July 18th, 2024

Brooks wins Brazil surfing event after bid for Canadian citizenship turned down

By The Canadian Press on October 21, 2023.

Teenage surfer Erin Brooks is shown June 7, 2023, at the ISA World Surfing Games in Surf City, El Salvador, where she won silver in the women’s shortboard event. Brooks, whose bid for Canadian citizenship was denied this week, won the Corona Saquarema Pro on Saturday.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Surf Canada-Dom Domic **MANDATORY CREDIT**

SAQUAREMA, Brazil – Teenage surfer Erin Brooks, whose bid for Canadian citizenship was denied this week, won the Corona Saquarema Pro on Saturday.

The 16-year-old Brooks defeated Australia Sophie McCulloch in the final of the competition, an event on the World Surf League’s Challenger Series.

Brooks was born in Texas and grew up in Hawaii but has Canadian ties through her American-born father Jeff, who is a dual American-Canadian citizen, and her grandfather who was born and raised in Montreal.

Brooks had hoped to secure her citizenship and represent Canada at next year’s Paris Olympics. But the ongoing snafu means she has had to miss the Pan American Games, which opened Friday in Chile and offers the winner an Olympic berth.

The last opportunity to qualify for the Olympics is at the ISA World Championships in Puerto Rico in February.

Brooks is considered by many a favourite to earn a medal at the Olympics due to the heavy left-hand barrel conditions at Teahupo’o in Tahiti, where the Olympic surfing event is being held next year.

She won a silver medal at the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador in June and gold at the ISA World Junior Championships in June 2022.

Canada’s citizenship laws are complex, with amendments changing the rules in 2009 and 2015. But essentially Bill C-37 in 2009 ended the extension of citizenship to second-generations born abroad.

In a letter explaining its decision not to grant a “discretionary grant of citizenship,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says Brooks did not meet the requirements.

“The application is refused on the basis that the applicant is not stateless, has not experienced special or unusual hardship or provided services of an exceptional value to Canada which warrants a discretionary grant of Canadian citizenship,” the letter stated.

No Canadian has ever won a WSL Challenger Series event. The win means Brooks automatically qualifies for next year’s Challenger Series.

Surf Canada says Brooks intends to appeal the citizenship decision to Federal Court.

The World Surf League offers three tiers of competition: the Regional Qualifying Series (QS), Challenger Series (CS), and the elite Championship Tour (CT). There are no Canadians competing in the top tier.

The Brazil event was the sixth and final stop on the 2023 Challenger Series. Brooks finished ninth overall on the season.

In March 2022, Surfing Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee petitioned the International Surfing Association (ISA) to allow Brooks to compete for Canada as her citizenship application had been filed, but not completed.

The ISA granted the request but changed its mind in June of this year, saying “this decision was taken incorrectly and not in accordance with the applicable ISA rules.”

The ISA suspended Brooks’s eligibility to compete for Canada, saying it would re-evaluate the decision if “proof of citizenship with a verified document from the Canadian government, was provided.

That prevents Brooks from competing at the Pan Am Games and ISA World Championships. She has continued to compete for Canada at the World Surf League’s Challenger Series.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2023

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