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Woman gets citizenship back after IRCC revokes it over ‘error’

An Ajax woman has officially become a Canadian citizen — for the second time — after the federal government cancelled her citizenship earlier this month.

Arielle Townsend had her status taken away after 32 years in Canada

Arielle townsend at graduation

An Ajax woman has officially become a Canadian citizen — for the second time — after the federal government cancelled her citizenship earlier this month.

CBC Toronto previously reported on the federal government threatening to revoke Arielle Townsend's citizenship and its subsequent decision to cancel it in early May. Townsend's ordeal began when the department said her mother may not have been a Canadian citizen when Townsend was born in Jamaica.

Townsend, 32, said when she received the notice that her citizenship application was approved last week by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, she felt like a weight had been lifted.

"I immediately started crying," she said. "It was such a relief to finally get that done and to have my citizenship restored."

Townsend was invited to take her citizenship oath on May 17 and will receive her new citizenship card in the mail and electronically — she's made a point to get two versions in case, she said.

But she says she's still angry she had to go through months of stress and uncertainty, including having to be placed on paid leave at work, after losing her citizenship.

"I don't think anyone ever deserves to experience something like this. This was so earth-shattering for me," she said.

Citizenship cancelled after 32 years

Townsend said she never thought to question her citizenship, as immigration officials issued her a citizenship card in 1992 when she was less than a year old.

Her status came into question in September, when the department said it had examined its records and found Townsend's mother may not have been a Canadian citizen when Townsend was born.

In response, Townsend and her lawyers say they provided the government with all the facts, arguing Townsend's mother was a citizen when Townsend was born as she was issued a citizenship card in July 1991, months before Townsend's birth, which her mother swore to in a signed affidavit.

It took another five months for the IRCC to respond in early May. When it did, it said while a citizenship card was created for her mother in 1991, she did not take her citizenship oath until a few months after Townsend was born.

Townsend's mother said in her affidavit that she asked a citizenship officer what she needed to do to get her infant status in Canada — and was assured her daughter was already a citizen.

The IRCC said in an email to Townsend's lawyer that "there was a clear error in the issuance of Arielle Townsend's Canadian citizenship certificate," but argued there was no provision for discretion.

That meant Townsend had to apply to become a citizen, which cost her over $600.

'I've already lived out the oath'

Affirming the oath last week felt bizarre, Townsend said.

"It was kind of comical because here I was at 32 years old, been in Canada my whole life, grew up singing the anthem…going through my whole life as a Canadian but now having to swear the oath," she said. "I've already lived out the oath."

She said she celebrated her reclaimed status on the long weekend with family. But the process has taught her a lot about the need to advocate for herself, she said.

"This whole process, revoking someone's citizenship after they built their whole life in a country is immoral… The immigration system really needs to be looked at," she said.

In a statement to CBC Toronto, the IRCC said it could not comment on individual cases "due to privacy legislation."

Daniel Kingwell, Townsend's lawyer, said she should have been given citizenship right away.

He said he is hoping the government will reimburse Townsend for the money she's spent on getting her citizenship back.

"She shouldn't have been left hanging that long," he said. "This kind of delay…ignores the humanity and treats people as objects. The system has to do better."

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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