Globe and Mail: Transformational Canadians - Don Chapman is reclaiming citizenship for lost Canadians

Don Chapman lost his Canadian citizenship when he was six years old, after his father moved to the United States and became an American citizen. Mr. Chapman was never notified. This was also the case for tens of thousands of children whose fathers revoked Canadian citizenship.

Born in British Columbia, Mr. Chapman has fought Ottawa for decades after discovering that hundreds of thousands of others - most of the "war brides" and their children born during WWII, including children born on Canadian military bases overseas, were stripped of their Canadian citizenship under an obscure part of a decades-old citizenship act.

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There were twelve distinct ways to lose your citizenship, from being born out of wedlock, to gender discrimination - women had fewer rights than men in passing citizenship onto their children.

Several years ago, in large part due to Mr. Chapman's efforts, the federal government changed the citizenship laws, which retroactively granted citizenship to hundreds of thousands of people, who, quite literally, woke up one day and were Canadian citizens.

Still, Mr. Champan says, problems remain, as second-generation children born outside of Canada could in some circumstances be stateless. The new law gave women equality of rights going forward, but gender discrimination still exists retroactively.

Mr. Chapman is actively working to correct those anomalies.

A former commercial airline pilot, philanthropist, and staunch advocate for human rights, Mr. Chapman founded Lost Canadians, an advocacy group for those who’ve lost (or were never granted) Canadian citizenship.

Mr. Chapman is still fighting for a new citizenship act, a complete overhaul instead of decisions made on a case-by-case, or a reworking of the arcane legislation.

Nominator: Jacqueline Scott

More: read an editorial by Don Chapman in the Calgary Herald, December 10, 2010.

More related to this story
Wartime child fights to regain his citizenship, May 31, 2006.
'Lost' Canadians get citizenship, February 20, 2007.
Learn more about the Transformational Canadians program

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