Chronicle Herald: Stateless Canadians fight for citizenship

By DIANA MEHTA The Canadian Press

Mon, Nov 22 - 4:54 AM

TORONTO — Jackie Scott considers herself a true Canuck. The 65-year-old grew up in Ontario, paid taxes and even voted in federal elections. But in Ottawa’s eyes, she isn’t Canadian.

Read original article in the Halifax Chronicle Herald

The government’s core argument? She was born out of wedlock before 1947.

Scott was born in England to a Canadian serviceman and a British mother who weren’t married. Because she came along in 1945, before Canada’s first citizenship law went into effect, she isn’t eligible to take on her father’s citizenship, even though both her parents later married in Canada.

"It’s really, really upsetting," said Scott. "All my family is Canadian. I’m the only one who’s not."

Scott is one of the so-called "lost Canadians" who have been left behind.

The government amended its laws last year to give children born abroad out of wedlock equal rights to citizenship. But the changes only applied to those born in 1947 or later. For Scott, it seems the government is deliberately turning a blind eye.

"At a certain point we’re going to be too old for them to have to worry about us," Scott complained. "Are they waiting for all of us to die?"

Scott only found out she wasn’t legally a Canadian when the government turned down her request for a citizenship certificate in 2005.

"They considered me a bastard," she said. "Isn’t that discrimination?"

For people like Scott who live in Canada, the worst part of not having Canadian citizenship is a lack of long-term security. Even a permanent resident can be stripped of their status and be deported for any number of reasons.

Determined to secure her place, Scott applied for a special grant of citizenship in 2008. It was denied.

Her frustration with the government deepened when she learned her parents had their marriage legitimized under Ontario’s Legitimization Act. While sifting through musty old documents, she even found a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada sent in 1955 that legitimizes her birth.

Fifty-five years later, however, the government refuses to acknowledge its prior rulings.

Scott refuses to give up. She has since resubmitted her citizenship application, but has yet to hear back.

Now technically a U.S. citizen, she divides her time between Surrey, B.C., and Arizona. She was able to get a U.S. passport because her husband worked in the States, but she only did so because she was desperate.

"All my ties are in Canada," she said. "I am still fighting for my Canadian citizenship."

Denise Tessier knows how it feels. The 65-year-old was also born in England under very similar circumstances, but has lived in Canada since she was two months old.

Tessier found out she was stateless when her older sister applied for a driver’s license in Manitoba, a process that requires proof of citizenship. The sisters appeared before a parliamentary committee studying the cases of "lost Canadians" in 2007.

The committee was moved by their stories and offered the pair a special grant of citizenship. Her sister took it, but Tessier refused, on the grounds that if she deserves citizenship, so do all the others facing the same hardship.

‘They considered me a bastard. Isn’t that discrimination?’