‘I have no country’: After more than 60 years in Canada, B.C. woman discovers she doesn’t have citizenship

December 17, 2017

By CBC News |

67-year-old Irene Gyselinck fighting to acquire ID

Irene Gyselinck arrived in Canada as a refugee from Germany on Aug. 25, 1951, with her mother and brother. She was just a one-year-old, and has never known any other home since.

But after more than 60 years in Canada, Gyselinck discovered she’s not actually Canadian.

Gyselinck, 67, grew up in Manitoba and now lives in Deep Cove, B.C. Over the course of her life, she has worked as a welder, car detailer, and artist, among other things. She also married, had two children and was widowed.

She always had a social insurance number, health insurance and paid her taxes.

The realization that she’s not a Canadian citizen has sent her life into a tailspin, leaving her unable to acquire valid identification and at risk of losing her health insurance.

“I always felt like I was part of the system,” she said. “Now, I feel I’ve been here for 66 years and I don’t count.”

The discovery
Gyselinck discovered her status when she tried to enter the U.S. in March 2012 without a passport. Prior to 2009, Canadians entering the U.S. by car were not required to have a passport, and Gyselinck travelled there many times, using her driver’s licence as ID.

But this time, Homeland officials turned her back, urging her to get proper travel documents. They said she had no proof she had a right to re-enter Canada, and would need to apply for a temporary visa to return home.

After several hours of confusion, she was eventually escorted back into Canada.

“It really, really confused me and scared me,” said Gyselinck, who immediately applied for a record of her citizenship. Since then, she’s been in a back-and-forth battle with Immigration Canada, trying to obtain documents proving her status as a permanent resident.

To her shock, she discovered she never became a citizen.


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