78 Year Old Canadian Not a Citizen: No status, no health card

No status, no health card
The daughter of an elderly man who has lived in Canada for 78 years received a shock when she moved him to Quebec - he is not officially a Canadian citizen, so he has no medical coverage


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Howard Webb lived 78 of his 89 years in Nova Scotia, the son of a Canadian mother and a British father.

He has a social insurance number, paid income taxes and received medical care under Nova Scotia's health care plan.

It was a rude awakening, then, when his daughter found out that her dad isn't considered a Canadian citizen and was therefore not eligible for Quebec medicare after he moved to Pointe Claire to be with her in February.

"The Régie (de l'assurance maladie du Québec) told me I needed a passport or Canadian birth certificate to prove he's Canadian; they were very rigid on this point," Christina Guimond said.

"Up to this point, we had never questioned his citizenship - he was Canadian." According to Julie Bilodeau, spokesperson for the RAMQ, the conditions for admissibility for a medicare card are proof of residence in Quebec - a lease, etc. - and some document that identifies the individual as a person authorized to live in Canada.

"That can be a passport, a citizenship certificate or a birth certificate," Bilodeau specified.

Webb's parents were married in Nova Scotia, but Webb was born in Massachusetts in 1920. After his father died in 1931 at the height of the Depression, he and his mother, a Canadian citizen, moved back to Nova Scotia to live with his grandmother and other family members.

He was married for 53 years and fathered four children with his wife, Pearl.

When she fell ill in 2008, was hospitalized and unable to speak, a son who lives in British Columbia flew to Nova Scotia and placed Webb in a retirement home.

Guimond moved him to Montreal in February, shortly before Pearl died. Webb was in poor health and miserable in the retirement home, his daughter said.

"He was crying on the phone, 'Come and get me,' " she said.

His Nova Scotia health care coverage continued for a month after he left the province, but since April Webb has had no medical insurance.

Guimond said she was stunned by the RAMQ's strict rules, and has encountered roadblock after roadblock in her quest to have this matter settled.

"My father never travelled so he had never applied for a passport," she said.

Before 1947, all Canadians were British citizens. Canadian citizenship was created in 1947.

At this point, Webb should have signed papers to reaffirm his Canadian status, but no one had known this was necessary, his daughter said.

Guimond had a difficult job finding her father's birth certificate and her grandparents' 1916 Nova Scotia marriage records to prove her father's status.

With the help of an assistant in the offices of her MP, Francis Scarpaleggia, Guimond applied in August to the federal Citizenship and Immigration offices to get citizenship papers for her father. The process can take 15 months.

Jacqueline Roby, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said in cases where there are health concerns, papers can be expedited, sometimes as quickly as within a week.

"Our door is never closed in cases of urgency," Roby said.

Once he has papers making him officially Canadian, Webb will be issued a medicare card, Bilodeau said.

Guimond is concerned the delay might prove too long.

Her father was diagnosed with cognitive impairment and subsequently with Alzheimer's last spring, and his medicine costs $250 a month. Guimond was told she'll be reimbursed when her father's card is issued.

"The anxiety and worry is that he'll trip and fall and possibly die before he gets a card," Guimond said.

"I don't know why the Régie is so adamant, they could be more flexible. Why put an 89-year-old man through this? It serves no purpose."

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'Lost Canadians' number in the thousands

Women who married Canadian soldiers during the Second World War, and any children their union produced, were promised the same citizenship as their husbands by the Canadian government. What many of them did not know was that to obtain citizenship, they had to sign papers to reaffirm their Canadian status - an act that Federal Court Judge Luc Martineau ruled in 2006 was unacceptable since failure to sign those papers stripped them of their citizenship - often without their knowledge.

In 2007, Barry Edmonston, a sociology professor at the University of Victoria, told members of Parliament that an estimated 200,000 people are considered "lost Canadians," stripped of their citizenship between 1947 and 1977.

Studying census figures, Edmonston estimated there are 115,000 people living in Canada who fall into the "lost Canadian" category, and 85,000 living outside Canada.

Of those living in Canada, the largest group includes those born abroad with at least one parent who is Canadian.

In many cases, those born before 1977 are not Canadian citizens because nobody told their parents their birth had to be registered in Canada within two years.

asutherland@ thegazette.canwest.com

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