The Immigration Story of Ed Booiman (Dutch Immigrant)

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Becoming a Citizen
How a New Canadian Family Affirmed the Importance of Being Canadian

In 1964 an entire Dutch immigrant family, including four underage children all born in Holland, received special dispensation to become citizens of Canada in an unprecedented ceremony in Vancouver, BC. The wish to contribute to Canada is often paramount in immigrant families’ minds and actions, and such was the case for the Booimans. The Booiman parents wanted their children to recognize the value of Canadian citizenship and, though too young to officially do so, the father arranged for all four children to take their own Oath of Allegiance at a unique and undocumented December 1964 citizenship ceremony.

The Booiman family had immigrated to Canada in 1959 with hopes of finding better economic opportunities. Both Suannas (Suan) Hermanus Booiman (born July 1, 1926) and Hermina Cornelia (Miep) Beekman (born March 21, 1927) had lived through World War II and the Liberation of the Netherlands by Canadians, which must have left a significant impression for, as a young married couple facing limited opportunities in post-war Holland, they chose Canada as their potential new home. After four years of military service as a Reserve Lieutenant of the Royal Dutch Air Force and 13 years as a stockbroker, Suan could see that their options would be limited at home. On August 6, 1959 the family, which now consisted of Eduard Alexander Booiman (April 27, 1951), Louise Marianne Booiman (October 7, 1952), Ronald George Booiman (December 18, 1955) and Rudolf Suan Booiman (October 3, 1957) and their parents, left the Netherlands on board the Holland-America Line, SS Groote Beer, landing eight days later in Quebec City. As a result of Suan’s military training and status, the family successfully transited through Montreal and were put on a train with upgraded accommodation en route to their final destination, Vancouver, where they arrived four days later.

The first thing on Suan and Miep’s mind after settling in was to become Canadian citizens. However, the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947 required five years’ residency before the Minister may grant a certificate of Canadian citizenship and for the Booimans that seemed an eternity. The Act also stated that “the Minister may grant a certificate of Canadian citizenship to persons after attaining the age of eighteen years but can also grant a special certificate of citizenship to a minor child of a person to whom a certificate of citizenship has been granted under the Act”. It also states that “a certificate of citizenship granted to any person other than to a minor under the age of 14 years of age shall not take effect until the applicant has taken the Oath of Allegiance set forth”. As immigrant parents, the Booimans felt that it would be clearer in the minds of their children that they were truly Canadians if they were able to take their own Oath of Allegiance. In addition, this would allow them all to participate fully in the citizenship ceremony. Suan set out on a campaign to request special consideration for all four of his children even though all would be under 14 years of age at the time of the ceremony. During the Booimans' first interview with presiding Judge Eric Vickers Chown, Vancouver’s first Citizenship Court judge, Suan asked if it would be possible for their children to also take the Oath of Allegiance. A month later, a letter approving the request from the Judge was received from the Canadian Emigration Department in Ottawa.

On December 11, 1964 the family participated in the Canadian citizenship ceremony in the Marine Building in downtown Vancouver, BC. The whole family took the Oath of Allegiance and each received the Bible on which it was sworn. They received their citizenship certificates and later took their first meal as Canadian citizens, joined by Judge Chown, who was much moved by the occasion. The Judge told the family that this was the first time in Canadian history that children under the age of 14 were permitted to join in on their parents’ citizenship ceremony and become Canadian citizens by taking their own Oath of Allegiance. Parenthetically, it was also one of the last Canadian citizenship ceremonies with the Red Ensign as the Canadian flag as the new Maple Leaf flag was inaugurated on February 15, 1965. The whole event was a very special moment for the Booiman family and a small but important milestone in Canadian history.