The federal immigration minister is being urged to restore the citizenship of thousands of people who lost their status when their parents became citizens of other countries.
People affected took their case to a parliamentary committee that's reviewing a proposed new Citizenship Act. They say they never stopped being Canadian when their families moved out of the country.
In front of disbelieving MPs, Magali Castro-Gyr held up her valid Canadian passport, her birth certificate showing she was born in Montreal in 1959, and a Canadian citizenship award her 10-year-old son received recently. But Ottawa says Castro-Gyr and her sons aren't Canadian.
"I said (to my son) 'What would you say to this committee for me?' He said, 'Mom, tell them this, I am Canadian, and tell them with capital letters with an exclamation mark!'"
Castro-Gyr only discovered she wasn't Canadian two years ago, when she tried to get citizenship papers for her children. They'd been born in Switzerland and she was returning to Canada to teach in British Columbia.
Citizenship officials told her she'd lost her citizenship as a child, when her father moved the family to the United States and he himself became an American citizen.
"It becomes truly irrational and absurd to disentitle a Canadian-born child from his or her ability to retain Canadian citizenship, solely on the actions taken by her father," said Castro-Gyr.
But the Citizenship Act of 1947 said children were essentially property of their fathers and lost citizenship if their fathers did. The law was changed in 1977, but that was too late for Castro-Gyr.
It was also too late for Dan Chapman. The 48-year-old airline pilot lost his citizenship at the age of seven, when his father went to the United States. Chapman is bitter about it.
"If there was ever a lesson to be learned in 1940s Germany it's that you never create a class of people and take away all their rights. When you do that bad things happen, so you just don't go there. But Canada has gone there, so it's time to correct it," he said.
But Canadian officials have only suggested Castro-Gyr and Chapman apply for landed immigrant status. As former Canadians they'll only have to reside in Canada one year, instead of the usual three for everyone else.
But both think it's an insult. Castro-Gyr has spent $20,000 fighting the issue in Federal Court.
"It's an emotional connection that I have with Canada. I am not an immigrant, OK? I am born here. Yes, I left for the United States as a minor child, but we kept ties with Canada through my entire life," she said.
But in Chapman's case, the fact that his great-great-uncle was one of the first judges appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada doesn't help him.
Canadian Alliance House leader John Reynolds says Canada doesn't want to restore their citizenship because it might mean thousands of people returning to claim health and social benefits.
"They're good people, they're hard-working people, they want to be Canadians, and because of a little glitch in the law, which I think is totally against human rights and if it goes to the Supreme Court I'm sure it will be ruled they'll get it back. But I think there's a good feeling in this committee even from the Liberals, that they couldn't believe it when they heard this story."
Reynolds believes the time is right for change. Immigration Minister Denis Coderre is proposing the first overhaul to Canada's citizenship laws in 25 years. Reynolds wants it to include an amendment to restore citizenship for people who wouldn't have lost it under today's laws.
But Coderre isn't ready to do that. "I won't make a general statement about the situation. I'm willing to look at some specific cases I've heard. Mr. Reynolds and other members of Parliament show me some cases, I'm going take a closer look at that, but there's some situations I'm ready to take a look at."
But Chapman and Castro-Gyr aren't interested in dealing with the issue case by case. They say nothing short of welcoming back the people they consider Canada's "lost children," is good enough.