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Northern Ont. 'army brat' fighting to regain his Canadian citizenship, access to healthcare

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A Sault Ste. Marie man was looking to update his driver's license when he made a shocking discovery.

Wayne Sawyer, who was born overseas to Canadian citizens, said he is without health coverage and other benefits after his citizenship status was flagged.

Sawyer was 61 at the time of this discovery. Now 65, he is still waiting for his citizenship papers, while still struggling to understand how this happened.

"You've taken away my health card, you've taken my old age pension, and I didn't do anything wrong here," said an irate Sawyer.

"I feel like I'm being punished right now for something I had no control over. The only think I did wrong, apparently, is get born to Canadian parents on an overseas base."

Sawyer belongs to a group commonly referred to as "army brats," since he was born on a military base in Germany where his father was stationed. It was this situation that led to Sawyer's citizenship status to be called into question.

Wayne Sawyer, who was born overseas to Canadian citizens, said he is without health coverage and other benefits after his citizenship status was flagged. (Mike McDonald/CTV News)

For activist and author Don Chapman, Sawyer's story is a familiar one.

"This gentleman is Canadian by operation of law, there's no question about that," Chapman said. "The problem is, he can't prove it."

Chapman said Sawyer has fallen victim to a flawed citizenship process, along with thousands of others – including high-profile Canadians like Romeo Dallaire. Chapman, who wrote a book on the subject, said Sawyer likely has a high number of people ahead of him in the citizenship queue.

STRAIN TAKING A TOLL

"He gets put into a system where they throw Canadian citizens -- we call them 'Lost Canadians' -- into a queue of immigrants, and he goes behind a half-million or a million immigrants, and he waits years," said Chapman.

Sawyer continues to work as a school bus driver, but his family said the strain of the last four years has taken a toll on his health.

"I consider my dad a very hard worker, and he's taught me everything I know when it comes down to working," said his daughter, Becky.

"And to see him this frustrated, it's really taking a toll on the whole family dynamic, because we see his stress."

Sawyer, meantime, said he's had enough.

"I want this to stop, I want my life back, I'm sick and tired of thinking of this," he said.

"It's driving me nuts."

Sawyer said he's frustrated at a lack of urgency in dealing with his case. He said he has been told it could take another 17 months for the matter to be resolved.

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