Last Updated on January 24, 2019
Joan Stirling’s application for Canadian citizenship was rejected and now the 99-year-old is going public. Ms Stirling was denied Canadian citizenship and a health card despite having lived in Canada for over 80 years. The case provides a glimpse of the harsh interpretation Canada’s conservatives have adopted in citizenship matters.
The reason for her rejection by Citizenship and Immigration Canada was her inability to produce her birth certificate from almost a century ago.
Her friend, Diana Watson, has been fighting since 2012 to get Stirling recognized as a Canadian citizen, in part, so the senior could access public health care.
Watson provided Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) over 20 documents that tracked Stirling’s birth in the U.K., her arrival in Canada, and her long history here.
The documentation shows Stirling has been living in Toronto since the 1930s, working, paying her taxes and voting in almost every election. But Watson says that Stirling’s birth certificate was hard to track down even though she had contacted authorities in the U.K.
Despite all the other evidence, Watson says CIC refused to provide Stirling with a citizenship certificate. Only after Go Public investigated, was Stirling granted citizenship.
Stirling calls herself Canada’s oldest “non-person,” but her situation isn’t unusual according to critics who say Canadian citizenship laws are overly convoluted and even those who are paid to implement the rules don’t understand them.
Stirling was born in London, England, in 1916 and made her way to the U.S., crossing the border into Canada in 1933 when she was 17. She never married, never got a driver’s licence or passport, and never needed a health card, until just a few years ago.
Watson says she wanted to help Stirling for two reasons.
Given her age, she says chances are Stirling will need access to the health-care system. Watson was also worried Stirling’s savings would run out and the senior would no longer be able to pay for her retirement home. Without a health card, she wouldn’t have access to long-term government care.
Watson was able to get Ms Stirling several temporary health cards, first through a program for the homeless (despite Stirling never being homeless), and then through Ontario’s Ministry of Health, but every year it’s been a struggle. The province requires proof of citizenship or status to provide a permanent health card.
However, according to an old law that automatically gave British subjects in Canada citizenship if they were living here prior to 1947, Stirling has been a Canadian citizen all along.
After Go Public took Stirling’s case to Citizenship and Immigration Canada and officials there agreed to look into her case and it was determined that Stirling was already a Canadian citizen based on the latest amendments to the Citizenship Act made in June. Those changes recognize that old law from 1947.
Both Stirling and Watson who were happy to hear that Joan Stirling will get her citizenship certificate with a permanent health card to follow.