CBC: Teenage surfing star Erin Brooks granted Canadian citizenship, now sets sights on Olympics

 Texas-born 16-year-old has Canadian ties through her father, grandfather

Teenage surfing prodigy Erin Brooks has won her fight for Canadian citizenship, opening the door for her to compete for Canada at the Paris Olympics.

The 16-year-old Brooks was born in Texas and grew up in Hawaii but has Canadian ties through her American-born father Jeff, who is a dual American-Canadian citizen, and her grandfather who was born and raised in Montreal.

Brooks's citizenship bid was initially turned down. But Immigration Minister Marc Miller had a change of heart after a December ruling by Ontario's Superior Court of Justice that it is unconstitutional for Canada to deny automatic citizenship to the children of foreign-born Canadians who grew up abroad.

To read original article, visit CBC.

The Brooks family then refiled its application under a hardship status, based on the recommendation of the Immigration Department, to accelerate the process.

"I love Canada. I have never been prouder to wear the Maple Leaf," Erin Brooks said in a statement released by the family. "To Minister Marc Miller and MP Jenny Kwan, you have changed my life. I believe that I will do something truly special for my country thanks to your gift of citizenship."

Kwan, the NDP's immigration critic, helped advocate for Brooks.

Author Don Chapman, who has spent years working to change the existing citizenship laws, broke the news to the young surfer by phone.

"She just broke down in tears She was just so excited " Jeff Brooks said from California where his daughter had been competing. "It was a really special moment."

The last opportunity to qualify for the Olympics is at the ISA World Championships in Puerto Rico in February.

Brooks is considered by many a potential challenger for a medal at the Olympics due to the heavy left-hand barrel conditions at Teahupo'o in Tahiti, where the Olympic surfing event is being held.

She won a silver medal at the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador in June and gold at the ISA World Junior Championships in June 2022.

Dom Domic, Surf Canada's executive director, welcomed the citizenship news.

"After over four years, it looks like the Brooks's finally have their happy ending," he said in an email. "I am personally over the moon that Minister Miller will make right the past wrongs and finally our lost Canadians will officially be welcomed home to where they have always belonged."

Brooks's long road to Canadian citizenship

Canada's citizenship laws are complex, with amendments changing the rules in 2009 and 2015. But essentially Bill C-37 in 2009 ended the extension of citizenship to second-generations born abroad.

In an October letter explaining its decision not to grant a "discretionary grant of citizenship," Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says Brooks did not meet the requirements.

"The application is refused on the basis that the applicant is not stateless, has not experienced special or unusual hardship or provided services of an exceptional value to Canada which warrants a discretionary grant of Canadian citizenship," the letter stated.

It was the latest in a series of setbacks for the Brooks family.

Their home in Lahaina on Maui burned down during the recent wildfires and Brooks' mother is battling cancer. The family now calls Tofino, B.C., home when not on the road nine to 10 months a year with their daughter.

The Canadian Olympic Committee also backed Brooks' bid for citizenship with CEO David Shoemaker saying the teenager has demonstrated "her sincere commitment to compete for Canada and to be Canadian."

In March 2022, Surfing Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee petitioned the International Surfing Association (ISA) to allow Brooks to compete for Canada as her citizenship application had been filed, but not completed.

The ISA granted the request but changed its mind last June, saying "this decision was taken incorrectly and not in accordance with the applicable ISA rules."

The ISA suspended Brooks's eligibility to compete for Canada, saying it would re-evaluate the decision if "proof of citizenship with a verified document from the Canadian government, was provided.

That prevented Brooks from competing at the Pan Am Games and the ISA World Championships. She has continued to compete in the World Surf League's Qualifying Series.

Brooks's talents in demand

Brooks has been contacted by other countries interested in her talents.

Her grandmother, on her mother's side, is a German citizen and there are also Italian ties. Her father's side of the family also has Irish bloodlines.

Canada failed to qualify a surfer for the Tokyo Olympics, where surfing made its debut at the games.

Canadian Cody Young did get a last-minute call-up to the Tokyo games due to a COVID 19-related opening. But the Hawaii-based athlete wasn't able to get there in time due to pandemic-related travel logistics.

The Brooks family leaves Monday for Hawaii to continue Brooks' training. After next month's competition in Puerto Rico, she is due to travel to Australia and Fiji.

To read original article, visit CBC.

The good news arrived Saturday morning: After a protracted battle and initial rejection by Ottawa, 16-year-old surfing phenom Erin Brooks will become a Canadian citizen. It means she can compete under the Canadian flag at the International Surfing Association World Championships next month in Puerto Rico, which is the last chance to qualify for the Olympics this summer. Some peg her as a medal favourite.

