Lost Canadians: The Revised History of Canadian Citizenship by Don Chapman

The revised history of Canadian citizenship...

I'm Don Chapman, leader of the Lost Canadians. What's a lost Canadian? It's a person who lost their citizenship because of old, discriminatory legislation. It had nothing to do with a person being good or bad, but rather it could have been because you were born in wedlock, or maybe you were born out-of wedlock, or you were born before a certain date, or you were born on a Canadian military base overseas, or your mother was Canadian rather than your father, or in some cases it was your father who was Canadian but not your mother, or you were outside of Canada on your 24th birthday. There were twelve distinct ways to lose your citizenship, none of which would pass the 'smell' test if scrutinized under today's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Lost Canadians:

Canada has now retroactively corrected most of the discriminatory legislation covering 95% of the people who were affected, but that still leaves 5% who remain disenfranchised. Human rights - equal rights - both should apply to 100% of the people. As I write this, there's pending legislation waiting to be implemented aimed at correcting the mischief in law, but it still doesn't cover everyone. It leaves out Canada's pre-1947 war dead. Actually it's everyone who died before 1947. Some very famous people are Lost Canadians, from Senator Roméo Dallaire to Willard Boyle, a Nobel prize recipient. Hard to believe, but there are upwards of one-million Lost Canadians, and most never realized their citizenship was in jeopardy.

Roméo Dallaire on Lost Canadians:

For me, I lost my citizenship as a minor child, not because of anything I did, but rather it was because in law I was 'chattel'. It turns out that had I been born outside of Canada, out-of wedlock, or had I been adopted, I'd have retained my Canadian citizenship. Sound confusing? It is. As an airline pilot, I wanted to know why I'd been stripped of my Canadian citizenship when I was a six-year old toddler, so years ago I went searching. That's typical in my industry as it's imperative to strive for the truth. In case of an airline accident or incident, the purpose of the ensuing investigation is to learn what went wrong. The objective isn't to place blame so much as to learn so that another accident can be prevented. That's why I've pushed so hard for the truth in citizenship law.

Another pilot trait is that if something does go wrong, you do everything in your power to rescue everyone. You never willingly leave people behind.

Knowing my psyche, you'll understand how I conducted this 'accident' investigation into the Lost Canadians. In fairness, like flying an airplane, it's been a team effort. Many people came forward, from leading experts in their field, to everyday people who had tidbits of personal information that proved most relevant. The government now admits Lost Canadians number three-quarters of a million- although I think it's closer to one million. Using either figure, a massive number of Canadians were directly impacted, and every Canadian on the planet was in some way affected. Ironically most people were never fully aware. Our ranks go from the homeless to the famous- it's a typical sampling of the citizenry of Canada. Not so typical is our story and Canada's past. Truth be told, and I do mean the 'truth', it changes our historical perspective as current interpretation is not rooted in reality. Keep in mind that Canada's past is fraught with discrimination and exclusion, but where the country has been to where it is today is a testament which proves to the world that really positive changes can and do happen.

As the saying goes, "If you don't know where you've been, you don't know where you're going."

Let's discover where Canada's been...

For the most part, the northern European settlers were of British and French decent. As a direct result of the English defeating the French in the pivotal battle at the Plains of Abraham, our country evolved with a distinctly British bent. Embraced was the Parliamentary system, which included English law and English customs. Accordingly, the Brits wrote our working model for identity back in the mid-1800's. Here's the actual language: "Married women, minors, lunatics, and idiots...will be classified under the same disability for their national status." What it meant, was that married women were 'property', or 'chattel' of their husbands, with children being 'property' of their fathers if born in wedlock, and 'property' of their mothers if born out-of wedlock. The stigmatism of the 'Scarlet-A' was tightly woven into the fabric of the Canadian consciousness- and its victims weren't just women, but very much their children.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada - Forging our Legacy:

That's the crux of the Lost Canadian issue, which when taken down to its basic element was blatant discrimination aimed at gender. The Lost Canadians, in many ways, is intertwined with women and equal rights. It could be said that we are the children of the Famous Five.

