The Osoyoos ‘lost Canadian’ who recently had her citizenship reinstated says that as Canadians observed Mother’s Day this year, there were hundreds of mothers and grandmothers in the country – British war brides of Second World War Canadian servicemen – and their children, who have also lost their citizenship and haven’t gotten it back yet.
Barbara Porteous found out last summer that she had unknowingly lost her citizenship in 1960 because she didn’t follow an obscure provision of the Citizenship Act that required Canadians born outside Canada to sign a form if they were living outside of the country on their 24th birthday.
The 70-year-old Porteous fought a highly publicized battle for reinstatement of her citizenship and went to Ottawa to make her case to a Parliamentary committee, receiving a lot of media coverage in the process.
The federal government fast-tracked Porteous and a number of other ‘lost Canadians’, and a citizenship judge stopped into Osoyoos April 19 to swear her in as a citizen.
But Porteous says the battle is now for the rights of British war brides and their children. They have been caught in a similar situation and many have been stripped of their Canadian citizenship.
Porteous adds she knows of three such cases just in the Osoyoos area, and war brides across Canada are affected today, along with their sons and daughters.
An estimated 65,000 war brides entered Canada in the mid-1940s and they and their children were ruled Canadian citizens. Some of the brides and children returned to Britain and faced the same requirement to affirm their citizenship by their 24th birthday. Many who didn’t are now discovering they are no longer Canadians.
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia resident Douglas Cochrane recently sent a letter to newspapers in the country outlining his mother-in-law’s case.
"My mother-in-law is the daughter of a war bride who has been told her whole life that she is a legal citizen and was taken by surprise at the passport office when she was told she was not entitled to a passport," Cochrane says.
Here is an excerpt from his letter to newspapers:
"Marion Galbraith learned in a most humiliating way that she and her sister are not Canadian citizens when visiting the Immigration office to obtain a Canadian passport.
"My wife Lisa and I have had many heated discussions over the phone, exchanged many e-mails with representatives of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and Veterans Affairs Canada to no avail, and recently had much more positive and informative communications with Melynda Jarratt who manages the www.CanadianWarBrides.com website.
"Thus far the CIC has shown how grossly inept, ignorant, and dispassionate a government of Canada organization can be. This belief has been reinforced by CIC call centre representatives who are short on customer service and people skills (and) possess little subject knowledge – which is no surprise, as the Minister in charge, Diane Finley, does not even know the policies of her own department.
"We have received nothing but conflicting information, been sent incorrect application forms, and (have been) asked to spend hundreds of non-refundable dollars to initiate searches for proof of citizenship entitlement.
"To expedite the process to travel overseas Marion has been told to travel on a British passport that costs $280 until such time as Marion is either determined to be a Canadian, or placed in the queue behind recently arrived immigrants to wait her turn to receive the privilege.
"… Marion and her sister have been living here as what they thought were Canadian citizens who dutifully paid taxes, voted in all elections (illegally from what we have now been told), married, raised children and actively participated in all Canada Day celebrations.
"... Marion, Lisa and I are appalled at how a veteran’s family is treated in this country. It seems that our government’s priorities are wrong when determining whom would make a good and contributing citizen of this country when it continues to treat war brides and their children as illegals who are denied social security, the right to vote, and made to feel that they need to earn their right to be Canadian.
"What is most insulting is that when, and if, citizenship is granted to Marion and her sister it will not be backdated, but will be valid the day it is signed and stamped, therefore discrediting 61 years of their civic, patriotic, and tax paying contributions to this country.
"This is not how it should be for veterans who paid the ultimate price for Canada either paying with their lives, sustained wounds, and put their personal lives on hold so that we in Canada could have the right to be free, who put faith in the hope that their families would be taken care of in an honourable and dignified way when they eventually passed on.
"... For Mother’s day this year I would like Steven Harper to apologise for the shameful treatment of our veterans and their families and to give without strings attached to Marion and every war bride and her children the gift of Canadian citizenship."