Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Surprise, you can leave the country but can’t come back!

Tuesday was the dawn of the brand new era when it comes to travel to what Alan Fotheringham frequently refers to as the Excited States of America.

New passport regulations went into effect January 23rd, starting with those folks that like to travel by air to their favourite American destination.

From now on Canadians wishing to enjoy the sun of California, Hawaii’s volcanic vistas, the Florida beaches, or even Fargo’s snows will have to have a valid Canadian passport to fly into the States. As the years progress we’ll need one should we wish to drive across the line as well, as fortress America tightens up the entry door.

There have been more than a few stories of mild bemusement about some Canadians who subscribe to the wait til the last minute school of official document procurement.

Global BC, CTVBC and the CBC all had stories on their respective news packages today about British Columbians who were lining up at the passport office in downtown Vancouver, prepared for a possible eight to ten hour wait to apply for the now much needed travel document. We wish the lady with a planned trip to Disneyland for early February the best of luck, the current wait period for passports is now over a month, so perhaps she’ll be saying sorry Goofy can’t make it this time.

While Canadians line up and wait for their papers, a few other of our fellow citizens are finding out some distressing news, they are no longer our fellow citizens.

Many applying for a Canadian passport have been informed their chance to remain a citizen expired years ago because of an obscure provision in the Citizenship Act, a little-known law that applied between 1947 and 1977. The surprising turn of events, affects Canadians that turned 24 and were living outside of the country at the time, if they neglected to file the proper form upon their return to the country, they didn’t know it, but they were no longer considered Canadians.

It’s a strange twist to the Citizenship Act that has always been on the verge of being cleaned up but seemed to always slip through the cracks, now with the sudden rush for official documentation there’s somewhere between 10 to 20,000 of these Lost Canadians looking for a little support and maybe a chance to wave the maple leaf with pride once again.

While some are more worried about the status their pensions and medical benefits, one wonders if some smart lawyer might be able to make a case for having their income tax payments returned for the missing years, after all if you’re not a citizen should you pay taxes to the country that doesn’t want you?

As things settle down it’s expected that those caught up in the mess will find a resolution to their problems. The government is apparently set to take steps to fix the problem and give back their Citizenship, to those that didn’t even know they had lost it.

But for the moment it might be best to adopt a See Canada first travel policy. It might be wise to not leave the country in the near future; you may not be able to get back in!

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