Manitoba 'border babies' officially become Canadians

More than 80 people from 33 countries became Canadian citizens on Tuesday afternoon in Winnipeg, among them two "border babies" who didn't know they needed the ceremony until last year.

More than 80 people from 33 countries became Canadian citizensonTuesday afternoon in Winnipeg, among them two "border babies" who didn't know they needed the ceremony until last year.

Claire and Mallo Clark always thought they were Canadian citizens, but a year ago, they were told they were not because their parents did not fill out the right forms when they returned to Canada after the boys'birth.

Clark, his two brothers and a sister were all born south of the border in Westhope, N.D., because the hospitalin that community was closest to their parents' home in Lyleton,a tiny communityin southwestern Manitoba.

The Clark family has been living within 10 miles of their current homestead since 1899, and wasin Ontario for years before that. The parents received child tax benefits for the boys, and when they were old enough, they voted in elections and paid taxes.

The brothersdiscovered they were not considered Canadian citizens when they applied for passports for a trip to Mexico last year.

Since then, they have been fighting to have their status cleared up. They had been considered foreign nationals until Tuesday.

Claire Clark said he felt out of place at Tuesday's ceremony.

"I'm 58 years old, lived in Canada my whole life. Why am I not a Canadian citizen?" he said, adding it wasn't as happy a day for him, as it was for other participants in the ceremony.

"It would be if I was from another country moving to Canada, but I'm not. I live here. But that's the way it is, so we're going to do it and get it done with."

"It's, I guess, a mixed thing," Mallo Clark said."I feel like it's been a long road getting here, maybe a road we shouldn't have been on."

Minister fast-tracking 450 cases

Clark believes the brothers' cases were fast-tracked by the federal citizenship minister after CBC highlighted their story in an investigative series last month.

Citizenship Minister Diane Finley said her department is working hard to process the applications of border babies, Mennonites, war brides and other so-called Lost Canadians.

"We're very aware. We've identified about 450 specific cases of citizenship anomalies. We are fast-tracking those," she said.

She denied the work is being sped up because of public or media pressure, saying that it is the right thing to do.

Mallo and Claire Clark are still worried about the status of their brother, Robert Gene Clark, who has not yet heard if he will receive his Canadian citizenship.

Robert Clark was convicted of drug-related charges and is considered inadmissible to Canada. His deportation order is on hold.

Their sister received her citizenship a year ago.

The siblings hope their new, official status means their brother will also be recognized as a Canadian citizen soon.