Nova Scotia

Halifax man finally gets permanent residency card after clerical error in 1969

A man who says a case of mistaken identity when he first landed in Canada as a boy was preventing his application for Canadian citizenship has finally received his permanent residency status.

Thor Henrikson moved to Canada from Iceland as a 6-year-old boy but his name was recorded incorrectly

He was born Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson. As per Icelandic tradition, the surname Thorsteinsson was an adaptation of his father's first name. (CBC)

Thor Henrikson drove home nervously Thursday to check his mailbox for the letter he's waited 10 years to receive. 

"I was elated. Absolutely elated," he said of receiving his new permanent resident card.  

"This will never leave my wallet, except at the border."

His birth name was Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson, although he has since changed it to Henrikson. 

It's Icelandic custom to form the names of children with a parent's first name plus the word "son" or "dóttir" — daughter in Icelandic. When his family immigrated to Canada in 1969 when he was six, an immigration official didn't understand that custom and recorded the wrong last name — Thorsteinn Saemundsson. 

However, Henrikson couldn't convince Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to amend the official record.

In a statement earlier this month, the department said it did not have documentation linking Thorsteinn Saemundsson with Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson. 

'We believe we made an error'

The confusion blocked him from applying for a new permanent resident card, which is an official proof of identification and necessary if Henrikson ever leaves the country and wants to re-enter by plane. 

But shortly after the CBC aired Henrikson's story earlier this month, he got an official call. Henrikson faxed the department 15 pages of proofs of his identity, then received a call back saying that his case was being dealt with. 

"She said, yes, we're going to mail your card. We believe we made an error," he said.  

Henrikson said he didn't get an official explanation of why it took so long to resolve his case, but he believes it was media attention from the CBC that made the difference. 

Henrikson said he has received hundreds of messages of support over social media and in comments. As well, at least two other families who are in the same situation have now reached out to him. 

"There's so many others. I think about them," he said. "Over a decade of frustration to get it, you can't forget that. And I can't forget that there's so many other people in exactly my situation." 

Henrikson said he plans to apply for full citizenship right away and hopes to vote in the next election.

About the Author

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca