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Jul 31, 2009

Minister has Canadian ancestry but Belizean blood

Story PictureDoes Minister Elvin Penner have dual nationality? That issue came up last night at consultations on the seventh amendment bill to the constitution held in San Ignacio. And like the previous round in Belize City, there was general rejection to the proposal. But why amend the constitution? There has been limited official explanation, but much speculation that the motive behind GOB’s proposal to allow members of the House of Representatives or the Senate to hold two passports, is because there is at least one member who already does. Under section fifty-eight of the Constitution of Belize, any individual who has sworn allegiance to another country cannot be a member of the House of Representatives. The Constitution bars citizens of Belize who also possess the passport of another country from serving as Representatives or as Senators. At the consultation last evening, Penner disclosed that he does not have dual citizenship. In front of a small crowd at the Centre of Employment Training, the Minister of Sports admitted that his parents are Canadian citizens and this makes him a Canadian by ancestry.

Voice of Elvin Penner, Minister of Sports
“An amendment has to be made. And we are all trying for an amendment because as far as I understand this Constitution right now, a Guatemalan born can come to run in this country, an American born can run in this country. I will support this amendment because this amendment will no longer disenfranchise our Belizeans that have been living abroad to come and live in Belize. And for your information, for those of you who have been questioning my legality of being a Representative, my parents are Canadian. I am Canadian by descent but I owe no allegiance to any other country. And if I were to leave this country today I would not deal it over to Canada. I owe no allegiance to any other country but Belize and I am proud to be a Belizean and I will never leave this country.”

And for people who were wondering if Penner ever held a Canadian passport before his nomination and then election, we got his reaction this afternoon and this is what he told us, “I have never held any travel documents other than Belizean documents, nor do I intend to. I cannot change the fact that my parents are Canadian”.

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