Australian senator has to quit. Why? She’s Canadian, and she didn’t know
Larissa Waters was recognized as a trailblazer last month when she became the first woman to breastfeed in Australia’s parliament.
Now, she has to quit her Senate seat for Queensland. The reason? She has dual Canadian citizenship that she didn’t know about.
In a Facebook post issued Monday, Waters, a member of the country’s Green Party, said she was stepping aside because Australia’s constitution doesn’t allow anyone who’s a subject of a foreign power to hold office there.
Section 44 of the Australian constitution states that you can’t hold office as a senator or member of Australia’s House of Representatives if you’re “under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power,” or you’re “a subject or citizen or entitled to the rights and privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power.”
In a message posted to Facebook Monday, Waters said she sought legal advice after Scott Ludlam, former deputy leader of the country’s Greens, learned he couldn’t serve as a senator because he was a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand.
Waters was born to Australian parents in Winnipeg in 1977. She left with her family when she as 11 months old and thought that she was “naturalized to be Australian and only Australian.”
WATCH: Australian parliament unfazed as senator breastfeeds baby while tabling motion
She said her parents told her that she had until she was 21 to seek Canadian citizenship; she chose not to, and she’s never been back to Canada since she left.
Waters was born at a time when Canadian citizenship was governed by the Canadian Citizenship Act.
Dual citizenship wasn’t recognized under this legislation.
Then, about a week after Waters was born, Canada passed the Citizenship Act, which recognized dual citizenship.
The only way you could lose citizenship under this law was if you were a member of the second or subsequent generation born outside Canada, and you didn’t take steps to retain your citizenship by your 28th birthday.
“I take full responsibility for this grave mistake and oversight,” Waters wrote on Facebook.
“I am deeply sorry for the impact that it will have.”
On top of her Senate seat, Waters also has to resign as co-deputy leader of the Australian Greens.
“I apologize wholeheartedly to all those who have supported me and helped me to become a representative for all the wonderful people of Queensland over the last six years,” she wrote.
Waters will be replaced in the Senate by Andrew Bartlett, former leader of the Australian Democrats, according to The Australian.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.