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Woman’s Canadian Citizenship Revoked After 32 Years Amid ‘Error’

Woman’s Canadian Citizenship Revoked After 32 Years Amid ‘Error’



The Canadian government has revoked the Canadian citizenship of Arielle Townsend, an Ajax, Ontario resident, over an error it claims to have made more than 30 years ago. Townsend now faces the daunting task of reapplying for her citizenship, at a personal cost of hundreds of dollars, to rectify the situation.

In September, Townsend received a letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), stating that her Canadian citizenship was at risk of being revoked. This news, first reported by CBC Toronto, revealed that the department questioned whether Townsend’s mother was a Canadian citizen when Townsend was born in Jamaica.

A recent letter from the IRCC, viewed by CBC Toronto, confirmed that Townsend’s citizenship has indeed been rescinded. The letter stated, “Your citizenship certificate is no longer valid,”   effectively changing her status in Canada to that of a foreign national.

The news came as a shock to Townsend, who has held Canadian citizenship since infancy. “Applying for citizenship when you’ve been a citizen, or thought you were a citizen your entire life, is really jarring,”  said Townsend. “This is putting me in a very difficult position.”

Government Confusion Over Mother’s Citizenship

Townsend and her lawyers assert that they have provided all necessary documentation to the government, proving that Townsend’s mother was a Canadian citizen at the time of her birth. As affirmed in a signed affidavit, Townsend’s mother received her citizenship card in July 1991, months before Townsend’s birth.

However, the IRCC contends that while a citizenship card was issued to Townsend’s mother in 1991, she did not take her citizenship oath until a few months after Townsend was born. “Despite what is printed on her citizenship certificate, a person is only considered a Canadian citizen once they have taken the oath of citizenship,” the IRCC stated.

Arielle Townsend, right, pictured with her husband Amani. (Submitted by Arielle Townsend)

Clerical Error Acknowledged, But No Discretion Allowed

In her affidavit, Townsend’s mother recounted asking a citizenship officer in 1992 what steps were needed to secure her infant daughter’s status in Canada. She was assured that her daughter was already considered a citizen, which led to the issuance of Townsend’s citizenship card in August 1992.

The IRCC acknowledged the clerical error in issuing Townsend’s Canadian citizenship certificate but stated that the legislative provision for recalling a citizenship certificate does not permit any discretion. As a result, Townsend must now apply for citizenship under “special discretionary grounds,” a process that will cost her over $600.

Impact on Townsend’s Life and Legal Response

Townsend’s lawyer, Daniel Kingwell, criticized the government’s handling of the situation. “You go from being firmly entrenched in Canada and being a Canadian citizen to having even less status than someone who just entered Pearson yesterday as a visitor,” he said. He emphasized that the government should prioritize rectifying clerical errors to avoid such drastic impacts on individuals’ lives.

The IRCC declined to comment on Townsend’s specific case, citing privacy legislation. Meanwhile, Townsend worries about the immediate repercussions of losing her citizenship. She fears losing her job, as she technically cannot work in Canada until her status is reinstated. Additionally, she is unable to visit her elderly father-in-law in the United States.

“It’s frustrating to think that I have to apply for citizenship that I thought I had all this time, Townsend expressed. “The humanity is really removed from this whole process.

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