It’s been more than a year and a half since Global News first started following the story of Jonathan “Yoani” Kuiper and his battle against the Canadian government, which he says has hung him out to dry.
Kuiper’s family immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands more than three decades ago. He was only 14 months old at the time.
He grew up in the town of Aylmer, near London, Ont. and lived the Canadian experience over 27 years, attending school, working, paying taxes and making friends here before pursuing a Master’s degree, and eventually finding work and settling in Europe.
Kuiper applied for Canadian citizenship in 2013, only to be denied two years later because he hadn’t spent a total of at least four of the six years previous to his application in the country. His childhood, teenage and adult experience, he says, were not even considered.
“The immigration process is about two things: it’s about money, and it’s about votes,” says Kuiper via Skype from his Amsterdam home.
“I can tell you, it’s definitely not about a question of Canadian identity.”
Making matters worse for Kuiper, his permanent resident status was revoked during the aforementioned proceedings, removing another legal attachment between him and the country he grew up in.
Kuiper got some good news Tuesday morning, though. His appeal of that decision before the Refugee and Immigration Board of Canada was approved, essentially granting him a five-year extension of his PR status.
New rules would allow him to earn the opportunity to become a citizen by spending at least three of those years physically present here.
“This isn’t the desired result, but nonetheless it’s preferable at this point in time,” says Kuiper.
If he seems unhappy, it’s because the decision hasn’t exactly made things easier for Kuiper. A lot has changed in the time since this situation unfolded. He’s climbed the ladder at work, is in a long-term relationship and has had a child. The roots he’s put down give him pause to think about whether it’s worth the effort to continue with a lengthy fight for Canadian citizenship.
“Do I give up the life that I’ve built up recently… I’m going to have to discuss that with my partner,” says Kuiper, mulling his options out loud.
“Say I quit my job today, asked my partner to quit her medical studies, we move to Canada, I spend five years there… and then hopefully I’m granted Canadian citizenship. Then I wait another two years for them to invite me to the citizenship ceremony, and then I’m offered a Canadian passport. This is ridiculous, it’s a waste of time.”
Yoani would prefer immediate action. He called on on newly-appointed federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to hear his case and help him out.
“I think he needs to intervene and use his discretionary powers,” says Kuiper.
The revised Canadian Citizenship Act allows the minister to personally make the decision in “very exceptional cases.”
Kuiper isn’t overly confident Hussen will get involved but hopes that someday the Ministry will see him the same way he claims others do.
“Everywhere I travel I’m recognized as a Canadian, but the only one still not willing to recognize that is the government of Canada.”