Canadian mom's kids treated as foreigners thanks to citizenship law
A Canadian mom who grew up in Edmonton, Alta. faced trouble getting her kids into public school and even getting them vaccinated thanks to a citizenship law that said they weren’t Canadian.
The two children of Vicki Maruyama – a Canadian citizen—were able to get into the country last week from Japan under a temporary resident permit. But that’s a far cry from the Canadian citizenship she believes they deserve, she said.
“They’re not Canadian because I’m not Canadian enough apparently,” she told CTV News. “It made me feel horrible. I was like, ‘What? We live here, I’m from here, I grew up here.’”
Maruyama’s family is another example of how a law designed to stop people from taking advantage of the perks of citizenship seems to be ensnaring people with real ties to Canada.
Public anger about the cost of helping 15,000 so-called “Canadians of convenience” evacuate from Lebanon during a 2006 war started the then-Conservative government working on Bill C-37.
That law, passed in 2009, made it so the first generation of Canadians born abroad would keep their citizenship, but a second generation born abroad would not be.
Birth is the only factor the law takes into account, meaning that citizens who gave birth to children while travelling for work or business could find themselves impacted.
That’s what happened to Maruyama: She was born in Hong Kong to Canadian citizen parents. The family moved to Edmonton, and settled there for decades. Maruyama then moved to Japan to teach English, met her husband, and learned of the new rules in 2009 while eight months pregnant.
“I remember looking at it and thinking, ‘Wait a minute. Oh my god, this applies to me, this applies to us,'” she recalled.
She says she called then minister of immigration Jason Kenney’s office to ask for help.
“They said the best thing to do is get on a plane. Then they will be Canadian,” she said. “Or you can have your children immigrate.”
Her children, Akari and Arisa, are Japanese citizens by birth. And they were treated as foreigners when the family tried to move back to Canada, Maruyama said, finding bureaucratic restrictions blocking almost everything.
They had to leave the country periodically to keep their visitor visas. The Edmonton public school system demanded proof the children were Maruyama's biological offspring, which involved providing officially translated documents from Japan, before they could be enrolled. And Maruyama said she was trying to get her kids vaccinated at an Edmonton clinic before it became clear they weren’t entitled to health care.
“This is my home. It’s kind of awful,” she said.
In another case, Patrick Chandler, a Canadian citizen, was born in Libya while his parents were teaching there. He moved back when he was two years old, and left for China while in his late teens. When he tried to bring his Chinese-born kids back, he found many obstacles standing in his way.
After more than a year of processing an application, his children were granted permanent resident status.
Immigration critic Jenny Kwan says dozens of Canadians have contacted her office looking for help. She has presented a private members’ bill that would offer a path to citizenship for anyone in this situation provided they have lived in Canada for three years or more, or can demonstrate a substantial connection to Canada.
“This is devastating for any family. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to clean up this mess and not allow for this “lost Canadian” situation to continue to happen,” she said.
The private members’ bill was introduced in 2016, and it’s unlikely it will be acted on without support from the Liberal government.
A spokesperson for the immigration minister said the government had fixed some immigration problems in 2015, but “there remain some individuals who either lost or never acquired citizenship during due to the changes in 2009.”
“IRCC continues to work with these indiviuals on a case-by-case basis through existing channels,” said Mathieu Genest, adding that “it is too early to speculate on any potential legislation.”
Advocate Don Chapman says legislation needs to be considered as a quick way to solve the remaining “lost Canadian” issues.
“There are 2.8 million Canadians living abroad. What happens when they start having kids? The problem will never go away until they correct the laws,” Chapman said.