Postmedia News’ immigration reporter Tobi Cohen shares her story of the year.

Dying to be Canadian: Postmedia immigration reporter Tobi Cohen’s most memorable story of the year
By Tobi Cohen, Postmedia News December 30, 2012

Postmedia News’ immigration reporter Tobi Cohen shares her story of the year.

Postmedia News reporters recall a story that stood out for them in 2012. Today, Tobi Cohen reflects:

OTTAWA — “Transformational change” is the buzzword Canada’s immigration minister has used to describe the dizzying string of policy reforms he has announced over the past year.

From a total overhaul of the refugee process to the scrapping of backlogged skilled worker applications, Jason Kenney has kept reporters on their toes.

But the immigration story I most enjoyed this past year was the heartwarming tale of two women granted citizenship in their dying days.

It started when the minister indicated there was no such thing as a private citizenship ceremony. He said this in the context of banning people from wearing burkas and other face coverings when they take their oath of citizenship.

“The citizenship oath is a quintessentially public act,” Kenney argued.

I decided to look into whether there are any circumstances under which a citizenship ceremony could be held in private. Turns out, there are. But not what I expected.

On occasion, the government will confer citizenship on a person who is dying, even if they’re too sick to take the oath or are a few months shy of the residency requirement.

My story chronicled the ceremonies of Veronica Singh-Boles and Margaret Hackman. Singh-Boles was a 31-year-old mom from Guyana who died of cervical cancer on Canada Day, three days after Toronto-area citizenship judge Renata Brum Bozzi arrived at her hospital bedside.

Hackman’s tale was the subject of a little-known documentary. The spirited, 55-year-old American made a bucket list of things she wanted to do before cancer claimed her life, and getting her citizenship topped the list.

While they knew they would never obtain a Canadian passport or vote in an election, citizenship for these people was really a personal thing that couldn’t be explained.

For those of us born citizens — and for a reporter who spends her days trying to understand the impact of immigration policy — their stories offered some perspective.
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