Jan de Bruyn

97-year-old runs into red tape

A 97-year-old Castlegar resident was denied a new BC ID card because ICBC couldn't accept his naturalization certificate as primary ID.

A 97-year-old Castlegar resident was initially denied a new BC ID after his Canadian citizenship was called into question.

Jan de Bruyn, who has been a Canadian citizen for 80 years, tried to renew his BC ID, but was denied renewal because the naturalization certificate that proves his citizenship is only accepted as secondary ID by ICBC.

De Bruyn first came to Canada with his family from Holland in 1926, settling at first in Massett, BC where he attended a one-room school.

“A pioneer outfit in 1926. It was just woods. Nothing but forest,” said de Bruyn, who pulls out a picture of his classmates standing in front of the school. He is standing in the front row, the smallest kid in the class.

In 1931, the family moved to Vancouver where de Bruyn eventually completed high school. He had the misfortune of graduating during the Great Depression and struggled to find work, eventually landing a job as a clerk for the civil service in Ottawa where he made $60 a month. He married, and returned to Vancouver after the war broke out to join the Canadian Army where he served for five years.

After leaving the army de Bruyn earned a B.A. and then an M.A., settling at UBC as a professor of 17th century literature where he worked until he retired in 1983.

Even after retirement, de Bruyn continued teaching for a time, giving his last lecture, on Chaucer, at the library in Nelson 13 or 14 years ago.

Despite his long history in Canada, de Bruyn feels his citizenship was called into question when the ICBC refused to accept his naturalization certificate as ID.

De Bruyn’s father was first issued the naturalization certificate in 1935. Because de Bruyn was still a minor his name was listed separately on the back of the certificate. This is the first time since then that de Bruyn has had a problem.

A representative from the insurance office where de Bruyn tried to obtain his BC ID said the naturalization certificate may once have been accepted as primary ID, but no longer. De Bruyn could have used his old BC ID as primary identification, but it was expired more than three years, creating a problem, since he no longer carries a driver’s license or passport either.

“They tried very hard, but they couldn’t find any condition that would permit them to make me another card,” said de Bruyn.

De Bruyn’s daughter, Sydney Mason, intervened on his behalf, contacting MLA Katrine Conroy’s office. Someone there contacted someone at ICBC who determined to resolve the situation.

“He was really upset about my father’s situation, and he was committed to getting it straightened out,” said Mason.

It took some phone calls, but on Saturday de Bruyn was able to apply for his BC ID, his citizenship confirmed.