Who are they?

Five Alberta women challenged the federal government in the 1920's regarding gender and equality. It began with Emily Murphy, the first woman police magistrate, not only in Canada but throughout the entire British Empire. On her first day in court a lawyer demanded her replacement, claiming that under the British North American Act Ms. Murphy was not really a 'person'. While Alberta recognized her status, the rest of Canada did not. Forthcoming were several challenges, and in 1928 the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that women, under the BNA, were not entitled to vote, run for office, nor serve as elected officials. They were chattel. By 1929 the case wound up in the British Privy Council, where they decided to recognize Canadian women as real 'persons'. From that moment forward females in Canada could be a judge or Senator. What they did not gain - not until 2009 for most women - was the right to pass citizenship to their own children, as a child's 'citizenship' was basically derived through the man- unless the child had been born out-of wedlock. It's hard to imagine that as we inch towards the year 2015 this archaic law remains in force, but it does, and it's mostly aimed at people born before 1947. Further muddying the pre-47 waters is that women who married non-British subject men before 1947 lost their Canadian status on marriage. Thousands of women were rendered stateless.

The Famous Five:

It was only through the implementation of Lost Canadian Bill C-37 in 2009 did women actually gain equality with men to pass citizenship onto their children- but going forward only. Problems and discrimination, while much less than before C-37, remain in law retroactively.

Bill C-37: An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act:

What a difference a century makes- not just for women, but for a country. Canada has indeed climbed a mountain, but not yet all the way to the summit.

Just 148 years ago did we officially become a country, and what a history it's been. Let's turn primarily towards the Chinese...

In the late 1850's hundreds of Chinese miners joined with tens of thousands of gold seekers during the British Columbia and Yukon gold rush. In just a few years thousands of Chinese were residing in communities like Barkerville and Likely, BC. In the 1870's British Columbia agreed to become part of Canada, on condition a railroad be built to connect our country's two coasts. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) wanted cheap labour, as did the then Prime Minister of Canada. That fueled more Chinese migration. During WWI another wave of Chinese came to Canada, but this time it was for the war effort, and in a sense they were just passing through. Around 140,000 Chinese got recruited for war-related work in Europe, out of which 84,000 arrived in Vancouver from China where they traveled by rail to Halifax, then boarded ships bound for Europe. Government fear was that some might 'jump the train' while in Canada, so the men were locked in their railcars and put under armed guard till they reached Nova Scotia. While they were never to be engaged in actual combat duty, nonetheless estimates are that between ten and twenty thousand succumbed. Canadians didn't know anything about the mission since it was top secret. Today it's still not well known. During WWI, approximately 300 Canadian Chinese volunteered for military service, and likewise, so too did many Japanese Canadians. They wanted to fight for their country. Today there's a monument in Vancouver's Stanley Park honouring the Japanese, and the Department of National Defence has published a book, Fighting For Canada, about the Asian soldiers of WWI and WWII. They describe them all as having been outstanding 'Canadian citizens'. Around 800 Canadian Chinese served in our military forces during WWII- many directly in harm's way.

Consider this: Could it be that a Chinese-born Canadian is buried in our Tomb of the Unknown soldier? Well, yes, it is possible. If so, then this same unknown Canadian hero was never really Canadian, at least according to today's government. This reeks.

It also keeps the discriminatory ways of the past ongoing into the present. Ethically we as a country can do better. We must do better.

Looking deeper into Canada racist past, more than just the Chinese...

