Bertha Funk received a nasty surprise on her 28th birthday — she lost her citizenship.
“It felt like somebody just kicked me in the stomach. It was a complete shock,” said Funk, who has lived in Canada almost her entire life after moving here from Mexico with her family in 1980 when she was 2 months old.
The Squamish, B.C., woman is now virtually stateless after being caught in a citizenship snafu that has affected an unknown number of other “lost Canadians.”
Unbeknown to Funk, Canada changed its Citizenship Act in 1977, requiring those born outside the country to a foreign-born Canadian parent — between Feb. 15, 1977 and April 16, 1981 — to reapply for citizenship before their 28th birthday.
Funk, now 36, didn’t find out about this requirement until years after she’d unknowingly been stripped of her citizenship. In fact, she didn’t even learn she was stateless until earlier this year when she called the immigration department to inquire about a replacement citizenship card she’d applied for when she misplaced the original months before.
“How was it even remotely possible what had happened to me?” asked Funk, who is still reeling over her lost citizenship — and desperately fighting to get it back.
“Canada is the only home I know, but it’s saying to me that I don’t belong here any more. It’s a devastating feeling,” she said.
The obscure provision in the Citizenship Act that caused Funk so much grief was repealed in 2009. Its intent was to limit citizenship by descent to one generation born outside Canada.
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told the Star an attempt was made to contact those affected, where possible.
“As we do not have data on the number of individuals who might have been impacted, we were unable to advise people systematically (about the changes),” said spokesperson Lindsay Wemp.
“When possible, IRCC did inform people . . . that they would have to take steps to retain their Canadian citizenship prior to their 28th birthday by way of a written notice to the client included with their citizenship certificate,” Wemp added.
Funk’s father, who was born in Mexico to Canadian parents, returned to Canada with his family of seven and settled in Manitoba in 1980. However, only Bertha was affected by the citizenship regulation because of her date of birth.
She lived in Winnipeg and later moved to Surrey for school, living a normal life, working as a counsellor, paying taxes and travelling with her Canadian passport — until now.
Funk said she received a letter from immigration officials in April offering two options: to apply to become a permanent resident as an immigrant, or to apply for a “discretionary” grant of citizenship, designed to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.
However, she noted the letter said the latter “is a long and formal process that requires many levels of approval. Grants under this subsection are only used in very exceptional cases.”
To be considered, Funk would need to provide documentation including lease agreements, expired and valid passports, school transcripts, pay slips, dentists’ and doctors’ contact information and any relevant documents to establish her continuous residence in Canada.
“There is no guarantee I would have my status back by applying for permanent residency or citizenship grant. It’s all at the discretion of the officials,” said Funk.
According to the government, only “a very small number of people” were affected by the clause, and officials have received only 330 applications to date for a grant of citizenship — probably because many people don’t even know they have lost their citizenship.
“I have lived in Canada all my life,” said Funk, who has made a personal appeal to Immigration Minister John McCallum to restore her citizenship. This is completely ridiculous and unjust.”
OTTAWA—Contract talks continued between Canada Post and its largest union Sunday afternoon, with neither side hinting as to whether any progress had been made.
A federally appointed mediator began meeting with the two sides on Friday to try to reach a deal.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said if there was no deal by midnight, it would begin job action on Monday by having its members refuse to work overtime on a rotating basis, starting in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
CUPW served 72 hour strike notice Thursday night, accusing Canada Post of forcing a labour disruption by refusing to bargain in good faith.
The two sides have been deadlocked for months on the issues of pay scales for rural letter carriers and proposed changes to pensions for future employees.
On Sunday, the union said its initial plans for job action would have little effect on Canada Post customers.
“Our action will cause little to no disruption to the public,” national president Mike Palecek said in a statement. “We’ll still be delivering mail every day.”
But a spokesman for Canada Post said the union’s threat of job action was still creating uncertainty for customers.
“Anyone who is trying to plan their usage of the postal system in the coming days is questioning whether or not it will be able to get there, and that is going to have a huge impact on the business whether the union likes it or not,” Jon Hamilton said in a phone interview.
Toronto police have identified Peggy Ann Smith, 61, of Toronto as the victim of a fatal shooting in Riverdale on Saturday.
Police say they responded to a call for sounds of gunshots heard in the Don Mount Court and Kintyre Ave. area at around 6:13 p.m.
Upon arrival, emergency crews located Smith in an alley behind a home suffering from an apparent gunshot wound, according to a news release issued on Sunday.
Paramedics confirmed the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
Smith is the city’s 48th homicide.
“She was my daughter’s godmother,” said Elizabeth Leskovich, a friend of Smith who remembers the victim as a person with “kind soul” and a “good heart.”
“I can’t believe it’s happened to her.”
While the shooting is still under investigation, Const. Craig Brister said police don’t believe the woman was deliberately targeted.
