Nova Scotia

Son of British war bride can't get passport 70 years later

Michael Gray, 70, is the son of a British war bride, but can't prove his father was a Nova Scotian soldier.

Michael Gray, 70, of Halifax can't prove his father was a soldier from Sambro, N.S.

Michael Gray was born in 1946 to a war bride, and has lived in Canada almost as long. But he still isn't officially a citizen — and can't get a passport. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

A Halifax man who's lived in Canada for 70 years is struggling to prove he's actually a citizen.

Michael Gray, 70, only learned of his status recently when he tried to get a passport to travel.

"I have no status. I'm not even a landed immigrant," he said.

Gray was born just outside London in 1946 to father Reginald Gray, a Canadian soldier from Sambro, N.S., and his father's wife, Briton Marian Froggatt. She fought as a gunner, shooting down German planes during the Blitz, before moving to Canada as a war bride.

The Grays settled in Nova Scotia when Michael was 10 months old. The family lived for a few years in Toronto and eventually came back to Halifax.

Taxes, voting — but no passport

As an adult, Michael Gray stayed in Halifax, married and had two children of his own. He ran a bakery in the north end and also worked as a refrigeration mechanic.

Like all Canadians, he has a health card. He collects a pension, pays taxes and votes.

But when he recently applied for a passport, he had to prove he was Canadian. So far, he's been unsuccessful.

"You would think that they'd be able to call up Revenue Canada and say, 'Here's this guy's Social Insurance Number,' and they'd say, 'How long's he been working,' and they'd tell him."

Haligonian Michael Gray's mother was a war bride, who moved from the United Kingdom to Canada. (CBC)

Gray's in company with other war bride children in Canada, like retired senator and lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire, who was born in the Netherlands in 1946.

And like Gray, Dallaire didn't learn of his status until he applied for a passport back in the 70s when he was about to travel overseas to lead troops.

'I'm so tired of this'

Children of war brides have been fighting for citizenship for decades, author and war bride historian Melynda Jarratt said.

"How is it possible that someone who has lived in this country for 70 years, who has gone to school here, has maybe served in the military ... and now they're being told they're not a citizen?" Jarratt said.

"I mean, I am so tired of this."

She said she believes it's not impossible for Gray to get citizenship and eventually a passport. But Gray is in no hurry.

Michael Gray doesn't have a copy of his father's birth certificate, so cannot get a passport to leave Canada for a trip. (CBC)

He has given the federal department of citizenship and immigration his "record of landing" certificate, plus his own birth certificate from the United Kingdom. What he needs — and is unable to attain — is his father's birth certificate.

The situation is more amusing to him than frustrating, he said.

"I can't go where I want, right? I'd like to go to China or maybe Europe or wherever, you know, but I'm chained here," Gray said with a laugh.

Gray said he's taking a break battling Citizenship and Immigration Canada right now. He said he'll start writing more letters this winter.

About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.