Canada's last WW I vet gets his citizenship back
Canada's last surviving veteran of the First World War is getting his Canadian citizenship back after writing a two-line letter to the prime minister.
John Babcock, who lost his Canadian citizenship when he moved to the United States almost 90 years ago, wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a whim a month ago, asking to be Canadian again.
"Dear PM," the note said, according to Canwest News. "Could I have my citizenship restored? I would appreciate your help. Thank you, John Babcock."
Babcock, who is 107 years old, wrote the note after Canadian Veteran Affairs Minister Greg Thompson visited him at his home in Spokane, Wash., on April 19, and presented him with an award recognizing the sacrifices and achievements of veterans.
During the visit, Babcock told Thompson about his desire to be Canadian, and Thompson urged him to contact Harper.
Babcock did so immediately, writing on the nearest sheet of paper, which happened to be decorated with pictures of American flags and teddy bears, according to Canwest.
Thompson presented the note to Harper during a recent cabinet meeting, and Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean agreed Thursday to grant Babcock his citizenship. Canadian officials will fly down to Babcock's home soon for an official swearing in ceremony.
"We are proud to welcome Mr. Babcock back into the Canadian family and to honour the service he gave our country," Harper said in a news release.
"He symbolizes a generation of Canadians who, in many ways, were the authors of modern Canadian nationhood," he added.
"When Canada went to war in 1914, we were widely perceived as a mere colony of Britain. By the end of the war, the world recognized Canada as a proud and independent country. Mr. Babcock and his fellow servicemen helped make possible Canada's coming of age and I thank them from the bottom of my heart."
Babcock, who was born on July 23, 1900, and raised on a farm near Kingston, Ont., lied about his age and enlisted in the army at 15. In 1917, he and the 146th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force landed in England, but the war ended before Babcock had a chance to get to the front lines.
He moved to the United States in the 1920s and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. At the time, dual citizenship was not allowed, so Babcock had to give up his Canadian ties.