Toronto Star: Suit seeks citizenship for ‘Lost Canadians’

Howe Lee is backing a federal court case to grant citizenship to retired chief petty officer Peter Brammah who has lived in Canada for 65 years but did not realize he was not a Canadian citizen.

Published On Wed Nov 9 2011

VANCOUVER—Peter Brammah had always considered himself as Canadian as it gets, enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy and serving as a police officer in Calgary.

But Brammah, now 75 and in poor health, didn’t realize until 2002 that he was not considered a Canadian citizen, even though he has lived in Canada since he was six years old. His parents were both British subjects, but Brammah’s mother came to Canada with him as a child after divorcing his father and then marrying a Canadian citizen

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An advocacy group called Lost Canadians filed an application in federal court Tuesday on Brammah’s behalf, demanding the federal government provide the Navy veteran with his Canadian citizenship.

The group is comprised of people who believe they are Canadians but never actually received their citizenship because of quirks in citizenship legislation, including many born during World War II. In 2009, Bill C-37 was passed, which granted or restored citizenship to thousands affected by such quirks. But others, including Brammah, remain outside of that amended bill because he was born before 1947, the year Canada’s first citizenship act became law.

A statement from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration department said the minister is aware of the claim and wants to resolve the issue.

“The department is interested in working with Mr. Brammah to find a positive solution to his dilemma. On Monday, the Department offered Mr. Brammah the opportunity to obtain citizenship. He declined,” said spokeswoman Nancy Caron in a statement to the Toronto Star.

Don Chapman of Lost Canadians said they don’t want citizenship to be granted individually to people who file claims. Rather, the group wants instead the government to grant citizenship to all residents who lived in Canada before 1947. Those who lived in Canada or were born in Canada before that year were technically considered British subjects.

Howe Lee, who was born in Canada and served in the Canadian army for 35 years, is helping support the claim because of his concerns that many war veterans may not be considered Canadians.

They include some of the 800 Chinese Canadians who served in the war and died overseas before being officially recognized in 1947. Lee said one soldier, Quan Louie, was in the Royal Canadian Air Force and died in Berlin in active duty.

“He died in a Canadian uniform and served in the Canadian army, but because he died before 1947, there’s the possibility that the Canadian government won’t recognize Quan Louie as a Canadian,” said Lee Tuesday.

Another supporter, Jackie Scott, who was born in England in 1945 and came to Canada , said she had no idea she wasn’t considered a Canadian citizen until she applied for her citizenship card in 2004.

“I think the government is trying to wait us out, all of us who were born pre-1947,” said Scott. “They’re looking at natural attrition, waiting for us to die, so they don’t have to worry about what to do with us.”