According to police, two young men were seen fleeing the scene, northbound, towards Dundas St. E. Police were unable to provide a detailed description of the two suspects.
The Homicide Unit has taken over the investigation and are asking anyone with information on the incident to contact police at 416-808-7400 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).
With files from Brennan Doherty
With files from Brennan Doherty
Behind many a Canadian surrogate mother is a cast of characters playing a vital part in helping her give other people a much-wanted child.
It’s a largely unseen and onerous supporting role, which may include spending countless hours driving to and from medical appointments, shouldering more cooking, cleaning and childcare responsibilities, and being an emotional rock for a partner who’s a ticking hormonal time bomb, facing ailments ranging from morning sickness to miscarriage.
The Star’s ongoing investigation into surrogacy has explored the demands faced by women who choose to bear children for relative strangers. But surrogacy is very often a team sport, a shared family burden that can span years.
“It’s a lot to ask people to go through,” says Sally Rhodes-Heinrich, who owns surrogacy agency Surrogacy Canada Online.
Among the lifestyle changes are the need to cut caffeine, travel to doctor's appointments, potential health risks and even limitations on sex. As surrogates, the women can't have sex with their spouses for four weeks before cycling and four weeks after, says Rhodes-Heinrich.
"That's two months without sex," she says.
It can all have a dramatic impact on families.
Leia Swanberg, founder of B.C.-based Canadian Fertility Consulting, recommends that all her surrogates take a moment to thank their support system.
“One thing we encourage all our surrogates to do —̶ who are in a marriage or a partnership — is to write a letter to their partner to thank them for being that support,” Swanberg says. “Having support is so vital to this process. We talk to all our intended parents about how vital it is to support the surrogate’s entire family.”
A recent Star poll of Canadian surrogates who are members of a closed Facebook surrogacy forum showed that 94 per cent of the three dozen respondents said they couldn’t do a surrogacy without the support of their family.
Family members standing behind a surrogate each have their own unique tale of what it’s like to have a mother, wife or girlfriend carrying someone else’s child.
They bear witness to the triumphs, heartbreaks and struggles each attempted pregnancy brings, and the support that has brought joy to countless strangers.
When Steve Berkeley met his eventual wife, Christine, seven years ago, he knew their lives together would be filled with children.
She had three from a previous relationship and he had one.
What he did not know is that Christine would choose to go through at least three more pregnancies and give birth to four children — all for other prospective parents.
It is an extraordinary commitment, with steep demands on the typical spouse — from lifestyle changes to mood and diet spikes to logistical demands, and the simple, steady presence of someone else’s child growing inside your wife’s body.
Many in Steve’s position might balk at the time, effort, sexual deprivation and emotional investment that serial surrogacy demands of a partner.
But Steve, 50, says he is simply allowing his wife to fulfill her need to help others.
“It’s something that she has always wanted to do and continues to want to do until she can’t do it any more. Her thinking is that there are a lot of people out there who can’t experience what it’s like to have a child, and she is in a position to give them that gift. It’s a very selfless act on her part, and I just thought: What a great thing.”
His only real concern about Christine’s work as a surrogate has been the fear that something could go wrong that could affect her health, he says. “The only thing that’s ever crossed my mind is if she had an issue giving birth and it cost her her life, because that can happen. And that’s the only thing that’s ever crossed my mind.”
Steve has managed to juggle his job as a police officer in Woodstock, Ont., with making sure he’s there with Christine at doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds and deliveries.
When she was pregnant with twins for the first time in 2014, Christine was ordered to go on bed rest. That placed Steve on heavy pregnancy duty.
“I was in charge of everything: the kids, the cooking, the housekeeping. My job was just to make sure she was staying healthy for the surrogacy because it was high-risk …. It was just my job to make sure that she was OK and the babies were OK.”
Is there really no frustration or resentment when the pregnancies get in the way of their family life or intimacy together as a couple?
“I’ve never felt resentment,” he says. “It’s something she wants. She supports me. So I support her.”
That’s not to say there aren’t bad days.
“There are the days when the hormones kick in. We’ve had our disagreements about stuff. But just like any other issue that comes up in a marriage, you deal with it. When that stuff starts to happen, I just tend to walk away and let her have her space and I have my space. We discuss it later.”
Steve and Christine first met in 2009, when he asked her out while dropping off his laundry at her dry-cleaning shop.
After moving in together and blending their families, they did try to have a child together.
The irony: they couldn’t.
“We couldn’t have our own, but we could have them for other people,” says Steve.
Then, there’s the issue of uncertainty. In the past, just when he thought it might be finished, Christine changed her mind and decided to do it again.
“After almost every surrogacy (she says), ‘I’m not doing that again.’ And then somebody asks her and she feels she has to, and we start again. She will do it for as long as her body allows her to do it, and I’ll support her every time.”