In 1885 the Chinese head tax was implemented. Back then Canada considered the Chinese to be 'heathens' as most weren't Christians. Same thing with our First Nations people. The idea of the head tax was to discourage immigration. Besides, the railroads were mostly complete (built on the backs of the Chinese), and Canada didn't want more Asains. Being blunt, Canada was a white country and the government wanted to keep it that way. In 1914 there was the Komagata Maru, a Japanese ship chartered to take their mostly Sikh passengers from Hong Kong to Vancouver. Back then, British Subjects were supposed to have free reign moving from one commonwealth country to another. Canada, in order to keep at bay an invasion of 'Brown people', put a condition for entry that has come to be called Continuous Journey, meaning for a person to be admitted to Canada, they must arrive directly from their country of birth or nationality. That basically made it impossible, because a non-stop trip from India to Vancouver didn't exist. Yes, but Hong Kong to Vancouver was feasible- and it also went from one British colony to another, nonstop. In May, 1914 the boat arrived in Vancouver's Burrard inlet, where government officials immediately denied its entry. That forced all 376 passengers to be ship-bound for the next several months. Essentials like food and water were denied. Children were on board. In the end, only 24 people were admitted into Canada. The boat was forcibly turned around in July and escorted by the HMCS Rainbow into open ocean. On arrival in Calcutta a British gunboat stopped the ship. A riot ensued, the result being 19 passengers were killed, some escaped, with most of the remaining passengers being arrested, then sent back to their villages and kept under village arrest for several years. The denial of entry into Canada had everything to do with discrimination based on race and religion.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada - The 100th Anniversary of the Continuous Passage Act:

History of Vancouver - Komagata Maru:

In 1946 the Supreme Court ruled that it was okay to strip citizenship away from many Canadian Japanese. Between between 1945 and 1947, our government did just that, deporting 4000 "former Canadians" to Japan- a war-torn country with little food and shelter for their own people, let alone foreigners from Canada who knew little to nothing of the culture and language. 2000 were Canadian-born, and of those almost 700 were children under the age of 16. By 1949 with a new Prime Minister and Canada's entry into the U.N., the restrictions were lifted and the people were offered an opportunity to return.

"From Racism to Redress: The Japanese Canadian Experience:

Back to the Chinese...

In 1910 Canada passed the Immigration Act, which wasn't so much about Immigration as it was about determining who belonged and who didn't. It defined what a Canadian citizen was. There were three distinct levels. Here they are, as upheld and referenced by the Supreme Court in 1946:

"Canadian citizen" in turn is defined by clause (f) of this section as "(1) a person born in Canada who has not become an alien," "(2) a British subject who has Canadian domicile," or "(3) a person naturalized under the laws of Canada who has not subsequently become and alien or lost Canadian domicile."

Take note, there is no reference to race. It does not say that a person was a citizen if born in Canada, but only if they were were white, green, blue, have red hair, or wear tennis shoes. The only condition was they were born in Canada. Also note, in the 1921 Canadian census, the enumerator instructions were clear, that the words National, Canadian, and Citizen all meant the same thing.

Supreme Court of Canada - Reference to the Validity of Orders in Counsel in relation to Persons of Japanese Race, [1946] S.C.R 248, Dated 1946-2-20:

Sixth Census of Canada - Instructions to Commissioners and Enumerators, 1921:

This in turn brings up an interesting dichotomy. Take the situation of Douglas Jung, Canada's first Chinese MP, the first Canadian-Chinese delegate to the United Nations, and a Canadian soldier in WWII. He was born in Canada in 1924. On his registration papers by the Department of Immigration and Colonization, Chinese Immigration Service, it states, "This certificate does not establish legal status in Canada." In so many words, the Chinese were told by officials that they were nothing more than 'Registered Aliens'. By now many Chinese were second and third-generation born in Canada who didn't have Chinese citizenship, which meant that if they weren't Canadian they were also stateless.

Douglas Jung (Jung Hin Wa)
Burma Star - Operation Oblivion, WWII

Was this true, or were government officials back then simply doling out false information? For sure the government wasn't their friend. Canada was an incredibly racist country with many racist politicians. Of the many ethnic groups, the Chinese and First Nations bore the brunt.