To read original article, visit National Post.

“One of the most exciting surfers on the planet,” is how a commentator describes Brooks in a video of her Friday performance at the World Surf League’s World Junior Championships in San Diego. For the benefit of surfing ignoramuses like myself, Dom Domic, executive director of Surf Canada, likens her to Sidney Crosby — someone who “was on the radar super-early (in life) and followed through on it.”

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“She’s that big a deal,” says Domic. “She literally will change the game.”

“I have never been prouder to wear the Maple Leaf,” Brooks said on Saturday, thanking Immigration Minister Marc Miller for his decision, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan for advocating on her behalf, and “the entire group of amazing Canadians that supported me.” (Brooks had competed under the Canadian flag in the past, though surfing bureaucrats eventually ruled she had been ineligible to do so.) “I believe that I will do something truly special for my country thanks to your gift of citizenship.”

Erin Brooks also may go down in history as the most high-profile initial beneficiary of a significant change in Canadian citizenship law. By rights, this should be good news for a lot of other families.

Brooks’s father, Jeff, is Canadian; her grandfather is a born-and-raised Montrealer. But Jeff was born in the United States, and because Erin was also born in the United States, the Citizenship Act’s so-called “second generation born abroad” rule kicked in: Jeff couldn’t automatically pass on his citizenship to his daughter, the way it had been passed on to him. (Erin grew up in Hawaii, but the family is now based in Tofino, B.C.)

The Minister of Immigration can grant citizenship to anyone he wants with the stroke of a pen. But in October, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) turned down Brooks’s application for a “discretionary grant of citizenship” on grounds “the applicant is not stateless, has not experienced special or unusual hardship or provided services of an exceptional value to Canada.”

Last month, however, the Federal Court quashed the second-generation-born-abroad provision. Justice Jasmine Akbarali found that it violated Charter protections of mobility rights and equal treatment under the law and codified a “lesser class of citizenship” — i.e., one that does not pass on automatically to foreign-born children. It’s a distinction that even divides siblings who have lived mostly identical lives: If one was born abroad and the other in Canada, their citizenships are not equally transferrable.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marc Miller declined this week to say whether the government might appeal that ruling. But Saturday’s decision, in light of IRCC’s earlier refusal to treat her as a special case, suggests not. Domic says he hopes “all the lost Canadians” get the same relief as Brooks. (Citizenship-rights crusader Don Chapman coined the term “lost Canadians” to refer to various classes of people denied citizenship over many decades thanks Canada’s needlessly Byzantine citizenship laws.)

As Domic tells it, Brooks’s single-minded determination to surf for Canada stems from a chance encounter she had a few years ago with Canadian pro surfer Sanoa Dempfle-Olin on the north shore of Oahu. “Erin came running up to her going ‘oh, are you Canadian? My family’s Canadian. That’s so cool.’”

Having gotten to know the Brooks family and seen Erin’s tremendous potential, Dempfle-Olin got in touch with Domic, Domic got in touch with Erin’s father, and the citizenship mission began. “She has had some very lucrative offers from other countries that she hasn’t even really taken a look at because she wants to represent Canada,” Jeff Brooks told The Canadian Press in October. “I think the only way we would look at (them) is if the door to Canada was completely closed.”

A moot point now.

This is the sort of story that sometimes leads to calls for special treatment. After IRCC’s rejection in October, CBC Sports columnist Shireen Ahmed noted ample precedent for Canadian immigration ministers granting citizenship to elite athletes in advance of major competitions such as the Olympics. “Why wouldn’t Canada want a talented, young athlete as one of its citizens?” the headline on his column asked. And it’s a fair question.

But the second-generation-born-abroad rule created much more sympathetic victims: Divided families, arguably stateless infantsexpectant Canadian expat mothers who had intended to return home to give birth but were trapped abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic. The children caught up in those ordeals are no less deserving of citizenship just because — like most children — they can’t ice dance, play table tennis or surf at an elite level.

Canada’s housing crisis is complicating the immigration narrative somewhat, but most everyone still agrees a significant level of immigration is critical to Canada’s future. With immigration targets in the hundreds of thousands, it’s simply madness that the Citizenship Act and IRCC have made a few obviously Canadian families’ lives so needlessly difficult over the years, simply because they want their children to be Canadian too. Let’s hope those days are over.

To read original article, visit National Post.


