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Home > Press Room > Article

31 May 2006

Globe and Mail (BC)

May 31, 2006

Wartime child fights to regain his citizenship

Foreign-born son of Canadian soldier had rights removed without his knowledge


VANCOUVER -- Restrictive immigration laws made around the time of the Second World War are causing the children of Canadian soldiers to take up a front-line fight for citizenship in Canada.

Children such as Joe Taylor, born overseas to a father in the Canadian army and a foreign-born mother, are finding out they are not Canadians, a situation comparable to so-called "lost Canadians," -- those whose citizenship was cancelled without their knowledge.

Mr. Taylor was born in England in 1944 to an English mother and Canadian father who were banned from marrying during the war by the Canadian government. In 1946, they moved to Cumberland, B.C., and got married. But the relationship faltered and Mr. Taylor and his mother returned to England after a year.

Almost 60 years later, Mr. Taylor is trying to find out why he does not have Canadian citizenship.

He and his wife, Wendy, were in Federal Court in Vancouver yesterday for a judicial review, after his citizenship rights were rejected in April, 2005. The immigration officer who rejected Mr. Taylor's original application cited the fact that a child born out of wedlock received the nationality of the mother. Mr. Taylor's lawyer, Rory Morahan, said the provision was made during wartime for the women in the Canadian army who became pregnant. Having a Canadian father did not give Mr. Taylor citizenship rights, it concluded last year.

That right, however, was affirmed when Mr. Taylor came to Canada as a dependant of his father, Mr. Morahan argued yesterday. "There were existing rights that were crystallized upon landing in 1946. You can't take these rights away," he said. "[The immigration officer] applied the wrong act; she applied it incorrectly."

A Privy Council order in 1944 entitled war brides and their children, of which there are more than 60,000, to citizenship when they arrived in Canada, Mr. Morahan said.

Thousands of Canadians are assumed to be affected by citizenship laws made during or after the war, although many of them may not be aware.

Don Chapman calls himself a "lost Canadian" and said that in Canada "nobody's citizenship is secure." He defines a "lost Canadian" as someone born and raised in Canada who lost citizenship when the person's father, like his, revoked his status in favour of a foreign nationality. The Canadian government in turn revoked the child's citizenship, without notifying the child. Mr. Chapman said there could be about 100,000 people who have lost citizenship unknowingly.

In Mr. Taylor's case, the status came as a surprise. He lived the majority of his life considering himself half-Canadian, half-English, growing up in England where he owns a home in Devon. In 1999, he made his first trip back to look for his father, with whom he had never kept in touch.

"I just fell in love with the place when I got off the plane. It felt just like home," he said. On a second trip, Mr. Taylor found out that his father had died in 1996, was buried in Port Alberni, and left behind other children in Cumberland, whom Mr. Taylor has since met. He has been back to British Columbia at least 17 times and has a second home in Victoria.

In 2002, around the time Mr. Taylor heard of his father's death, he received a rejection from Canada House in London for his application to renew his Canadian passport. "You lost your citizenship on your 24th birthday," they told him.

Mr. Taylor was dumbfounded. He discovered a regulation passed by the government after the war removed Canadian nationality from children born abroad to fathers in the armed forces. He was told he missed the two opportunities to save his Canadian nationality -- he could have moved back before age 21, or apply for retention of status within three years of turning 21. He was 58 years old.

An application in 2003 to regain citizenship took two years. In April, 2005, Mr. Taylor received a two-page letter from an immigration officer.

"They didn't consider me to be a Canadian. It wasn't because I lost it on my 24th birthday. It was because, in crude language, they referred to me as a bastard."

He expects a decision from the judge shortly. The judge can accept the immigration officer's rejection of Mr. Taylor's case, call for review of his application or grant him citizenship.

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