In 1896, British Columbia passed legislation stripping the Chinese of voting rights in municipal elections. Catch-22. The electors list for federal elections came from the provincial electors list, and the provincial list came from the municipal list. Hence, no voting rights. The Chinese were completely disenfranchised with no possible way to facilitate change.

Here's the exact wording from the Provincial Elections Act of B.C. in 1895: "No Chinaman, Japanese or Indian shall have his name placed on the Register of Voters for any Electoral District, or be entitled to vote at any election."

In 1886 and 1907 riots broke in Vancouver, and it wasn't the Chinese committing the mayhem, but rather the white population felt threatened by the cheaper Chinese labour. The 1907 riot took place in both Vancouver's Chinatown and Japantown. It began in Bellingham, Washington, then moved north into Vancouver, where white supremacist groups demanded a "White Canada." In 1925 Glen Brae, now known as Canuck Place, became Canada's official headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan. It was a product of the time, which fortunately is now a thing of the past. It wasn't till 1929 could Chinese children like Gim Wong attend public schools in Vancouver. In the early 1930's Frank Wong, born in BC, went swimming in a public pool. Authorities had the pool drained and cleaned went he got out.

Frank Wong, 2013
Shown with the Kingdom of the Netherlands Medal of Remembrance
for his part in the Canadian liberation of Holland, 1944

Gim Wong, 2013
Born in Vancouver, he was a Canadian Officer in WWII as a gunner / engineer

Globe and Mail - Operation Oblivion a pivotal moment for the rights of Chinese-Canadians: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/operation-oblivion-a-pivotal-moment-for-rights-of-chinese-canadians/article16503605/

Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society - Gim Wong:

Globe and Mail - Gim Foon Wong's motorcycle ride turned the tide on Chinese head-tax redress: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/gim-foon-wongs-motorcycle-ride-turned-the-tide-on-chinese-head-tax-redress/article14652999/?page=all

1938 was a bit of a milestone regarding citizenship and the Chinese. In the Supreme Court decision of Shin Shim vs. the King, the government was attempting to deny a woman born in Canada the right to stay. In the SSC ruling they stated, "notwithstanding the contrary opinion of the Chinese Immigration Controller, the applicant was in fact born in Canada and as a Canadian citizen was entitled to her discharge from that officer's custody." In other words, the Chinese Exclusion Act did not apply to Canadian citizens.

Supreme Court of Canada - Shin Shim v. The King [1938] S.C.R. 378, Dated 1938-06-23:

There, directly from the Supreme Court, a person born in Canada was a Canadian citizen, regardless of race, with all the rights and responsibilities of 'Canadian citizenship'.

Now hold your horses... What happened, was despite the Shin Shim decision, the government continued issuing certificates of identity to the Chinese which stated they were nothing more than 'registered aliens' and lacking legal status. Hmmm, something seems amiss.

It was, and it gets worse.

In the 1930's Hitler's government actually contacted the Canadian government, wanting to learn about how Canada could get away with being so involved in discriminating based on race. Unbelievable as it sounds, Canada responded, helping the Nazis. And Germany wasn't the only country to take notice, our country and more specifically Canada's treatment of the First Nations people became South Africa's role model for Apartheid.

*From the book "Race, Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada" (James W. St. G. Walker), there is a discussion about the Canadian government's official respond to a question posed in 1938 by the resident ambassador of Nazi Germany.

On behalf of the German government, Dr. H. U. Granow asked the Canadian ministry of External Affairs to outline any federal or provincial statutes which "make race (racial origin) of a person a factor of legal consequence." On behalf of the Canadian government, O. D. Skelton acknowledged that there were racial aspects to immigration law and to "certain provincial laws affecting Asiatics." There were no "special provisions" for "native Indians" but these statutes were said to be "protective and restrictive." (page 24).

