Fighting for citizenship

Screenshot via CBC
Screenshot via CBC

99-year-old woman a Canadian at last

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter

Even though she has spent the majority of her life in Canada since 1933, Joan Stirling, 99, was denied a Canadian Citizenship, because she couldn’t provide her birth certificate. Having worked, paid taxes, and voted in multiple elections, but never having married, gotten a driver’s licence, passport, or surprisingly a health card, her situation was only brought to light recently. Stirling’s friend, Diana Watson, had tried her best to get the fellow senior citizenship so she could access reasonable health care, but was met with a struggle.

Seeking a solution, Watson sent over 20 documents to Citizenship and Immigrations Canada (CIC) that pinpointed Stirling’s trek from the UK to a long settlement in Toronto.

“It does seem ridiculous. It’s just total bureaucracy. I sent this huge file off … and I simply got a one-page letter back saying we need a birth certificate and that was it and everything came to standstill,” Watson told CBC.

Having arrived in Canada in 1933, crossing the border presented a different situation then. “Nobody ever asked me at the border why we were crossing or how long we were going to stay or anything,” Sterling explained to CBC.

In a new era where ID is the currency of life, Stirling was looking for a miracle. Within the last couple of years, Watson has additionally helped her friend out by applying for multiple health cards under Ontario’s Ministry of Health, even going as far as reaching out to a program for the homeless (although Stirling has never been homeless). The only thing that was keeping Stirling afloat was her finances.

After her most recent health card expired at the end of September, Watson reached out to CBC News’s investigative news segment Go Public. Go Public conversed with Don Chapman, the founder of Lost Canadians, an organization to assist those who have never received Canadian citizenship, and asked for help. Chapman is convicted that a new Citizenship Act is necessary.

“CIC is clueless when it comes to their own rules. The only consistency with CIC is they’re inconsistent. I can catch them [making] different statements on different days with different people. They just don’t know their own laws,” Chapman told CBC.

Eventually, Chapman’s convictions were proven true when he revealed that Stirling had been a Canadian citizen all along, due to a law that guaranteed automatic citizenship for British immigrants living in Canada before 1947. All is well, as Stirling will soon receive a citizen certificate and permanent health card.

“I feel like every other Canadian,” Stirling said.