NSIIP News

A citizen of nowhere

July 14, 2016

The Squamish Cheif | Squamish’s Byrdie Funk finds herself in the unsettling situation of being a citizen of nowhere.

Funk, who was born in Mexico, but brought to Canada by her parents when she was two-months-old, discovered in April after she applied to replace her lost proof of citizenship card that she was no longer a Canadian citizen.

The letter she received from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, dated April 26, states she is “in Canada without legal status.”

Funk provided The Squamish Chief with a copy of the letter.

“Not only am I not a citizen of Canada, I am actually not a citizen of anywhere in the world,” she said.

The situation is the result of an obscure clause in the 1977 citizenship act – Section 8 – that was repealed in 2009. The section currently only applies to persons born between Feb. 15, 1977 and April 16, 1981, according to the federal department of citizenship and immigration.

“These persons had to make an application to retain citizenship before their 28th birthday and had their application approved to remain Canadian citizens,” reads the Government of Canada webpage.

Funk was born in 1980, so she actually lost her citizenship in January of 2008, the year she turned 28, though she was not aware of her change in status at the time. She didn’t receive any notification of the loss, she said.

“I totally feel betrayed. There’s always been a level of safety that I have had in knowing that I am a citizen here, but that has kind of been taken away,” she said.

Anyone who turned 28 on or after April 17, 2009, when the section was repealed, is still a Canadian citizen and does not need to take steps to retain citizenship.

Funk did not know she was supposed to apply; her four siblings didn’t fall within the section of the act, so are all Canadian citizens.

“There’s part of me that feels like this is some big prank,” Funk said, with a sad laugh. “It just seems just completely ridiculous.”

A Citizenship and Immigration spokesperson said the department could not respond to a request for information on Funk’s case due to privacy concerns. The Squamish Chief’s request for the number of people in a similar situation as Funk was also denied.

“In response to your general inquiry, due to privacy laws, we cannot comment on details of a specific case without consent,” an email from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said.

Funk has lived, gone to school, worked, paid taxes and obtained and used her passport without any problem, she said. Her parents don’t recall any paperwork mentioning the potential loss of citizenship. Funk has gone through all the documents her parents kept in their home in Manitoba and found nothing. Even if there was a letter at the time, Funk argues, she was a baby when it would have been sent, so shouldn’t be expected to have had access to it.

“I am being held responsible for something I didn’t even know about,” she said. “It feels, like, strange to be treated like an immigrant when this is the only place I have every lived that I have memory of.”

To regain citizenship Funk would need to apply to become a permanent resident, be admitted as a permanent resident and then live in Canada for one year before applying for citizenship.

“Amendments to the Citizenship Act in 2009, as well as amendments made in 2015, restored or gave citizenship to the vast majority of people who had lost it or never received it due to the previous legislation,” said the email from Citizenship Canada. “For the small number of people who did not become Canadian citizens as a result of the 2009 or 2015 legislative changes, a discretionary mechanism exists. Those who have been living and working in Canada for most of their lives and have been under the mistaken belief that they were Canadian citizens may apply for a discretionary grant of citizenship….”

Funk, a registered counsellor in the Sea to Sky Corridor, said the requirements demanded of her are unfair.

“They are not really options,” she said. “Why should I apply to become a permanent resident? I have not just lived here my entire life, I actually had citizenship. It is not like I lived here illegally all these years.”

For the meantime, Funk will not travel across the border on vacation for fear of being detained or deported.

“My biggest hope is that someone with authority and compassion will be able to look at my story and say, ‘This makes no sense. Why are we doing this to her? Restore her citizenship, please,’” she said. “I know there is someone out there that has that authority.”

There needs to be some kind of a law that protects the babies of immigrants who are brought to Canada, she said.

The Squamish Chief had a scheduled interview with Member of Parliament Pamela Goldsmith-Jones regarding Funk’s situation, but her office cancelled it, citing privacy concerns.

Funk told The Chief she had given Goldsmith-Jones’s office consent to discuss her case. A request to discuss the loss of citizenship by those impacted by the clause in general was also turned down by the MP’s office.

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