Erin Brooks also may go down in history as 

National Post: 'Lost Canadians' beat Ottawa in court over Charter violations that never should have happened


The immigration minister can grant anyone citizenship he likes and yet the simplest, lowest-profile cases of obviously Canadian children rarely seem to get to the top of his pile

by Chris Selley

 To read the full article, go to National Post

December 22, 2023: Ottawa’s bizarre battle with a group of would-be Canadian citizens — foreign-born children of Canadian citizens who were themselves born abroad — met a comprehensive rebuke this week at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Judge Jasmine Akbarali ruled that the provision, which dates from 2008, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both Section 6 (which guarantees mobility rights) and Section 15 (which guarantees equal treatment under the law).

(Click here to read Justice Akbarali's decision on CANLII.org )

That couldn’t really have been any more obvious. The Charter is very clear that you cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin, which is precisely what this law does. It confers on Canadians born abroad a “lesser class of citizenship,” Akbarali wrote. The “second generation born abroad” cannot automatically pass on citizenship to their children unless they are born in Canada.

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The judge “rejected as vague” the government’s stated purpose of “preserv(ing) the value of Canadian citizenship.” (I would have rejected the measure as antithetical to that stated goal.) But even had she accepted it, she wrote, “the blanket second-generation cut off is overbroad.”

To clarify the situation: I was born in Canada, have never resided outside of Canada a day in my life. If I moved to Paris for two years for a job, during which time I married and had a daughter, she would automatically be Canadian.

If we then moved back to Canada and my daughter followed the same life path — lived her entire life in Canada, moved abroad for work and had a child there — her foreign-born child would not be automatically Canadian.

Yet, if she were to fly back to Canada for a week to have the baby, and then flew straight back to Paris — presto! — it would be a fully Canadian baby. This is not coherent public policy.

In theory, there are ways for parents to rectify this situation. Parents can sponsor their own children for citizenship. This, in part, was the government’s defence in court. In practice, however, the process is often nightmarish and the citizenship ministry simply unable or unwilling to adjudicate cases competently and on a reasonable timeline or with an ounce of compassion.

Some of its agents abroad don’t even seem to understand citizenship law. In 2018, I reported on Daniela Bramwell’s Kafkaesque battle with the Canadian foreign service in Ecuador: In one email, the embassy advised that her newborn daughter Emma had been rejected for a temporary passport because she was the “second generation born abroad”; in another email, it rejected a visitor’s visa for Emma because she was entitled to Canadian citizenship, helpfully providing a link to the application form.

Last year, I reported on the case of Gregory Burgess, a lifelong Canadian citizen living in Hong Kong with his Russian wife Viktoriya and their newborn son Phillip. Burgess was born in the United States, as many Canadian children are. Before the embassy would even consider Phillip’s case, it demanded Burgess provide proof that neither the Americans nor the Russians would accept Phillip as a citizen.

Why the hell would Canada want Phillip Burgess to be Russian, rather than Canadian? This is a country that let in 430,000 people in a three-month period this year — somewhat by accident, it seems — and many of those have no connection to Canada whatsoever. Why is the government at war with Canadian parents who happen to live abroad, as so many Canadians do? The immigration minister can grant anyone citizenship he likes — and he does, fairly routinely — and yet the simplest, lowest-profile cases of obviously Canadian children rarely seem to get to the top of his pile.

Don Chapman, a retired airline pilot who has championed the cause of “lost Canadians” — people who have fallen through the cracks of Canada’s impossibly Byzantine citizenship laws over the course of the country’s history — sums up the ruling’s implications: “It’s saying the government has been violating these children’s rights for 14 years. They’ve been making families forcibly separate. They’ve been violating several human rights conventions.” (In some cases Canada has arguably rendered children stateless, which is a no-no under international law.)

“Why did you even do this?” Chapman asks, of the government, incredulously. “You just should have corrected it!”

In fact, Chapman says, Bill S-245, which is currently awaiting third reading in the House of Commons, will address this issue — replacing the blanket cut-off with a “substantial connection (to Canada) test” of the kind we use to judge naturalizing citizens. If we’re going to cut off inherited citizenship at some point, which is reasonable enough, this is the obvious solution. That makes it all the more absurd that it took Ottawa so long to arrive at such a reasonable resolution, and instead fought the case in court.

Taxpayers are on the hook for $275,000 in legal costs, incidentally, plus goodness knows how many wasted person-hours by government lawyers. One hopes the government won’t appeal, but one would be foolish to bet against it.