Radio Canada International - Canada and South Africa Share a Dark Past:

Mohawk Nation News - Canada's Apartheid Policy:

By the 1940's Canada was entrenched in their exclusionary ways. Earlier I mentioned two small towns of British Columbia. Starting with Barkerville, BC, at one point they had a population of 11,000- 7,000 of which were Chinese. Likely, BC was almost all Chinese. The Province, knowing the power of the ballot box, knowing that in a democracy the majority rules, wanted no part of a community governed by the Chinese. Their answer? Keep denying voting rights.

Let's use an analogy: Pretend the entire Tea Party in the U.S. suddenly shows up on Canadian shores demanding the right to vote. This of course wouldn't go over well as only citizens have that right. Tea Party members would rightly be denied and no one around the world would care. No laws would be violated. Now change the example by denying women in Canada the right to vote. That's voter suppression, an infringement of basic rights, and the world would surely notice.

Mackenzie King was Canada's Prime Minister from 1935 to 1948. He was undoubtedly one of the most racist leaders Canada has ever seen. His statement regarding anyone who was Jewish and wanting to immigrate to Canada was short and to the point, "None is too many." His words were followed by actions. During the war, he deliberately denied entry to the Jewish refugee ship the MS St. Louis- Canada being their last hope. Of the 937 people onboard, it's estimated that as a direct result of Mackenzie King not allowing any of the ship's passengers refugee status, that after their arrival back to Hitler's Third Reich, a quarter of its passengers were murdered in German concentration camps.

Canada was the last country to reject the plea of the St. Louis:
http://www.vaniercollege.qc.ca/events/holocaust04/st_louis.html Canada indeed has a past, and my discussion completely leaves other minorities like the African-Canadians. They too have their stories.

In 1945 the United Nations officially got its start, and three years later on December 10th, 1948, they formally adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Canada as a charter member of then UN also had an underlying problem. Enter a man named John Peters Humphrey from New Brunswick, the principal author of the Declaration of Human Rights. Canada was proud of Mr. Humphrey's contribution, so much so that they wanted to be known in the future as a human rights country. The problem? With such a high profile and statement regarding human rights, how would Canada go unnoticed in the world theatre as a country which enthusiastically embraced the Declaration, but at the same time was blatantly discriminating against the Chinese and First Nations? They'd be discovered as a country of hypocrites. It was indeed a quandary, but there was a way out. Why not use the upcoming Citizenship legislation in Parliament as a stepping stone to a new, inclusive Canada? Yes, but how? Easy, make up a story killing two birds with one stone.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

John Peters Humphrey - Canadian Museum for Human Rights:

Back to voter suppression. Before 1947 the Supreme Court determined the Chinese were in fact Canadian citizens, but that wasn't well known- then and now. After a century of drinking our own bathwater we've accepted a lie as truth. Back then the Chinese were being told by the government, and supported with official government documents, stating they had no legal status. The Chinese believed it, and so too did the public. Hence as non-citizens, they didn't have the right to vote, and no one questioned it.

While it was well known that before 1947 we were British Subjects, not so well known was that British Subject status didn't go away in Canada till 1977. Before '47 we were British Subjects, British Nationals, Canadian Nationals, and Canadian citizens- all four. Canadians have never been well versed with their identity - something that eludes them to this day - and as anyone from yesteryear will recall, when asked their nationality the answer "Canadian" wasn't accepted. It had to be Scottish, Irish, British, French, and so forth. We were hyphen Canadians. In 1947 with the lack of any sort of public understanding came a perfect way to disguise the truth and to win over the Chinese vote.

Asia / Canada - Hyphenated Canadians?:

Politicians being politicians, they care a great deal about votes. Their objective often isn't always about the people they represent, but rather they want to keep their jobs, of promoting their party, and becoming the party in power. At times they actually go against their own constituents. Mackenzie King was a Liberal and his party was in power in 1946. Now despite the Liberals being the main obstacle regarding Chinese voting rights, King knew the laws were about to change and very much wanted the Chinese vote. It was a prime concern. Think about it, who in their right mind would vote for a party actively discriminating against them, especially when it resulted in a decades-long denial of their benefits and rights? No one. Take for example a person of colour. They'd never want a reformed or non-reformed White Supremacist representing them. Likewise, if the Chinese had known the truth, they'd never have wanted Mackenzie King or the Liberals acting on their behalf.