He says there are rewards for him as well: “Meeting families and seeing how happy they are when they have a child is pretty amazing.”
And in the midst of the physical and emotional stress and the high stakes of delivering a child for someone else, there are ways to find humour, Steve says.
“We have played it up. When people don’t know it’s a surrogacy, they’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re pregnant. How far along?’ She’ll say, ‘It’s not Steven’s.’ The look on their face …”
Christine Berkeley’s daughters were just 3 and 9 years old when she became a surrogate for the first time, before she'd even met her current husband. Now 14 and 20, the girls, their brother and their stepbrother were hardly fazed when, this spring, their mom announced she was pregnant. It was the fourth time in 10 years.
“It’s been happening for so long it’s just kind of normal. Like, when she said she was pregnant again we were just like, ‘Oh, OK,’” says Chelsey, Christine’s eldest daughter. “I never think of it as, ‘Oh, we are getting a new brother or sister.’ It’s just Mom having a baby for someone else.”
Emily, the younger of the two, shares a similar sentiment: “I’m kind of used to it now. I find it normal.”
While it’s now clear their mom’s second job is an unusual choice compared with what their friends’ parents do, for the Berkeley brood, surrogacy has been a fairly low-key affair from the beginning.
“(I said) the mum’s tummy is broken — because that was about the language they would understand back then — and Mummy was just going to have her baby put into my tummy, because it worked.” That’s how Christine explained the concept of surrogacy in those early days. “Children are very like: ‘OK. What’s for supper?’ and that was that.”
Since then each surrogacy has been a family affair, with Steve and their kids weighing in on each couple their mom will carry for.
“When I get the couples’ profiles I always take a look and then we share and go through them together, because it’s a journey — a joint journey,” says Christine. “There’s never been anything but 100 per cent support from [Steve], from the kids. I’m lucky that way.”
With this pregnancy, the kids are falling back into old and practised habits of trying to encourage Mom to put her feet up.
The boys, Nikolas and Ty, and their dad will shoulder more of the heavy lifting around the house, which this summer includes a landscaping job in the front yard.
Emily worries that Christine tries to take on too much because “she still thinks she can do everything,” and persuades her to rest up.
Chelsey, home for the summer from university, will take on more cleaning around the house, but says she’s not too worried about the actual pregnancy because her mum is a seasoned professional when it comes to surrogacy.
“For us, it’s just been happening so long. It doesn’t really change our lives other than we have to clean a bit more when she can’t any more. [We] just have to remember that someone else is really benefitting from us having to put up with our mum being pregnant.”
Here are some updates on the three surrogacy teams the Star is following over a 10-month period
Team USA: 32 weeks
Seemingly superhuman surrogate Trudy LaLone was hanging drywall in her under-renovation home this week.
Her stomach is now protruding with evidence of Vivian, the 31-week-old daughter-to-be promised to Floridians Paul and Steve.
“We talk very regularly, almost daily,” says the 32-year-old Peterborough nurse, who continues to work full time on the night shift.
“I am feeling pretty good, but of course, large,” says the second-time surrogate and mother of four (all under the age of 10) who previously gave birth to a child for a B.C. couple in 2013.
Vivian is apparently happy and active. And LaLone’s own 5-year-old twins have embraced the baby sight unseen.
“They love their morning cuddles to feel Vivian move when I get home from work.”
Meanwhile, in Florida, the intended fathers are preparing Vivian’s nursery and planning a bumblebee-themed baby shower for later this month with friends and family. And they are flying to Toronto next week to meet with the maternity ward staff and an ultrasound appointment.
“I've been test-driving strollers and car seats and cribs for weeks,” says Steve. “Every time we see a baby we get really excited and we cannot wait for the next chapter of our lives.”
Team Spain: 20 weeks
It’s a baby girl for Michael Serwa and Jordi Piqueras, the Spanish couple from Barcelona who, with help from Victoria, B.C., surrogate Chantelle McCallum, are gearing up to be parents.
On Aug. 13, Chantelle announced to her surrogacy Facebook group “Juuuuuust starting to feel baby kick, from the outside!”
It’s one of several exciting milestones for the couple who have been diligently Skyping, texting and Facebooking their surrogate, trying to be there for every moment of the pregnancy.
Last week, at 19 weeks and nearly halfway through their surrogacy journey, the trio saw the baby for the first time with a 3D ultrasound — an additional $185 cost not covered by the surrogate's universal healthcare — live streamed online for friends and family of the couple to watch in real time.
It was an emotional and exciting moment for the pair, who have already picked out a name for their daughter: Noa.
“Wow,” coos Jordi just a few seconds into the scan. “It’s like a little monster.”
“She’s like me,” says Michael gesturing to his cheek. “I always put my hands here.”
Now with a video recording of the ultrasound and the all-important 20-week scan done, now all that’s left to do is wait for baby Noa to make her appearance, just after New Year’s.
