BRISBANE, Australia – An Australian senator has been forced to step down because she is a dual citizen of Australia and Canada.
The Australian constitution disqualifies potential candidates from seeking election if they hold dual or plural citizenship.
Larissa Waters, who was also the deputy leader of the Green party, told a news conference Monday that was only found out about her status on Monday with “great shock and sadness.”
Waters was born to Australian parents in 1977 while they were studying and working in Winnipeg.
She left Canada as an 11-month old baby and said she always believed she was just Australian.
Water said she also didn’t know she had to renounce the Canadian citizenship that was bestowed upon her at birth.
“I had not renounced since I was unaware that I was a dual citizen. Obviously this is something that I should have sought advice on when I first nominated for the Senate in 2007,” said Waters in a statement.
“I take full responsibility for this grave mistake and oversight. I am deeply sorry for the impact that it will have.”
Waters said she only discovered her status on Monday after seeking legal advice in the wake of fellow Green party member Scott Ludlam having to step down because he holds dual citizenship with New Zealand.
Waters said she was “devastated” to learn she was a Canadian citizen and has resigned from office “with a heavy heart.”
“I have lived my life thinking that as a baby I was naturalized to be Australian and only Australian, and my parents told me that I had until age 21 to actively seek Canadian citizenship,” said Waters.
“At 21, I chose not to seek dual citizenship, and I have never even visited Canada since leaving at 11 months old.”
Waters made international headlines earlier this year when she became the first woman to breastfeed her daughter, Alia, on the floor of the Australian Parliament.
Australian media reports say Waters was seen by some as a future leader of the Green party.