Home > Books > No More Damned Secrets! An Anglo-Canadian War Child's Quest for Roots and Identity
New Release! March 2013 From Book Guild Publishing in Britain
Review by Melynda Jarratt
Author Paul Cornes
Cover Type Hardback
Format 216 x 135
Publication Date 28/3/2013
British-born Paul Cornes was fifty-seven years old when he found out he was a "war child" born out of wedlock during the Second World War - and that his father was a Canadian serviceman named Max Clements.
It was only after Cornes mother's death in 2001 that his aunts revealed the truth about the Canadian soldier named Max Clements. But it was his step-father, so relieved that the cloak of deception had finally been lifted, who uttered the words "No More Damned Secrets" and gave Cornes the title for his book.
It would be easy to forgive Cornes for taking his family secret to the grave; after all, his mother had managed to spin a web of lies for more than a half century and enlisted the entire family, including his aunts and stepfather, in the "cover up". But Paul Cornes is no ordinary war child. As an influential British academic specializing in vocational rehabilitation for the disabled, Cornes' professional background made him perfectly suited to write a book about Canada's war children and the Lost Canadians from the perspective of human rights.
"No More Damned Secrets" is part Canadian history, part family genealogy, and part condemnation of Canada's Citizenship Act and human rights record. It's also a fascinating read that ties together the many threads of Cornes' personal journey through his family's past in both Britain, Ireland and Canada as well as his political awakening to an issue which - like many other war children - he had probably not given much thought until the day he found out his father was a Canadian soldier and he suddenly faced the daunting task of finding out who the man really was.
"No More Damned Secrets" is well written and meticulously researched. It provides an insight that is both personal and political. It reveals the duplicity of generations of government bureaucrats - and the successive Canadian governments for whom they worked, both Liberal and Conservative - to deny "natural justice" to the war children, who through no fault of their own, happened to be born out of wedlock overseas during the Second World War.
Cornes makes the case that war children are denied access to information about their Canadian fathers on the basis of the 1947 Citizenship Act - discriminatory legislation that is rooted in patriarchal, chauvinstic stereotypes about so-called "loose women" who had the misfortune to become pregnant by a Canadian soldier in Britain and Europe during wartime.
An important theme that emerges from "No More Damned Secrets" is the connection between identity and personal family history, one that Cornes admits was a "surprising revelation." The right to know one's identity, guaranteed by national and international human rights legislation, seems obvious to those of us who don't worry about such things because we know our parents. We know who we are.
Beyond that is the relationship between identity and citizenship, and Cornes' belief - one that is shared by many war children who were born out of wedlock and are denied access to any information about their fathers whereabouts by Canada's Privacy Act - that he is part of a diaspora whose ties to Canada are based on more than legal definitions of citizenship found in past and present Citizenship Acts. He IS the son of a Canadian serviceman whose roots in this country go back to the founding of this country. He is a Canadian in his heart and in his identity.
"No More Damned Secrets" will be welcomed by historians, academics, feminists, human rights activists, lawyers and students who have come across the issue of Canadian war children and Lost Canadians and find the literature wanting. It will also be of interest to the estimated 30,000 Canadian war children and their families whose lives are mirrored in Cornes' experience.
"No More Damned Secrets" is the kind of book that is hard to put down: I found myself reading it in the wee hours of the morning, on the bus, in the afternoon and on breaks from work. As an historian specializing in the Canadian War Bride experience who has been involved in the struggle to recognize Canada's Lost Canadian war children, "No More Damned Secrets" was an affirmation of everything I believed to be true in terms of the way the Canadian government has treated Canada's war children since the Second World War.
Cornes was, indeed, the perfect person to write this book. In fact, he is probably the only person who could write this book and pull it off without being criticized, as he says, of belonging to the "misery memoire genre".
"No More Damned Secrets" is the first book of its kind written by a war child in an empathetic, intelligent and analytical manner. I hope, for the sake of Canada's war children, it inspires others to come forward and lay claim to that which is their inherent right by birth: to know who they are, to know who their fathers are, and if they so choose, the right to Canadian citizenship.