The good news arrived Saturday morning: After a protracted battle and initial rejection by Ottawa, 16-year-old surfing phenom Erin Brooks will become a Canadian citizen. It means she can compete under the Canadian flag at the International Surfing Association World Championships next month in Puerto Rico, which is the last chance to qualify for the Olympics this summer. Some peg her as a medal favourite.

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“One of the most exciting surfers on the planet,” is how a commentator describes Brooks in a video of her Friday performance at the World Surf League’s World Junior Championships in San Diego. For the benefit of surfing ignoramuses like myself, Dom Domic, executive director of Surf Canada, likens her to Sidney Crosby — someone who “was on the radar super-early (in life) and followed through on it.”

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“She’s that big a deal,” says Domic. “She literally will change the game.”

“I have never been prouder to wear the Maple Leaf,” Brooks said on Saturday, thanking Immigration Minister Marc Miller for his decision, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan for advocating on her behalf, and “the entire group of amazing Canadians that supported me.” (Brooks had competed under the Canadian flag in the past, though surfing bureaucrats eventually ruled she had been ineligible to do so.) “I believe that I will do something truly special for my country thanks to your gift of citizenship.”

Erin Brooks also may go down in history as the most high-profile initial beneficiary of a significant change in Canadian citizenship law. By rights, this should be good news for a lot of other families.

Brooks’s father, Jeff, is Canadian; her grandfather is a born-and-raised Montrealer. But Jeff was born in the United States, and because Erin was also born in the United States, the Citizenship Act’s so-called “second generation born abroad” rule kicked in: Jeff couldn’t automatically pass on his citizenship to his daughter, the way it had been passed on to him. (Erin grew up in Hawaii, but the family is now based in Tofino, B.C.)

The Minister of Immigration can grant citizenship to anyone he wants with the stroke of a pen. But in October, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) turned down Brooks’s application for a “discretionary grant of citizenship” on grounds “the applicant is not stateless, has not experienced special or unusual hardship or provided services of an exceptional value to Canada.”

Last month, however, the Federal Court quashed the second-generation-born-abroad provision. Justice Jasmine Akbarali found that it violated Charter protections of mobility rights and equal treatment under the law and codified a “lesser class of citizenship” — i.e., one that does not pass on automatically to foreign-born children. It’s a distinction that even divides siblings who have lived mostly identical lives: If one was born abroad and the other in Canada, their citizenships are not equally transferrable.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marc Miller declined this week to say whether the government might appeal that ruling. But Saturday’s decision, in light of IRCC’s earlier refusal to treat her as a special case, suggests not. Domic says he hopes “all the lost Canadians” get the same relief as Brooks. (Citizenship-rights crusader Don Chapman coined the term “lost Canadians” to refer to various classes of people denied citizenship over many decades thanks Canada’s needlessly Byzantine citizenship laws.)

As Domic tells it, Brooks’s single-minded determination to surf for Canada stems from a chance encounter she had a few years ago with Canadian pro surfer Sanoa Dempfle-Olin on the north shore of Oahu. “Erin came running up to her going ‘oh, are you Canadian? My family’s Canadian. That’s so cool.’”

Having gotten to know the Brooks family and seen Erin’s tremendous potential, Dempfle-Olin got in touch with Domic, Domic got in touch with Erin’s father, and the citizenship mission began. “She has had some very lucrative offers from other countries that she hasn’t even really taken a look at because she wants to represent Canada,” Jeff Brooks told The Canadian Press in October. “I think the only way we would look at (them) is if the door to Canada was completely closed.”

A moot point now.

This is the sort of story that sometimes leads to calls for special treatment. After IRCC’s rejection in October, CBC Sports columnist Shireen Ahmed noted ample precedent for Canadian immigration ministers granting citizenship to elite athletes in advance of major competitions such as the Olympics. “Why wouldn’t Canada want a talented, young athlete as one of its citizens?” the headline on his column asked. And it’s a fair question.

But the second-generation-born-abroad rule created much more sympathetic victims: Divided families, arguably stateless infantsexpectant Canadian expat mothers who had intended to return home to give birth but were trapped abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic. The children caught up in those ordeals are no less deserving of citizenship just because — like most children — they can’t ice dance, play table tennis or surf at an elite level.

Canada’s housing crisis is complicating the immigration narrative somewhat, but most everyone still agrees a significant level of immigration is critical to Canada’s future. With immigration targets in the hundreds of thousands, it’s simply madness that the Citizenship Act and IRCC have made a few obviously Canadian families’ lives so needlessly difficult over the years, simply because they want their children to be Canadian too. Let’s hope those days are over.

To read original article, visit National Post.

Erin Brooks also may go down in history as