 To read the full article, go to National Post


The Jerry Agar Show: 'Lost Canadians' win court battle to reclaim citizenship rights


Click here to listen on IHeartRadio.ca


CBC: 'Lost Canadians' win in Ontario court as judge ends 2 classes of citizenship

Second-generation cut-off rule created in 2009 found to violate Charter rights

Karen Pauls · CBC News 

To read the original article, go to CBC.ca

December 22, 2023: Ontario's Superior Court of Justice has ruled it's unconstitutional for Canada to deny automatic citizenship to children born abroad to parents who were also born overseas but have a substantial connection to Canada — a big win for "Lost Canadians" trying to reclaim citizenship rights.

"It's a wonderful Christmas gift," said Sujit Choudhry, a constitutional lawyer in Toronto representing seven multi-generational families living in Canada, Dubai, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States who challenged what's known as Canada's "second-generation cut-off rule."

"It removes a second-class status that people had because of the accident of where they were born."

Choudhry filed a constitutional challenge in December 2021, suing the federal government for denying his clients the right to transmit their citizenship to their foreign-born offspring.

In a 55-page ruling released this week, Justice Jasmine Akbarali found that the second-generation cut-off rule violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it "treats differently those Canadians who became Canadians at birth because they were born in Canada from those Canadians who obtained their citizenship by descent on their birth outside of Canada."

"The latter group holds a lesser class of citizenship because, unlike Canadian-born citizens, they are unable to pass on Canadian citizenship by descent to their children born abroad," Akbarali wrote.

"Lost Canadians" are people who, because of where and when they were born, are caught up in complicated sections of the Citizenship Act. .... read more at  CBC.ca

CTV: Denial of citizenship for kids of foreign-born Canadians unconstitutional, judge rules


An Ontario judge has ruled it unconstitutional for the federal government to deny automatic citizenship to the children of foreign-born Canadians who grow up abroad.

 Hannah Alberga
CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer

December 21, 2023: In the judgment released Tuesday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice gave the federal government six months to repeal the “second-generation cut-off” and amend the Citizenship Act.

(Click here to read Justice Jasmine Akbarali's decision on CANLII.org )

When Canadian-born citizens have children abroad, their kids are automatically considered Canadian citizens. However, when the generation born abroad has their own kids outside of Canada, those children no longer have access to citizenship. This is what the ruling considers the “second-generation cut-off.”

 Justice Jasmine Akbarali took the ruling one step further and ordered immigration officials to offer immediate relief to three of the seven families who brought the court case forward.

The ruling is rooted in a court battle involving seven multi-generational Canadian families who are suing the federal government for denying their born-abroad-kids Canadian citizenship.

They argue that the cut-off violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by treating Canadians born abroad different to those born in Canada

“I thus conclude that the distinction based on national origin reinforces the disadvantage of the first generation born abroad by reinforcing the negative stereotyping to which they have been subjected, as people who offer nothing to Canada but seek to take advantage of the benefits of Canadian citizenship,” Akbarali wrote in the decision.


The “second-generation cut-off” came into effect in 2009 under the then-Conservative government.

Bill S-245 was introduced after a mass evacuation of Lebanese Canadians took place in the summer of 2006 in the midst of a month-long war with Israel in Lebanon.

The evacuation led to questions regarding the legitimacy of the evacuees’ status as Canadians and speculation that the evacuees were “citizens of convenience,” the decision notes.

The bill served as the government’s response, introduced as a “simple” approach that would “protect” the value of Canadian citizenship by ensuring citizens have a “real connection” to the country.

“While the simplicity of the rule may respond to the desire for clarity, the inflexibility of the rule means that the first generation born abroad and their children are assumed to be Canadians of convenience…who have made no contribution to Canada,” Akbarali’s wrote in her decision.


In Akbarali’s decision, she writes, “Canada’s derivative citizenship laws have historically been animated by patriarchal and racist policy.”

She endorses the families’ claim that the bill discriminates based on national origin and sex, stating that women are particularly disadvantaged. Akbarali points to Emma Kenyon, a foreign-born Canadian living in Hong Kong, as a testament to this.

When Kenyon became pregnant during the pandemic, she intended to return to Canada. However, it was 2021, and she would have had to travel during the pandemic. She also would not have been eligible for government-covered health-care in Canada.

Kenyon later learned she could not pass on Canadian citizenship to her child without returning to Canada to give birth. But at that point, she was well into her third trimester of pregnancy, and it was too late.

“It was Ms. Kenyon who would have had to miss work to travel to Canada. It was Ms. Kenyon whose health would have been at risk due to not having a physician. It was Ms. Kenyon’s bodily integrity at issue,” Akbarali’s wrote.

