'Lost Canadians' seek route home; Man urges Canada to fix holes in immigration laws to restore citizenship

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Canwest News Service
Read original article on line in the National Post

Photo by Ward Perrin, Canwest News Service Files Don Chapman says a child's Canadian citizenship relies heavily on the status of the father, and less so on the mother.

Vancouver-born Don Chapman lost his Canadian citizenship when, while he was a child, his father moved south of the border and became a U.S. citizen. Mr. Chapman's identity was rooted in his father's citizenship, regardless of his mother's.

After years of fighting to have his Canadian citizenship restored, and for the rights of thousands of other so-called Lost Canadians who found themselves jilted by immigration law vagaries, Mr. Chapman won his battle last year. The government enacted a bill that allowed the majority of Lost Canadians to reclaim citizenship. But not all of them.

Thousands of people continue to be shirked status as Canadian citizenship because of loopholes in Canadian law that mean a child's citizenship relies heavily on the status of the father, and less so on the mother, according to Mr. Chapman, an expert on Lost Canadians.

With today being International Women's Day, he says it is high time to fix those holes so people such as himself don't suddenly learn they are not as Canadian as they once believed.

"There are probably thousands of cases. How many do I know of? Not that many, but there are probably thousands" who don't realize they are not Canadian citizens, Mr. Chapman said yesterday.

"There are going to be a lot of people in Canada [who] are going to be affected by this. And no one is quite aware of it."

Don Chapman and Magali Castro-Cyr speak to the media in the House of Commons press room after the passage of Bill S-2, in May 2005. Despite the passage of Bill C-37 three years later, problems still persist for Lost Canadians.

According to documents provided by Mr. Chapman, children born on Canadian soil to foreign fathers and Canadian mothers do not immediately have the right of Canadian citizenship.

As well, while children born outside of Canada to a Canadian father have a right to citizenship, those born to a Canadian mother (but not a Canadian father) do not.

A bill enacted last year ensured that foreign-born children of Canadian mothers are eligible for citizenship. But it did not restore the right to children whose citizenship had been stripped.

A request for clarification to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration was made yesterday evening, but not returned.

Mr. Chapman says citizenship is predominantly passed down by the father according to the 1977 Citizenship Act, despite the Supreme Court finding it unconstitutional in 1997.

He said that finding is ignored today.

"I would ask the government of Canada to follow the law," Mr. Chapman said, referring to the Supreme Court ruling Benner vs. Canada, which deemed the Citizenship Act as discriminatory to women.

"As a citizen of Canada, am I expecting too much from elected representatives in the government of Stephen Harper to uphold the constitution of Canada?"

Three year old Kasey Neal's citizenship is not recognized because her connection to Canada is through her grandmother.

As an example, Mr. Chapman describes the cases of cousins Lillian Miller and Kasey Neal. Kasey's grandmother is Canadian, but she is not eligible for citizenship. Lillian, however, has a Canadian-born grandfather, and she is.

"It is so confusing that people don't believe me," he said. "They say, 'That can't be right.' "

Read original article on line the National Post