After working to change Canada’s citizenship law for most of his adult life, Gibsons’ resident Don Chapman is “guardedly optimistic” that proposed reform to the existing Act will finally allow many Lost Canadians to assume their rightful status as Canadian citizens.
While the main gist of the new legislation, Bill C-24 — the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, introduced in the House of Commons on Feb. 7 — is to make it tougher to become a Canadian citizen as well as regulate citizenship consultants, the Bill will also help people born before 1947 and previously denied citizenship.
Chapman, who worked with prior Conservative citizenship minister Diane Finley and the rest of her committee to bring about changes to the Act in April 2009, continued to work for people who still fell through legislative cracks. Now seniors, the men and women are people who, in many instances, were children born out of wedlock to Canadian servicemen or the offspring of Canadian women who married foreigners. In many instances, the would-be citizens came to Canada as children with their war-bride mothers but ended up returning to their country of birth when their parents’ marriages soured.
One of the cases Chapman championed over the years was that of Jackie Scott. Because of illness, Scott was unable to come to Canada immediately after the Second World War, and although her parents were married, the two-year delay meant that Scott wasn’t automatically granted citizenship along with many of her peers. And while she worked and lived in Canada for most of her life, she found out she was not considered a Canadian citizen under the present law. The new legislation is expected to correct this.
While Chapman’s knowledge of Canadian citizenship law gleaned over several decades is second to none, he was not asked to contribute to either former minister Jason Kenney’s or current Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s citizenship committees.
“They refused to meet with me. No explanation was given,” Chapman said.
However local MP John Weston (West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country) has earned kudos from the new citizenship minister.
“Thanks to [Weston’s] efforts, our government has taken firm action on the issue. Bill C-24 … would not have been the historic reform it is without John’s continuing contributions,” Alexander said in a news release.
Chapman is happy that the decades he has devoted to helping Canadians like himself who lost their citizenship through no fault of their own appears to finally be fully rectified. Chapman, who was born in Canada, ceased to be a Canadian at age eight when his father became an American citizen as necessitated by his job in the U.S. Although the younger man had his citizenship restored in the 2009 reformed Act, he continued to fight for the remaining Lost Canadians. Now, with tweaks, he believes the new legislation will right a good many wrongs to innocent Canadians.
More information is available at www.cic.gc.ca about the new legislation, which is expected to clear up application backlogs and eliminate red tape.