Two weeks since his story first drew attention and debate around Canada, Jonathan “Yoani” Kuiper is receiving some help from politicians in Ottawa but not seeing much forward progress.
“I’ve been receiving dozens and dozens of emails from friends back home,” he reflects in a Skype interview with Global News.
“Now, more than ever, I’m really missing home.”
Kuiper is 33 years old, and has spent 27 of those years in Canada. His family emigrated to the town of Aylmer, near London, Ont., when he was 14 months old.
Raised and educated in Canada, Kuiper says it never dawned on him to get his citizenship.
That caused problems when he applied for it in 2013, while living in Europe. He had taken a job with Shell which he says he couldn’t find in Canada.
Spending almost three decades in Canada didn’t factor into the decision laid out in February to deny him citizenship.
Instead, it came down to the four years before he applied. At the time, applicants were required to spend three out of those four years in Canada. Because of his job, and a year in Amsterdam to do his master’s, Kuiper fell short by 597 days. He also lost his permanent resident status in the process.
A document provided by Kuiper detailing the judge’s decision adds “the applicant still has not made the slightest steps to return to Canada after having filed this application a year and a half ago and has not given any potential dates indicating his permanent return to Canada.”
When Global News last spoke to him, he’d written to Citizenship and Immigration Minister John McCallum for help, and so far has received no response.
The controversy generated by his story hasn’t moved Canadian immigration officials in any way.
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“(Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) stands by the decision to refuse Mr. Kuiper’s citizenship application as he did not meet the requirements for citizenship as set out in the Citizenship Act,” reads an emailed reply to a Global News inquiry.
“Mr. Kuiper applied to the Federal Court for leave and judicial review of the decision to refuse his citizenship application. The Federal Court denied his application for leave.”
Shown the government’s response to various questions about his case, Kuiper is disappointed, but not defeated.
“I’m still hoping that Minister McCallum will exercise his discretionary powers and see what others see, and that is that I’m Canadian.”
MPs from two opposition parties have reached out to offer help — Conservative Karen Vecchio, whose riding includes Kuiper’s mother in Aylmer, and NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan.
Kwan wrote a letter to McCallum, urging him to use his discretion and get personally involved in Kuiper’s case to at least restore his permanent resident status. Those new powers were granted to the minister when the Citizenship Act was revamped in 2014.
“(Kuiper) made a mistake, yes. He did not recognize the timeline issued and he had lapsed on the question around the timeline with his application, and he takes ownership and responsibility for that,” says Kwan from Vancouver.
She calls this a rare case, and like Kuiper’s family, urges Minister McCallum to consider the spirit of the law over the letter of it.
“(Kuiper) grew up here, his family is here, his friends are here, his network is here.”
There’s some confusion as to whether Kuiper is allowed to come home to see his family, and if so, for how long.
He says he was initially told that while he appealed his permanent resident status he would not be allowed to travel to Canada by any means. But Immigration officials who spoke to Global News say “he is considered a permanent resident pending the outcome of the appeal.”
Ultimately, Kuiper hopes to somehow be allowed to actually live in Canada again. Struggling to “calm his nerves,” Kuiper thinks briefly when asked what his next move will be, before admitting he’s not really sure.
“If (the government is) not willing to reconsider the spirit of the law, whether I’ve actually been Canadianized over 27 years…then I’m going to have to reconsider what my options are.”