Byrdie Funk at two months old moved from Mexico with her Canadian parents to a farming community in southern Manitoba. She learned to skate on a backyard pond and trudged between snowdrifts to school, where she would stand with fellow students to sing the national anthem before class.
She used her Canadian passport to travel to South Africa, toting a suitcase sporting the maple leaf, and was later married at a historic trading post on the banks of Winnipeg’s Red River.
But earlier this year the 36-year-old woman’s life was upended when she received a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada informing her she was no longer a Canadian citizen.
“It took my breath away,” Funk said in an interview from her home in Squamish, B.C.
“I had no idea that anything like this could even happen.”
She is one of an unknown number of people ensnared in an arcane law that automatically revokes the citizenship of certain Canadians who fail to officially apply to retain their nationality before the age of 28.
The little-known policy applies to anyone born abroad between Feb. 15, 1977, and April 16, 1981, to Canadian parents who were also born outside the country.
The rule was abolished by the Conservative government in 2009, but the change wasn’t retroactive, so it didn’t include anyone who had already turned 28 by then.
Funk said she only learned about the law this spring after trying to renew her passport.
The law was drafted in the 1970s out of concern that citizenship could be passed along indefinitely to generations abroad who were less and less connected to Canada, said Audrey Macklin, a law professor at the University of Toronto.
Macklin said it wasn’t necessarily unfair, at least in theory, to require someone twice removed from being born in Canada to prove a connection to the country.
The problem, though, was rooted in the government’s inability to identify and inform those people that their citizenship would “evaporate” if they didn’t take specific steps to retain it, she said.
Lindsay Wemp, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said in an email that the immigration minister can offer discretionary citizenship in extraordinary circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
Funk said she contacted Minister John McCallum’s office in July and has yet to receive a response.
Source : Canadian Press and CTV news