King's answer was the 1946 Canadian citizenship Act, which recognized the term 'Canadian citizen'. Make up a story implying British rule allowed the discrimination, but with a new Canadian Citizenship Act this would not be the case. The Chinese would have full citizenship - with all the rights and responsibilities, including the vote. Done with great political spin-doctoring, the Chinese were led to believe the Liberals were their liberators rather than their suppressors. To be fair, after 100 years all parties in Canada share blame, but back then the Liberals held the reigns. Consequently, that mythical 1947 super-nova of Canadian citizenship began with their leadership. Hopefully seen as emancipators, would the Chinese vote en masse for the Liberals? Yes, indeed. For decades the Liberal Party was their top choice at the polling stations all across Canada.

Our work as Lost Canadians, passionately researching citizenship and Canadian history while striving for truth, is how we uncovered the evidence supporting everything above. It's been an incredible journey, from academia to historians to everyday people adding their bits of knowledge. Regrettably most people and politicians in Canada remain blissfully unaware. Hopefully this will change. Education and enlightenment is always the answer.

To repeat , Canadian citizenship began with Confederation in 1867, as evidenced with the first Governor General's statement in his first Throne speech, where he talks of a new Canadian nationality:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/about/parliament/reconstituteddebates/Senate/1/1/RecDeb_SEN_1867-11-07-e.pdf Further evidence, an icing-on-the-cake-moment, happened in 2013 when Canada's Attorney General argued successfully in the Supreme Court, the case revolving around the question of whether or not Canadian citizenship existed prior to 1947. The Attorney General said that it did, and the SSC agreed. The Métis in Manitoba were declared as as having been 'full Canadian citizens' in 1870, thus slamming shut the door on the pre-'47 citizenship discussion:


Flat out, the idea that citizenship began in 1947 is wrong. This blatant fabrication began because of political grandstanding- plain and simple. We must now set the record straight. Make no mistake, our Chinese and Japanese, or anyone 'born in Canada', were Canadian citizens. That includes Douglas Jung. It also includes Fred Ho and Quan Louie- two Canadian-born gentlemen from Vancouver who fought and died in Canadian uniforms during WWII. It's not fair nor justified that they be remembered as nothing more than 'stateless registered aliens'. They were ours- rightful and proud Canadian citizens, just like everyone else. They earned and certainly deserve their place in Canadian history.

Douglas Jung, Heroes Remembered

Finally, if citizenship didn't exist before 1947, then none of Canada's war dead - all 114,000 of them - were ever citizens. Therefore the fate of the Chinese applies equally to all of our war dead. Their collective identity lies in the hands of our Citizenship minister and Prime Minister. The government apology regarding the Chinese was obviously appreciated, but our politicians must now set history straight and do the right thing. Acceptance- not exclusion, is the answer. Lest we forget. Lest we ignore.

Through the Lost Canadians, the True North's 'true' history has finally been told.

For all of them, but especially to our Chinese and First Nations folks who've been wrongly denied their rightful place in Canadian history, Lost Canadians welcome you to your Canada.

Now we need today's Conservative government to admit it.

Don Chapman

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Further links:

Documenting Canadian Citizenship - History of Canadian Identity - Canadian Identity: Lost and Found:

Jason Kenney tells Lost Canadian and war veteran daughter: Soldiers were "heroes," but not Canadian citizens:

Peter Worthington, journalist with the Toronto Sun, writing about the pre-47 citizenship issue:
Sorry, Your Service for our Country Does Not Entitle You to Citizenship:

To the Chinese, born or naturalized in Canada, or if they happen to have been British with Canadian domicile, you were our citizens- period and full stop. And it's also true for everyone else - of any race - who fell under the same parameters.