Despite Green Party Leader Elizabeth May insisting repeatedly throughout her career she “renounced” her U.S. citizenship, lawyers specializing in loss of U.S. citizenship say she’s almost certainly still an American.
“It’s pretty clear that she’s still a U.S. citizen if she has not obtained a Certificate of Loss of Nationality,” said Heather Fathali of Cascadia Cross-Border Law, located in Bellingham, Washington, near the border with B.C. “If she does not have it in hand, she is still considered a U.S. citizen.”
The Vancouver Sun reported in 2014 that May had “never formally obtained” a Certificate of Loss of Nationality.
“There are a lot of Canadians that believe as she does, and they’re inadvertently still carrying U.S. citizenship and can come to haunt them with inheritance taxes, all sorts of things like that,” said Fathali’s colleague Greg Boos to The Post Millennial.
In past public statements May has suggested legally incorrect notions of how she gave up her U.S. citizenship. “I am only a Canadian citizen since renouncing US citizenship,” she said in 2012.
In 2014, May revised her claim, saying, “Becoming a Canadian citizen and swearing allegiance to #Queen=renouncing.”
In the same year she also said, “I am not a dual citizen. I am a Canadian citizen and have been since 1978. Any doubt about citizenship is resolved in swearing the oath to Her Majesty the Queen in becoming a Member of Parliament. The U.S. accepts such acts as renunciation, lest there be any doubt.”
Fathali says there’s plenty of doubt.
“Because the statute requires intent, if somebody becomes a Canadian citizen and swears allegiance to the Queen that’s a potentially expatriating act that becomes expatriating only if the person had the concurrent intent to give up their U.S. citizenship. Moreover, they would have to go over the formal process of going to a U.S. consulate and documenting their loss of citizenship based on their committing this potentially expatriating act with the requisite intent.”
From 1952 to 1986 the U.S.’s Immigration and Nationality Act didn’t require intent when a U.S. citizen committed an expatriating act–including naturalizing in a foreign state–Fathali said.
“However, since 1967 the Supreme Court … has interpreted the law to require intent for constitutional reasons. U.S. citizenship is so important they are not going to take it away from someone unless someone does have the intent to give up their citizenship,” Fathali explained.
The Globe and Mail, CTV News, Maclean’s and others all took the Green Party leader’s claim that she “renounced” her citizenship as true, some of the publications even falsely asserting the claim–“per rules at the time”–without attribution to her spokesperson or May herself.
May chastised Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to Globe and Mail reporters when news was breaking he still holds U.S. citizenship, asserting that a federal political leader shouldn’t have other allegiances.
May’s spokesperson also told The Post Millennial the same “per rules at the time” line, but didn’t respond to follow-up questions regarding May’s conflicting statements or that legal experts contest the claim.
“Renouncing is what Andrew Scheer is going to need to do, or says he has done, where you walk into the U.S. consulate and you say, ‘As of today’s date, I no longer wish to be a U.S. citizen. I hereby renounce my U.S. citizenship.’ You fill out the requisite paperwork, and a couple of months later you receive a Certificate of Loss of Nationality that’s dated the day you showed up at the U.S. consulate.”
“Relinquishing is when you go into the consulate and say, ‘As of this date in 1978,’ in Elizabeth May’s case, ‘I lost my U.S. citizenship and I’m here to document that.'”
May would likely have a very strong case to retroactively backdate her relinquishment to the day she became a U.S. citizen if she indeed still holds it, unless her supposed intent was contradicted since 1978 by actions like getting a U.S. passport.
May has a history of incorrect statements and theories. Washington Post columnist J.J. McCullough has documented an long list of some of her more outlandish claims.
“Her word is inaccurate [on loss of U.S. citizenship], we’re definitely sure on that,” said Fathali. “She’s perpetuating these myths.”
“It’s very clear, unless she has a certificate of nationality she’s a U.S. citizen.”