Vancouver Sun: War bride, 87, denied new passport Bureaucrats prevent Canadian resident of 67 years from seeing her great-grandchildren

The Vancouver Sun
By Daphne Bramham, The Vancouver Sun

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Priscilla CorriePriscilla Corrie had a Canadian passport until 1999 when she didn’t apply forrenewal. Now she’s being denied one as she can’t produce a birth certificate. Photograph by: Jeff Bassett, Special to The Vancouver Sun

Priscilla Corrie came to Canada 67 years ago as a 20-year-old war bride, having met and married Samuel Wilkie McCowan during his officer training in Britain.

Her husband returned to Canada and was in Winnipeg by the time Mrs. Corrie arrived in May 1943. The Canadian government had arranged for her travel. She arrived by ship in New York and took the train from there.

Little more than a year later, their son Michael was born. Sadly, Michael never met his father, who had been sent overseas with the First Canadian Parachute Batallion. Samuel McGowan was killed on March 28, 1945 just outside Berlin and is buried in a military cemetery in Holland.

The young widow remarried Douglas Corrie. Together they had four children and adopted three more.

Twice, Mrs. Corrie says, she has sworn allegiance to Canada. She’s not sure why she had to do it twice, but she did it happily.

Since she was 20, Mrs. Corrie has travelled on Canadian passports. She gets old age security, Canada pension and a veteran’s pension.

She didn’t reapply for a passport when hers expired in 1999. Her sister in Britain had died and Mrs. Corrie thought that maybe at her age she wouldn’t be travelling any more.

And that’s when her Kafka-esque problems began.

Two years ago when her first grandson — Michael’s son — was getting married in Australia, Mrs. Corrie bought her ticket and applied for a passport. Her passport application was denied. She had to forfeit $800.

“I was so upset that I couldn’t go,” she says.

Mrs. Corrie tried again for a passport after her first great-grandchild was born in Australia.

She was denied again when Michael’s second son was getting married even though she was told that if she travelled from her Kelowna home to the Surrey passport office, she might get one.

Mrs. Corrie did that.

“In Surrey, they wouldn’t even let me see anybody,” she says. “But there were all of these other immigrants who couldn’t even speak English who were getting their passports.”

This spring, she tried again when another son and his wife wanted to take her on an Alaskan cruise.

Mrs. Corrie has now all but given up hope that she will ever go cruising or get to Australia to see either her first great-grandchild or the second one, expected soon.

What’s happened to her is simply outrageous. It’s bureaucracy at its worst and it’s political indifference at its finest.

She can’t get a passport now because there are specific rules for war brides.

Those rules say that women who married Canadian men overseas before 1947 and entered Canada as permanent residents before 1947 must produce either their birth certificates or proof of entry into Canada.

Mrs. Corrie has neither.

She was born on May 25, 1923 in the British colony of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in the Kandy Hotel. There was no hospital. Her parents were British. He father managed a Lipton tea plantation. Three years later, the family moved to Malaya where he managed a Firestone rubber plantation.

Mrs. Corrie’s father died at sea when his ship went down, and with him went her birth certificate.

In the last couple of years, two British nieces have tried unsuccessfully to get a replacement for Mrs. Corrie.

British officials told them that no records exist; try Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan officials say it’s not their problem.

As for the proof of entry, Mrs. Corrie and her family don’t even know how to start looking for that.

“I’m one of those people who believes that every problem has a solution,” says Bev Gosling, her daughter-in-law. “Now I’m not so sure.”

After the most recent denial, Gosling contacted the War Brides Association, which put her in touch with Don Chapman, who has helped other so-called Lost Canadians regain their status.

Chapman passed them on to Quebec MP Marlene Jennings, a Liberal and one of the few Parliamentarians who fought hard to have the Citizenship Act changed to restore Lost Canadians’ citizenship.

“It’s completely ridiculous,” Jennings says of Mrs. Corrie’s predicament. “It is causing so much heartache and pain.”

Last month, on Mrs. Corrie’s behalf, Jennings wrote to both Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Jennings asked them to expedite a passport for Mrs. Corrie or at very least issue a temporary travel document.

“Surely Passport Canada can attest to whether or not she has previously been issued a passport based on information in their database and based on the previous passport,” Jennings said in her letter.

Other than an acknowledgment that her letter was received, Jennings has heard nothing.

This week, I sent e-mails to Kenney, the public affairs arm of his department and to Mrs. Corrie’s MP, Stockwell Day, explaining Mrs. Corrie’s plight. Day’s office has offered to help. But from the others, I’ve heard nothing. Nor has Mrs. Corrie.

The irony is not lost on her that when a boatload of Tamils arrived from Sri Lanka this summer, Canadian officials said that they were asking family members to attest to the migrants’ identities.

“It did annoy me,” she says. “I have lots of family who will vouch for me and say that I’m Canadian.

“But that’s not good enough.”
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