“Thus, the burdens of the second-generation cut-off were felt differently, and more keenly, by Ms. Kenyon because the discrimination based on her country of birth had different impacts on her because of her sex.”

While the court ruled in favour of the families that came forward, it stopped short of granting damages, unconvinced that the government had displayed “negligence, bad faith or willful blindness.”

However, the judge did order the government to pay $275,000 to cover the families' legal costs. 

For more go to CTV News

"Patriarchal and Racist" Citizenship Policy says Judge in Ontario Superior Court Decision on Lost Canadians December 19, 2023

Click here to read Justice Akbarali's entire 55 page decision on line at CANLII.org 

IHeartRadio: Northern Ont. 'army brat' fighting to regain his Canadian citizenship, access to healthcare



Mike McDonald

December 21, 2023: A Sault Ste. Marie man was looking to update his driver's license when he made a shocking discovery.

Wayne Sawyer, who was born overseas to Canadian citizens, said he is without health coverage and other benefits after his citizenship status was flagged.

Click here to read original article on IHeartRadio

Sawyer was 61 at the time of this discovery. Now 65, he is still waiting for his citizenship papers, while still struggling to understand how this happened.

"You've taken away my health card, you've taken my old age pension, and I didn't do anything wrong here," said an irate Sawyer.

"I feel like I'm being punished right now for something I had no control over. The only think I did wrong, apparently, is get born to Canadian parents on an overseas base."

Sawyer belongs to a group commonly referred to as "army brats," since he was born on a military base in Germany where his father was stationed. It was this situation that led to Sawyer's citizenship status to be called into question.

For activist and author Don Chapman, Sawyer's story is a familiar one.

"This gentleman is Canadian by operation of law, there's no question about that," Chapman said. "The problem is, he can't prove it."

Chapman said Sawyer has fallen victim to a flawed citizenship process, along with thousands of others – including high-profile Canadians like Romeo Dallaire. Chapman, who wrote a book on the subject, said Sawyer likely has a high number of people ahead of him in the citizenship queue.


"He gets put into a system where they throw Canadian citizens -- we call them 'Lost Canadians' -- into a queue of immigrants, and he goes behind a half-million or a million immigrants, and he waits years," said Chapman.

Sawyer continues to work as a school bus driver, but his family said the strain of the last four years has taken a toll on his health.

"I consider my dad a very hard worker, and he's taught me everything I know when it comes down to working," said his daughter, Becky.

"And to see him this frustrated, it's really taking a toll on the whole family dynamic, because we see his stress."

Sawyer, meantime, said he's had enough.

"I want this to stop, I want my life back, I'm sick and tired of thinking of this," he said.

"It's driving me nuts."

Sawyer said he's frustrated at a lack of urgency in dealing with his case. He said he has been told it could take another 17 months for the matter to be resolved.

Click here to read original article on IHeartRadio

Toronto Star: 'Lost Canadians' win court battle to reclaim citizenship rights

Emma Kenyon and Daniel Warelis and baby Darcy. The judge referred to the experience of Kenyon, a foreign-born Canadian, who was forced to give birth to her child in late 2021 in Hong Kong, where she and her husband worked, because of a string of challenges. Supplied

Emma Kenyon and Daniel Warelis and baby Darcy. The judge referred to the experience of Kenyon, a foreign-born Canadian, who was forced to give birth to her child in late 2021 in Hong Kong, where she and her husband worked, because of a string of challenges. 

Ontario Superior Court says the second-generation cut-off rule violates Charter rights on the grounds of national origin and sex.

By Nicholas Keung Immigration Reporter

December 20, 2023: It's unconstitutional for Canada to deny automatic citizenship to children born abroad because their parents also happened to be born overseas, a Canadian court has ruled.

(Click here to read Justice Jasmine Akbarali's decision on CANLII.org )

In a ruling that critics hope will finally settle the longstanding "lost Canadian" controversy, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has given the federal government six months to repeal what's known as the "second-generation cut-off" rule and amend the Citizenship Act.

To read the original article on line, go to The Star.

HANSARD: Debates of the House of Commons, 44th Parliament, 1st Session, October 20, 2022



Mr. Jasraj Singh Hallan (Calgary Forest Lawn, CPC) moved that Bill S-245, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

He said: Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-245, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (granting citizenship to certain Canadians).

I want to thank the hon. senator from British Columbia, Yonah Martin, who brought forward this important bill. She introduced this originally as Bill S-230 in the last Parliament in the other place to address the lost Canadians whose citizenship was revoked without their knowledge and without warning simply because of the wording in the Citizenship Act.

Click here to read more in Hansard.