Committee report urges citizenship for 'Lost Canadians'

A report to be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday recommends Ottawa retroactively restore citizenship to hundreds of so-called Lost Canadians, CBC News has learned.

A long-awaited citizenship and immigration report to be tabled in Parliament Wednesday recommends Ottawa retroactively restore citizenship to hundreds of so-called Lost Canadians, CBC News has learned.

A CBC News investigation found hundreds of thousands of Canadians were potentially at risk of losing their citizenship because of little-known quirks of the 1947 Citizenship Act.

The investigation also found that thousands had been stripped of their Canadian citizenship — including some who have lived in Canada most of their lives.

In some cases, Canadian-born children lost their citizenship because their fathers later became U.S. citizens.

Under the law of the time, those whose fathers took out citizenship in another country automatically lost their Canadian citizenship as well, even if they weren't living with their fathers at the time.

Some people born in U.S. hospitals, even just across the border, were deemed not to be citizens unless they later registered as Canadians.

The problem became more obvious as the United States began requiring passports for everyone entering the country by air, causing many Canadians to apply for passports.

Instead of a passport in the mail, some received a letter saying they were not Canadian. Others discovered they were not Canadian citizens when they reached the age to apply for Old Age Security.

At the time of the CBC report, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley said her department was not aware the problem was as large as the CBC investigation found.

"To put things in perspective, at this time we're talking about approximately 450 individuals whose cases have come to our attention," Finley said.

In May, Finley announced a new law would be created to help most of the nine categories of Lost Canadians get their citizenship back.

'It means I can come home to live'

CBC News has learned the citizenship and immigration committee has unanimously endorsed the report on the Lost Canadians, which confirms the number of people affected is in the hundreds of thousands.

"When you think of the number of ways that citizenship was taken away, it's not surprising the number is that high," citizenship law expert Donald Galloway told CBC News.

One of those who lost his citizenship was Joe Taylor,the son of an English war bride and a Canadian who fought in the D-Day invasion and in subsequent battles across Europe during the Second World War.

After Taylor's parents divorced, he and his mother returned to England. But as an adult, Taylor decided to return to Canada.

To his shock, Taylor said, he was told he is not a Canadian, for three reasons: he was born abroad, his parents were not married at the time he was born and he was not living in Canada at the time he was 24 years old. Taylor took it as an insult, not just to him, but also for all Second World War veterans.

Taylor took the government to court, demanding his stripped birthright be restored.He won at the Federal Court level, but lost at the Court of Appeal.

Days after the Appeal Court decision, he received a surprise offer of a grant of citizenship from Finley, which he accepted.

"Frankly, I have fought long enough and used enough money that I'm prepared to just take it," Taylor told CBC News. "But it's not really the proper answer."

His citizenship was confirmed on Monday, leaving only an oath-swearing ceremony to make it official.

"It means a lot; it means I can come home to live," Taylor said.

New bill expected by February

The committee has also made several recommendations to fix the problem through new legislation.

The most important is a proposal that anyone born in Canada or born abroad to a Canadian parent is automatically Canadian. The committee proposes the law apply retroactively to everyone born since 1947.

Such a move will restore citizenship to almost all of the Lost Canadians and prevent others from losing their citizenship in future, Galloway said.

"It's a recognition of past injustice, and past time the change is made," he said.

The new bill is expected to be tabled by February.