Lost Canadians in the Senate

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
2nd Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 146, Issue 17
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
Disenfranchised Canadian Citizens

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, it is International Women's Week, in 2009, and this Conservative government is still actively discriminating against women.(1435)

Senator Manning: No.

Senator Tkachuk: No.

Senator Milne: Carry on; please do. I will tell you how. Less than a month ago, a Canadian World War II veteran — if you want to hear about Canadians who served our country — died while still disenfranchised in his own country. The only reason for his disenfranchisement is that he was born to a Canadian mother and an American father. Due to the arcane provisions of the Citizenship Act, it is much easier to obtain and regain Canadian citizenship if your relationship to Canada is through a man instead of a woman.Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate explain why this Conservative government, in 2009, still holds the view that a father's family is more important than a mother's in determining citizenship?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): The honourable senator is obviously referring to a situation that has been in place for quite some considerable time, specifically with regard to the citizenship issue.I would argue vehemently that we do not discriminate against women. As Senator Milne can well understand, I will need to seek advice from the citizenship department as to what the problem is, what rules and regulations are in place and what, if anything, has ever been done or not done over the past number of years — decades, I suppose, according to the honourable senator's question — by various levels of government with regard to this particular case.

Senator Comeau: Since 1945.

Senator Milne: Honourable senators, Guy Vallière was born in Canada. He was a tenth-generation Quebecer. He lived in Canada and he served the people of Canada in World War II. A month ago he died in Canada, yet he was denied citizenship because his mother was a Canadian but his father was not. I first told his story to this chamber on March 2, 2008, when Bill C-37 was being debated in this place.When will this government stop apologizing for the Minister of Immigration and start demanding that he do the right thing and grant these "lost Canadians" their citizenship, regardless of the fact that his or her mother was a Canadian and not his or her father?

Senator LeBreton: With regard to the Minister of Immigration, he has recently taken up this post. I am well aware of the various complexities around the whole issue of "lost" Canadian citizens. This is a specific case.I do know that our government has taken positive steps in this regard. With respect to this specific case, Senator Milne will understand that I will need to refer that matter to the department and await their answer.

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What makes this so bizarre, is that the Speaker of the Senate, Senator Noel Kinsella, was the sponsor of Lost Canadian Bills S-17 and S-2, and his forte is in human rights.

Senator Tkachuk was also there at the beginning, helping Senator Kinsella with S-2.

Just last December I met personally with both Senators and explained the issues. Obviously they just didn't get it.

Also the Conservative leader in the Senate, Marjorie LeBreton. She not only sat in on the Senate Subcommittee hearings on Lost Canadians several years ago, but she helped sponsor Bills S-17 and S-2. I talked with her a few months back, and again she obviously didn't get it.

With my trip to Ottawa this week, I believe they all got a rude awakening! Jason Kenney's next actions will show Canadians that his party is either willing to accept discrimination, or it's not to be tolerated it and thus he will have no choice but to correct it.

We must let him know that the world is watching. Thus, contact your media where ever you happen to live. Canada should allowed to get away with this. I have several other cards up my sleeve, and if needed I'll play them.

We're at the end, let's fight for every last Lost Canadian as if that person was you. "Do unto others." My psyche, if you will, comes as an airline pilot. We never want anyone injured or killed on our airplane. If just one person hadn't survived the Hudson river ditching, Captain Sully would have considered his actions as a failure. Everyone who is on my list deserves fighting for.

Please, turn up the heat. Regarding April 17th in Ottawa, I have very mixed emotions. Michelle Valliere insists that I be there. I know that Parliament is not in session that week, so the number of MP's there would be minimal.

The Conservatives have turned mean, so they just might not want a celebration.

However, that said, they don't want the negative publicity. I do know many top insiders of the party are contacting Jason Kenney and telling him to put a stop to this. If they continue to be jerks about it, then maybe we should do Ottawa as a celebration / protest. I know that I can get more media coverage and we can speak in unison for those being left behind. Besides, most of us are at an age where protesting was a part of our generation. We might be older, but what the hell! Hopefully it won't come to that, but send me your thoughts. I'm game.

Lastly, my family is to go before a citizenship judge on March 16th in Vancouver. My children and my wife have to prove their "connection" to the country! If, and only if they convince the judge that there is a connection, then they will be given the right to get their citizenship in Vancouver on Friday March 20th. I didn't ask for this, but the paperwork included me.

For many years I have had the right to get my citizenship, whether as a landed immigrant or a Lost Canadian beneficiary of Bill S-2. I've refused, believing that as the head of the Lost Canadians I should be last in line to be reinstated. I have mixed emotions- certainly if the judge tells my wife to take a hike then so will I.

I'm quite happy waiting for April 17th, but many LC's have suggested that I go through with it. If it would help change the outcome of the people being denied then I'd be happy waiting. Maybe using the moment as a public protest would do some good? I'm all ears as to your thoughts.

Here are a few email addresses: Prime Minister Stephen Harper,pm@pm.gc.ca Jason Kenney,KenneJ@parl.gc.ca website: http://www.jasonkenney.com/ Governor General Michaëlle Jean,info@gg.ca