Team Australia: Six days post-transfer
This month Australian intended parents Caryn and David Crabb and their Canadian surrogate, Paula Capa of Kitchener, Ont., are waiting with bated breath for the results of their latest embryo transfer.
This will be the second attempt at a surrogate pregnancy for the group.
After a summer spent picking an egg and sperm donor — both from Toronto — the pieces are now in place and, on Monday, August 22, Paula went into the doctor’s office for the procedure, while the Crabbs anxiously waited for news on the other side of the world.
Hours after the transfer Caryn sent an email update to Star reporters, “this is it… we know it. The transfer went perfectly [and] Paula was amazing. Bring on the next 10 days.”
The trio will know in just under a week whether or not the transfer is successful, something Paula is already on tenterhooks about.
“I really, really hope that in three months time I'm so sick, tired and asking myself why in the world I wanted to be a surrogate again. Can that please be my existence?” says Paula. “Caryn and David deserve it so much. The unknown is so tough.”
Hidden from view for more than a century, a lost Ontario art treasure is finally being revealed.
Back in 1912, a massive four-panel mural of stylized maple leaves painted on the ceiling of the legislative chamber at Queen’s Park by Gustav Hahn in 1893 was covered by layers of horse hair, canvas and white paint.
At that time, large acoustic baffles were glued and nailed into the Art Nouveau paintings to muffle the din, after MPPs complained they could barely hear one another on the floor of the assembly.
The 7.5 cm-thick padding has absorbed the sound of every debate in the House since the year the Titanic sank.
But gravity was starting to take its toll on the sagging, primitive insulation, and fears were growing that a six-sided, 12-square-metre panel might eventually collapse on MPPs, pages and legislative staff.
This summer, during the installation of new railings for the public galleries, officials peered behind one of the drooping panels to examine the state of the ceiling.
They could not believe their eyes — or their good fortune.
“It was a happy accident,” recalls a smiling Debbie Deller, clerk of the legislative assembly, as she points up at the vivid autumn orange and green maple leaves, which look as fresh as if Hahn painted them last week.
“We knew they were there, but we really didn’t know what kind of condition they would be in,” says Deller.
Because scaffolding had already been erected in the Legislature to bring the safety railings up to code, restoration of the ceiling — and cleaning of a large, circular wrought-iron air grate, which turned from sooty black to a shimmering bronze — was a relatively modest $80,000.
Jelena Bajcetic, director of the precinct properties’ branch, notes that the horse hair and canvas padding actually helped preserve Hahn’s mural — notwithstanding the damage caused by hefty nails and fish glue.
Bajcetic says that with the help of a heritage architect and an art conservationist, the acoustic panels were safely removed and nail holes in the oak tongue-and-groove boards, similar to hardwood flooring, were repaired.
The hard work has paid off: Hahn’s 104 life-like 23-point maple leaves and ornate borders lend the legislative chamber a startlingly fresh look.
The four hexagons — two green and two orange — are textbook examples of the Art Nouveau style, which was hugely popular in the late Victorian and Edwardian era, with intricate linear detailing and flowing curves.
As for the acoustics, Deller admits she has her fingers crossed for the return of MPPs from their summer break on Sept. 12.
“Sound technology has improved a lot since 1912,” she says, noting that there have been consultations with a sound engineer and in-house experts at the legislature’s broadcasting and recording department.
“I’m hoping we won’t notice a sound difference,” says the clerk, who sits at a table directly in front of Speaker Dave Levac on the floor of the assembly when the legislature is in session.
Even if there a slight audible difference, esthetic and historic considerations should offset it.
The German-born Hahn, who died in 1962 at the age of 96, was an important early Toronto muralist whose work adorns many churches and public buildings, including Old City Hall and Spadina House.
Slowly but surely, his artwork at Queen’s Park is being resurrected.
A 1994 restoration effort retrieved sections of painted friezes in the chamber that depict figures representing justice, wisdom, power and art.
They had been covered with white paint when the acoustic panels were slapped on the ceiling two years before the start of the First World War.
During another renovation in 1999 — when the gaudy disco-era red carpets and blue leather chairs were replaced with traditional parliamentary green broadloom and upholstery — the cornices were cleaned off.
But the four-part centerpiece around the air grate would remain under wraps (and paint-and-canvas-encrusted horse hair) for another 17 years.
Exposing the rest of Hahn’s work in the most important room in Toronto would require much more painstaking scalpel work, carefully scraping off paint.
Deller says such a massive endeavour would entail a move to a temporary legislature for MPPs, because it would take months or years to do.
“There’s only a small window of opportunity,” she says, adding she was pleased they were able to restore the ceiling mural and finish the new railings before the legislative session resumes next month.
“Looking after the Legislature really is an ongoing thing.”
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