The Vancouver Sun
Friday June 2, 2006
Westcoast News section B1 & B4
Loss of citizenship a mystery for son of war bride
Nobody can say why the man is no longer a citizen of Canada
By Daphne Bramham
Jenny Taylor and her year-old son Joe first stepped foot on Canadian soil 60 years ago this July.
They didn’t arrive in Halifax as immigrants. They were instantly citizens because they were joining a brash young soldier from Cumberland, B.C.
Jenny was handed a Canadian passport for her and her son.
Gwen Zradicka arrived in 1944 with her nine-month old son and was handed a passport. Her husband came later.
Between 1942 and 1948, nearly 65,000 war brides and dependants came to Canada.
So deeply grateful was Canada to those who served during the Second World War that in 1944 the Privy Council passed a special order granting war brides and children the same citizenship status as their husbands and fathers.
The Taylors’ marriage didn’t out. Jenny and Joe Jr. used the Canadian passport to return to Britain to stay in October 1946. Joe always believed he was Canadian and he still has that passport.
But the government of Canada says Taylor isn’t a citizen. Nobody can say exactly when or how he lost his citizenship, not even the government’s lawyer, Peter Bell, who was in Federal Court this week trying to explain it.
It wasn’t when Taylor and his mother went back to Britain, Bell told the Judge Luc Martineau. It wasn’t because Joe was born on the eve of D-Day and before his father’s commanding officer had given Taylor permission to marry.
It was sometime after 1947, through various revisions of the citizenship and immigration acts, Bell said. But in which revision, he could not say.
Yet Bell was adamant that Taylor is not a Canadian citizen. He insists that at some point, probably before he turned 24, Taylor should have stated his desire to remain Canadian. Yet Bell conceded that none of the war brides and dependents who stayed in Canada were required to do so.
So Martineau asked why was Taylor singled out? Bell didn’t know.
What that means – as Martineau repeatedly told Bell during a 7 ½ - hour hearing – is this:
If Taylor does not have citizenship, then not a single one of those 65,000 other war brides and children has citizenship either. Not a single one of them is entitled to a passport or to vote. And it means many, if not all of the children could be stateless.
But here’s something Bell didn’t bother to mention.
Bureaucrats have already stripped citizenship from other war brides.
Zradicka was one of them. She contacted Vancouver Sun reporter Gerry Bellett after reading his story about Taylor.
After 24 years in Canada, Zradicka divorced in 1968. She remarried the following year to another Canadian. But when she went to get a passport for a trip to Britain, her request was denied.
Because of the divorce, Zradicka was told she had lost her citizenship. Unlike Taylor, she didn’t end up in court. She went through the challenging task of tracking down her ex-husband, getting permission to get a copy of his birth certificate. Then she had to get a copy of the British marriage certificate.
Eventually she got a citizenship certificate – which is exactly what Taylor is trying to get. But the whole thing spooked her so much, Zradicka says she carries it with her at all times in her passport "just in case."
But now, given Taylor’s case, Zradicka worries about her 62-year-old son, who has never had a passport.
The glimpse the Taylor case offers of the Citizenship and Immigration Department is chilling. Bell indicated that the bureaucracy’s view of citizenship is both temporal and highly political.
He insists it is the government’s right to revoke thousands of people’s citizenship, rendering thousands of people stateless, and it doesn’t have any responsibility to even tell them.
So politically charged is the administration of citizenship that Bell dismissed a 2005 letter from former minister Joe Volpe that said war brides and their children had to assert their citizenship at some point after 1947.
Bell called it irrelevant, "stale-dated in terms of government" since the Liberals are gone and the Conservatives are in power. Bell even raised the fact that Volpe is a candidate for the Liberal leadership, as if that makes a difference.
This whole thing is Kafka-esque. Nobody can say how, when or why these people suddenly aren’t Canadian, not even when a Federal Court judge is asking the question.
And to what end? There can surely be no one in Canada – other than bureaucrats and government lawyers – who believes that keeping law-abiding citizens out of their own country or declaring them stateless is money well-spent.
The new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Monte Solberg needs to bring his staff to heel before he becomes captive to them. He should apologise to Gwen Zradicka and others like her who have unfairly had their citizenship rights denied.
And Solberg should arrange to personally hand Joe Taylor his citizenship certificate – because for some reason Taylor still wants to be Canadian.