A lost Cana­dian... home at last

The Victoria Standard - - Law / Politics - CAROLYN BAR­BER

As a boy ex­posed to the antiger­man ra­dio pro­grams of the 1940s in Sydney, N.S., Paul Diekel­mann dreamed of a ca­reer in the Cana­dian mil­i­tary.

“I wanted to be a tail-gun­ner,” he said in an Septem­ber 6 in­ter­view from his res­i­dence at Macleod House in Bad­deck.

When he turned 18, he tried to en­list in the Royal Cana­dian Air Force (RACF) but was in­el­i­gi­ble. Paul wasn’t a Cana­dian cit­i­zen. “I was raised Cana­dian, with­out be­ing rec­og­nized as Cana­dian,” he said dur­ing an in­ter­view on Sept 6.

Paul spent a busy child­hood and ado­les­cence in Sydney soak­ing up ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that pre­sented it­self. He grew up learn­ing how to shine and re­pair shoes, even­tu­ally run­ning a shoe shine stand. One of his cus­tomers was the Branch Man­ager of the Bank of Nova Sco­tia on Char­lotte Street. At 17, he found him­self guard­ing dam­aged cur­rency bound for the Cana­dian Trea­sury with a shot gun. From there, he worked his way up to be­come a teller.

In 1955, at 22, he re­turned to his birth place of Chicago, Illi­nois, to re­con­nect with ex­tended fam­ily. While there, he en­listed in the U.S. Air Force and mar­ried his Sydney sweet­heart. Paul and his wife, Toni, resided in the U.S. (Illi­nois, Texas, Ari­zona and New Mex­ico) un­til 2003.

Paul’s mother, Marie “Min­nie” Martinello, was born in Sydney, in 1904. She moved to Chicago where she met and mar­ried Paul’s fa­ther, Paul Bern­hard Diekel­mann in Jan­uary, 1931.

By mar­ry­ing an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, Min­nie ceased to be a Bri­tish sub­ject on her wed­ding day. Prior to Jan. 1, 1947, when the Cana­dian Cit­i­zen­ship Act (CCA) came into force, peo­ple born in Canada and nat­u­ral­ized im­mi­grants were clas­si­fied as Bri­tish sub­jects. The CCA did not ap­ply to Paul be­cause he was born out­side Canada, in wed­lock, to a mother who had ceased to be a Bri­tish sub­ject.

Paul was born on Oct. 6, 1932, in Chicago. In 1936, Min­nie moved back to Canada with her Amer­i­can son when her hus­band be­gan a 25-year prison sen­tence. Over­whelmed with re­spon­si­bil­ity, she placed Paul in the Lit­tle Flower Or­phan­age in Bras D’or. She re­trieved him in 1939 when she re­mar­ried.

On Feb. 15, 1977, when the Cit­i­zen­ship Act (CA) came into force, both Paul and his mother re­mained in­el­i­gi­ble for cit­i­zen­ship. The CA re­de­fined “cit­i­zen” as “Cana­dian cit­i­zen” and granted the rights, re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and du­ties of Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship to all pre­vi­ously nat­u­ral­ized and na­tive-born cit­i­zens. Once again, the new leg­is­la­tion did not ap­ply to Paul or his mother be­cause nei­ther met the cri­te­ria of “cit­i­zen”.

Min­nie and Paul were “Lost Cana­di­ans”.

Shortly af­ter re­turn­ing to Canada in 2003 as a per­ma­nent res­i­dent, Paul stum­bled upon Don Chap­man, leader of the cit­i­zen ad­vo­cacy group The Lost Cana­di­ans. Chap­man au­thored the 2015 book The Lost Cana­di­ans: A Strug­gle for Cit­i­zen­ship Rights, Equal­ity and Iden­tity. Both di­rectly and in­di­rectly, Chap­man has shep­herded about a mil­lion “lost” claimants on the path to­ward cit­i­zen­ship.

Paul took on the task of re­claim­ing cit­i­zen­ship for his mother and es­tab­lish­ing it for him­self to rec­tify the life­long sense of “not be­long­ing”.

On June 14, 2014, Marie “Min­nie” Martinello be­came (posthu­mously) a Cana­dian cit­i­zen.

On Aug. 24, Paul, now 84, re­ceived a let­ter from Gayle Leith, Se­nior De­ci­sion-maker and Case Man­ager for Im­mi­gra­tion, Refugees and Cit­i­zen­ship Canada (IRCC), sent him his cit­i­zen­ship case file. The con­clu­sion reads: “Mr. Diekel­man is a Cana­dian cit­i­zen pur­suant to para­graph 3(1)(o) of the Cana­dian Cit­i­zen­ship Act.” Wel­come to Canada, Paul. Visit www.lost­cana­dian.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

Photo by Carolyn Bar­ber / The Vic­to­ria Stan­dard.

Paul Diekel­mann, 84, proudly dis­plays the Cer­tifi­cate of Cana­dian Cit­i­zen­ship he re­cently re­ceived af­ter years of liv­ing as a 'Lost Cana­dian' in Canada but with­out the le­gal right to call him­self a Cana­dian cit­i­zen.

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