Ottawa woman caught in immigration catch-22 after dad’s birthdate blunder 50 years ago


Ottawa woman caught in immigration catch-22 after dad’s birthdate blunder 50 years ago

January 13, 2016

An Ottawa woman says she’s unable to travel outside Canada because her father made an error with her date of birth on an immigration form half a century ago.

Rebecca Patterson arrived in Canada from Scotland as a three-year-old girl in 1966. Her father mixed up her May 6 birthdate with her brother’s, who was born on May 4.

The error was never corrected and remains on her citizenship file to this day. Citizenship and Immigration Canada told Patterson in a letter that because it didn’t make the original error, it won’t correct it.

Patterson has lived with her brother’s birth date on her record of landing for decades. She used that document as her proof of permanent residence, and showed it whenever she returned to Canada from outside of the country.

« And the weirdest part is, when we landed and my dad mixed up the dates, he had initially written it in pen. I’ve been to Florida, to Scotland, I’ve never had an issue with that document, even though it was in pen, » Patterson said.

But about five years ago, Patterson lost the paper original. She has no copies, which is a problem because the federal government no longer issues that document and won’t replace it.

Can’t go on honeymoon

Over the course of the past four years she estimates she has spent nearly $500 in applications and courier fees in an effort to secure the record of landing’s successor, the permanent resident card.

Patterson has a British passport and birth certificate, both showing her correct date of birth. But the date of her birth on file in this country remains the incorrect one filed by her father nearly 50 years ago.

Without Ontario photo ID — either a health card or driver’s licence — Patterson can’t get a new permanent resident card. And without a permanent resident card bearing her photo, she can’t get an Ontario driver’s license, or re-enter the country. (Patterson does possess an Ontario health card, but it’s an earlier version without a photo.)

All three of Patterson’s children were born in Canada and she recently married a Canadian citizen.

« We just got married, and I can’t go on my honeymoon because I can’t travel. Without [a valid permanent resident card], I can’t go anywhere, » said Patterson.

« We can go, but I come back without a wife, » jokes her husband Mark Fillier, who would like to take his wife to visit relatives in the U.S.

‘I don’t have my life’

Patterson said part of the problem is what she calls a « robotic and impersonal » application process.

« The problem is there’s no office to go into. There’s no one to go in and sit down and show them this, and have it fixed, » she said.

Patterson believes a meeting with an official at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (formerly Citizenship and Immigration Canada) would allow her to present her documentation and fix the problem.

« I’m a permanent resident. I just can’t prove it, » she said. « I would like to have this changed so that I can have my life back. Because right now, I feel like I don’t have my life. »

A spokesperson with the department called it « a complex case, » but couldn’t say what it would take to get Patterson a valid permanent resident card.

« All we can say at this moment is that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is aware of Ms. Patterson’s case and is looking into the matter, » wrote IRCC media relations advisor Nancy Caron in an email to CBC.