Daily Gleaner: 'Injustice' to war brides may finally be addressed

A Fredericton author who has written extensively on Canada's war brides is praising a commitment by the federal government to correct what many believe to be a "historical injustice."

Melynda Jarratt, author of War Brides: The stories of the women who left everything behind to follow the men they loved, said recent comments by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander that changes to the Citizenship Act are forthcoming has left her thrilled.

"I am over the moon," Jarratt said. "It remains to be seen, but I think they're going to do it."

Alexander, in earlier news reports, said alterations to the act, expected to happen in this session of Parliament, will include correcting complicated circumstances that have barred war brides and children of war brides from obtaining Canadian citizenship.

Jarratt said she and others who wanted change have been in a daze since hearing the news.

"We're very, very, very pleased," Jarratt said.

The expected changes follow an amendment which came into effect in 2009 but fell short of expectations.

Among other things, the earlier changes affected people born out of wedlock or those who lost citizenship when a person took on the citizenship of another country.

What it didn't cover, however, were those born before 1947.

It meant that anyone born prior to that date outside of Canada to a Canadian soldier and a British woman didn't get their citizenship - even if they lived in Canada all of their lives and even if their parents got married after the baby was born.

Several thousand people fell into that category.

The expected changes will correct that, Jarratt said.

She said there were court challenges aimed at forcing change at the federal level.

Jarratt said she believes the government suddenly came to the realization that it was a battle they couldn't win.

"They stopped discriminating against people on the basis of marital status a long time ago," Jarratt said. "They stopped calling children bastards and treating them like second-class citizens in the 1950s."

Jarratt said that while she's pleased changes are coming, she's also sad for those who died without seeing amendments made to the legislation.

"That breaks my heart that they had to die (and) the only thing that they wanted in the whole world before they died was to be granted their Canadian citizenship. This was taken away from them. It's caused no end of heartache for so many people."

As it stands, Jarratt said, the law is outdated, antiquated and has no place in a modern society.

"Since when do they (the government) have the right to treat people as second class citizens because they were born out of wedlock in 1945 during the Second World War or in 1944 to a British war bride and a Canadian serviceman husband."

Jarratt said she hopes there may be a retroactive provision in the legislation that will cover those who have died waiting for changes.

The expected amendment is also being welcomed by the Royal Canadian Legion.

Dominion president Gordon Moore said he was encouraged by Alexander's statement.

"Our veterans who served in one of our country's most important conflicts should be rewarded for their service and not be treated as a detriment to the future of their families," Moore said in a news release.

"The Second World War saw many immigrants living in Canada, who had not yet obtained Canadian citizenship, fighting on behalf of our country. When they returned to Canada they were not granted citizenship as they had not qualified under existing rules."

The legion said Moore sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sept. 4 requesting a timely review of the facts surrounding war brides, as well as the children of war brides.

So far, these calls have gone unheeded, although the federal government suggested it will introduce several changes to Canada's citizenship rules, the legion said.

"The legion hopes these policies that have been a source of great injustice to war brides and children of war brides for the past several decades, will be revised under this new legislation and that these "lost Canadians" will be granted Canadian citizenship and all the rights afforded them as Canadians," Moore said.

© 2014 The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)