Although his own Canadian citizenship was restored five years ago, Don Chapman, the retired airline pilot who divides his time between homes in Gibsons and Phoenix, Ariz., continues to lobby for those who do not have the same good fortune.
Chapman has long championed the Lost Canadians, people so named because they’ve fallen through the large cracks left by a citizenship act that states there was essentially no Canadian citizen prior to Jan. 1, 1947.
In spring 2008, Bill C-37 was passed, which returned citizenship to many Canadians who had previously lost theirs through a poorly worded and discriminatory Act. In Chapman’s case his citizenship and that of his birth family were revoked when his father left B.C. to take a job in the United States that required the elder Chapman become an American. At the time, wives and children were considered men’s chattel, and dual citizenship was not an option. Bill C-37 restored both the son’s and his elderly widow’s citizenship 47 years after it was taken away.
Many were not so lucky, though.
One such person is Jackie Scott. The B.C. woman was the child of an unmarried British woman and a Canadian serviceman. Born in 1945, she migrated to Canada at age two after the war. While the Scotts wedded soon after the migration, the marriage did not endure. Subsequently, Scott and her mother returned to England.
Scott later returned to Canada and has lived in the White Rock area for many years.
Because she was born before Jan. 1, 1947 Scott was deemed to not be covered by Bill C-37. A study of the case appears to point to discrimination on two counts: first of all, because the Scotts were not married at the time of Jackie’s birth, she was deemed a Brit, and secondly, the government is now arguing that prior to 1947 there was no such thing as a Canadian citizen. Prior to that date, all people living in Canada were British citizens; hence, even if the Scotts had been married, because Jackie was born prior to 1947, her father would not have been a Canadian citizen.
This past July a judicial review of the decision to not award Scott citizenship was scheduled; however, she put it on hold so she and her lawyers could increase the court action. Scott wanted others excluded on the same or similar grounds to be included in the new case.
Chapman noted in an interview recently that the Attorney General of Canada is essentially arguing against himself. In March 2013 a decision saying that Métis and Aboriginals were Canadian citizens going back to 1870 appeared to contradict the 1947 citizenship start date.
The 2013 throne speech promises to “introduce the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation.” The same document speaks to “commemorating the centennial of the First World War and 75th anniversary of the Second World War, and the enormous sacrifices made by Canadians and Allies in both,” which again appeared to contradict the Jan. 1, 1947 start date for Canadian citizenship.
Until such time as Scott and others who have met the same fate are declared citizens, Chapman has no intention of backing off on the government. He hopes to have a Charter challenge mounted to a citizenship act he said continues to be biased against many elderly folks.
“I’m tired of [the government’s] hypocrisy, their silence and their ignorance of Canadian citizenship legislation. Not speaking out, keeping quiet, not completely embracing our fallen heroes as being ours — of being Canadian citizens — it’s such an incredible dishonour to those who fought for our freedoms and identity,” Chapman said in a Remembrance Day news release.
He is encouraged by support from Green Party leader Elizabeth May. The fight will continue into the new year, he said.