Good morning, and thank you very much for allowing us the opportunity to come here today to share our experience with you. It's been a very overwhelming experience for us and, from what I understand, not a unique one. I'm hoping today that by sharing this information with you it will make a difference for others in the same situation.
In early March we decided to purchase tickets to England to take my mother home for the first time. She left England at the age of three and came to Canada. My grandmother was a war bride and travelled to Canada with my mother and my aunt, who was four at the time. We bought the tickets as a gift, and it was the trip of a lifetime. My mother had her suitcase packed from the first day we got the tickets, she was that excited. We weren't travelling until June, so you can imagine.
We got to the passport office and she was excited. This whole experience was nothing but excitement--but it went downhill from there. We were told that the documents she had were not sufficient for her to receive a Canadian passport because she was not considered to be a Canadian citizen. Of course, my mother became very emotional and I became very upset. I said, “What are you talking about? We spent thousands of dollars on plane tickets. This is ridiculous.”
My husband, being the reasonable man he is, stepped up and said, “Oh, no, this is a misunderstanding, Carol”--my mother's nickname is Carol--“We'll fix this. It's okay.” My husband is the family genealogist and has all the documents you could possibly imagine. He said, “I have all the papers for you at home, so it's not a big deal.” We prepared to go home and thought it wasn't a big deal and we could resolve this fairly easily. We're average people. We trust what we're told by our government. We trust what we're told by the bureaucrats who work for the government.
We made a trip to the Citizenship and Immigration office in Halifax, and it was a nightmare. I never had such poor customer service in my whole life, I'm ashamed to say. We walked in the door, and my mother again was emotional, because 10 minutes prior to that everything she believed to be true about being a Canadian had been pulled out from under her. So she was weepy, and it looked like this trip was going to be lost to her.
We approached the commissionaire behind the glassed-in enclosure. My mother proceeded to say, “I've just been to the passport office and they tell me I'm not Canadian. I have all of these papers. Help me. Who do I need to talk to and what do I need to do?” He didn't warm up to my mother's situation, and I become a little frustrated. I spoke up and said, “Look, this is what we need. We need to speak to somebody. This is what we have and this is what we've been told, so how do we fix the problem?” He said, “See that phone?” and pointed. I'm a university-educated woman and I have a man looking at me saying, “See that black phone? Go to it.”
I crossed the room and picked up the phone. “Press line 1, press line 2, speak.” That's how I was spoken to at the Halifax office. That was the assistance I got. We left there in shock, because I was told it was quite likely my mother was not a Canadian citizen. I had to fill out this paperwork--go to their website and download the forms. We began the whole process.
In the end we had all these forms. It's quite simple, really, just fill out all of these papers and you'll be a Canadian citizen. My grandfather fought for this country for seven years on the front lines as a medic at Dieppe, and this is what his family is told? It's not acceptable or appropriate. Nonetheless, we decided to jump through the hoops necessary because this trip meant the world to my mother.
We decided this was not going to happen in a timely fashion, because the more calls we made, the more confused we became, the more things we were told, and the more papers were sent to us. These papers are the result of four different inquiries, and each and every set of papers is different. We tallied it up, and if we had completed all of these applications and submitted them, it would have cost us $430 for my mother and $430 for my aunt, and they would not necessarily have done what we needed to do. In the end, all she needed was an application for a citizenship card, but nobody took the time to listen or understand.
We were drowning in paperwork, and I finally said, “Enough is enough. We're taking this trip come hell or high water.” I contacted the British consulate; I said, she can travel on a British passport because she is a British citizen. They said that was fine and they would issue it at a cost of $286. We would have it in three or four weeks. We decided that's what we were going to do. But then she said that if my grandmother was a war bride, there was a very helpful website available called canadianwarbrides.com. That was the light at the end of our tunnel, because had it not been for Melynda Jarratt and the folks who are associated with Melynda, we would not have a resolution.
I can happily say today that because of Melynda's intervention and because of the contacts Melynda has and the assistance she offered, we actually presented my mother's documents to an analyst at CIC yesterday, on Slater Street. The intention was to drop them off in person to Nicole Campbell, but unfortunately she wasn't in the office at the time we were there. We were able to hand them off to somebody, and it's dealt with.
In the meantime, we're talking about a pleasure trip. That was inconvenient, and it would have been an economic ouch if we had not been able to take that trip. Fortunately, we were able to reschedule. We're going in mid-August.
A couple of days after we discovered the whole passport situation, my aunt got a telephone call and was told that her application for old age security would not be processed until she could prove her Canadian citizenship, and that by the way, she was not Canadian either. At this point, she was completely in disbelief. She said there had been a mistake. She was at the same point as us: this doesn't happen; this is silly.
I'm happy to say that she will now not suffer any sort of economic loss, because her citizenship card, I'm hoping--we don't have the cards in our hands--will be processed and she will be able to receive her benefits. My mother will be able to receive her passport, and we'll be able to go on.
But we're fighting mad. I appreciate everything people have done for us. And I have to say, aside from the experience in Halifax with that one gentleman...we dealt with Sharon Burrows last week, who was very helpful, and Nicole was very helpful to my husband. We appreciate everything that everybody has done, but this is not right.
Why is this happening? We're Canadians. We honour our war veterans. We honoured our war brides last year. We took them on a train trip and returned to Pier 21 where my mother and my aunt and my grandmother arrived in this country. What was that? Was that lip service? I just don't understand.
We're picking on senior citizens. Let's take the energies of Canadian immigration services and focus them where they need to be, which is to ensure that people who are a threat to the security of this country are dealt with, not senior citizens, please.
I love my mother to bits. She may be annoying sometimes, as are all our mothers, but she is not a security threat. Come on. This is wrong. Why are you wasting your time and energy and money to sit here to right this wrong when it's so simple? When it comes to Canadian citizens, in my book, my understanding is that if one parent is Canadian, that's all that counts. Or if you're born in this country, that should be all that counts. So why is this so hard to understand?
Take these antiquated laws that are filled with so many loopholes and open to so many interpretations and change them. This is 2007, and yet we're quibbling over out-of-wedlock.... Well, I'm sorry. Everybody has a skeleton somewhere back in their closet, and who are we to point fingers and use archaic language like that in this day and age?
Thank you for the opportunity, once again, for us to come and visit this wonderful city, second in beauty only to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I might add.
Please take to heart what we're bringing to you today. We're not politicians. We have no political agenda. We just want to right what's wrong. This is government. It's supposed to work. It's supposed to make sense. Unfortunately, at this point, I'm shaking my head thinking, why?