Monday 19 February 2018

Canada's oldest "non-person" (99) denied citizenship despite living there for 80 years

Joan Stirling speaking about her time in Canada Credit: CBC
Joan Stirling speaking about her time in Canada Credit: CBC

David Kearns

A 99-year-old woman has been denied Canadian citizenship despite having lived in Canada for more than 80 years.

Joan Stirling's application was rejected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada because she could not produce her birth certificate from almost a century ago.

Canada's oldest "non-person" presented herself to immigrations officials and told them her story after her application for citizenship was turned down.

Crossing the border “at a different time”, Ms Stirling, who was born in London in 1916, made her way to the US and then into Canada in 1933 when she was 17.

"Nobody ever asked me at the border why we were crossing or how long we were going to stay or anything," she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

It is understood the 99-year-old has given the CIC more than 20 documents tracking her long history in Canada.

The paperwork shows that Ms Stirling has been living in Toronto since the 1930s, working, paying taxes and voting in almost every election.

Despite all the other evidence, the CIC refused to provide Ms Stirling with a citizenship certificate because she lacks a birth certificate.

"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," Ms Stirling said.

Speaking to CBC, Ms Stirling’s friend, Diana Watson, has been fighting since 2012 to get officials to recognised the 99-year-old as a Canadian citizen, in part, so the senior can access public health care.

“She never married, never got a driver's licence or passport, and never needed a health card, until just a few years ago,” Ms Watson said.

“Her situation isn't unusual according to critics who say our citizenship laws are so convoluted, even the people paid to implement the rules don't understand them.”

"Joan is a Canadian citizen even if CIC officials fail to figure that out because an old law automatically gives British subjects Canada citizenship if they were living here prior to 1947."

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