the review on hold so she and her lawyers could expand the court action. Scott had initially asked the court to determine whether she was a citizen or not.
But "it's not just about me," Scott said afterward, saying she couldn't in good conscience become a Canadian without doing everything she can to help other "lost" individuals.
Scott was born in England in 1945 to a Canadian serviceman father and British mother and later came to Canada. The government claims Scott's dad was a British subject at the time because Canada's first citizenship act didn't come into effect until 1947.
"What happened today is quite interesting and it's going to result in a historic decision as to what a Canadian is and when Canadians actually came into being," one of Scott's lawyers, James
Straith, said. "What we hope to do now is come back and get a final order from the court where the court finds not just in Jackie Scott's case, but in every one of these cases of Lost Canadians."
The government argued in a written response to Scott's application for judicial review that "Canadian citizenship is a creation of federal statute. In order to become a Canadian citizen, a person must satisfy the applicable statutory requirements."
Straith said he finds that claim very troubling. If the government is "able to maintain that citizenship is only something that is defined by Parliament, and not simply defined by the law and Constitution of Canada, then they have a lot more flexibility on what they can do with citizenship and where they can allow and deny citizenship," said Straith.
Scott's decision to expand the court action came after Judge Luc Martineau refused to allow a government document to be brought before the court. The document - a 1943 pamphlet issued to Canadian soldiers - deals "with the historic rights of Canadians as they were going overseas," said Straith.
It states that the soldiers "were fighting as citizens of Canada, not as merely British subjects," he said.
But due to the narrow nature of a judicial review, such a document isn't permitted. Scott and her lawyers decided a trial setting could lead to a more meaningful ruling.