Lost Canadians Say Citizenship a Battle for Women’s Rights

Jackie Scott is the daughter of a Canadian War Bride and a World War Two veteran who has been told she is not a Canadian citizen because her parents were not married when she was born in 1945. She is now suing the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in the Federal Court.

For Immediate Release

(Gibsons, British Columbia – March 7, 2012) - As Canada prepares to observe International Women’s Day on Thursday, some Canadians are still excluded from citizenship solely because they were born to unwed mothers over 65 years ago. They are part of a group known as Lost Canadians: people who are excluded from citizenship or are having difficulty claiming it because of the date or circumstances of their birth.

Among them are some of the 22,000 children who were born overseas to Canadian servicemen and arrived in Canada with their war bride mothers during or immediately after the Second World War. Some were born out of wedlock because their fathers could not get the required permission to marry. Such cases were common and inevitable under wartime conditions. After a lifetime in Canada, these war bride children are still excluded from citizenship by an obscure provision of the 1946 Citizenship Act.

Jackie Scott was born in England in 1945, out of wedlock, to a Canadian soldier and a British mother. Because of poor health, she was unable to travel to Canada with her mother until 1948. Shortly after her arrival, her parents were married in Toronto. By her parents’ marriage she was legitimated retroactively from birth under Ontario law, but is still being denied citizenship. She is now suing the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in the Federal Court.

Marion Vermeersch, a retired social worker living in Simcoe, Ont., was born in England in 1944 to a Canadian soldier and a British mother. Her father, born in Scotland, had arrived in Canada in 1926 as a British Home Child. Marion was born out of wedlock, but after her father was wounded in action her parents were able to marry in England before he was repatriated to Canada. She arrived in Canada with her mother in May 1946 and has lived here ever since. When she applied for her first passport in 2003, she was informed to her shock and disbelief that she was not a Canadian citizen. She was told instead to apply for a Permanent Resident Card, and now travels on a British passport.

Tom Kent (1922-2011) served briefly in the 1960s as deputy minister of Citizenship and Immigration. In 2009, asked to comment on one of these cases, he replied: ‘Exclusion from citizenship, in cases such as you describe, is entirely contrary to the philosophy of Canadian citizenship as I have always understood it. The people you know have not been treated fairly. The dismissive attitude of officials, as reported, should be unacceptable to the Minister.’

Jason Kenney - The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has recently stated that the government will take steps to end the automatic acquisition of citizenship by so-called passport babies whose mothers enter Canada solely for the purpose of giving birth to a Canadian child. He
should give equal attention to the plight of those Canadians who by an accident of birth are still excluded from citizenship of the only country they know.