The face of Statelessness–Canadian Style

Last week I asked if all the world’s residents have citizenship. We discovered that the answer is `no’ and that there are approximately 15 million  stateless persons worldwide.  On the way to work this morning, I was listening to the CBC program The Current, which reported on the peculiar story of a young girl living in Belgium, whose father is a Canadian citizen, but who is currently not a citizen of any country. She does not fulfill the requirements of Belgian citizenship (which does not have universal jus soli citizenship rules), and as of last year falls through a loophole in Canadian citizenship law as of changes in the law that were enacted last year.

From the program:

Citizens of Nowhere – Ian Goldring

Chloe Goldring is 15 months old. She lives in Brussels, Belgium. And she has no citizenship. She is officially stateless. She has ended up in this situation because of a change made to the Canadian Citizenship Act in April of 2009.

Since then Canadians who were born abroad, in this case her father, are no longer able to pass on Canadian citizenship to their children, unless those children are born in Canada. The change was brought in to target parents born outside Canada who come here, obtain citizenship, and then return to their country of origin and pass along Canadian citizenship to children who may never have any intention of coming to Canada.

You may remember this became an issue in the summer of 2006 when there was a public outcry over Canada’s move to rescue Lebanese Canadians during the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon that summer. Well that is the change that Chloe Goldring has been swept up in.

Chloe’s father Ian Goldring is a Canadian who lives in Brussels.

Citizenship and Statelessness

Do all persons have citizenship?

No. It has been estimated that there are currently about 15 million stateless persons worldwide. From the Nubian people of Kenya to residents of the Dominican Republic of Haitian descent, statelessness is a global phenomenon affecting the health, economic well-being, and human security of the individuals, families, and groups involved.

The Open Society Justice Initiative has produced a series of documentaries on the issue, the introduction to which can be viewed below. From the description:

Although some stateless people are refugees, many have never crossed a border or left their country of birth. Although the problems related to statelessness may manifest themselves differently, at the root is a group of people who have been denied a legal identity.

A stateless person is not recognized as a citizen by any state. Citizenship enables you not only to vote, hold public office, and exit and enter a country freely, but also to obtain housing, health care, employment, and education. Citizenship is necessary in order to live a decent human life. Stateless people are denied that right.

For more information, visit http://www.soros.org/stateless