Dercia Canto: “I could not find employment for a year. I asked someone if they could tell me why I was not successful and they told me: ‘Bermudians come first’.” *Photo by Glenn Tucker
Dercia Canto: “I could not find employment for a year. I asked someone if they could tell me why I was not successful and they told me: ‘Bermudians come first’.” *Photo by Glenn Tucker

I WANT TO VOTE
...But don’t assume I’d vote OBA, says PRC holder seeking status

Bermuda is the only country she and her siblings have ever known — but she is not officially a citizen.

Dercia Canto, 24, puts a human face on the often-hostile debate about PRC holders and their access to status and the right to vote.

She was born here, her parents came in the 1970s and both her siblings and her daughter have status.


A 24-year-old Pembroke woman is determined that she will not stop fighting to obtain Bermuda status from the only country she and her siblings have ever known as home.

Dercia Canto was born on the Island to Portuguese parents in August, 1989.

Her father arrived in Bermuda in the mid-1970s. Her mother arrived a couple of years later with their then-three year-old daughter, who is now 36. Ms Canto’s brother was born in Bermuda in 1980 and she, in 1989.

While her brother and sister possess Bermuda status, her parents are Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) holders. Because she was born a few weeks outside of the July 31, 1989, cut off which would have qualified her to become a Bermudian, Ms Canto was granted a PRC through her father.

By possessing a PRC, Ms Canto says she can apply for jobs without seeking a work permit, but feels she has been overlooked in the past because she is not considered a Bermudian.

“It really bothers me because I am a Bermudian.  Why can’t I have citizenship in the place where I have spent my entire life?” ponders the CedarBridge Academy graduate.

Ms Canto’s quest for status began six years ago when she was 18: “I and a number of my friends who were born around the same time as me were advised to apply for it. All of us did, but only the ones born up to July 31, 1989, were granted status and the rest of us were rejected. At the time it didn’t bother me. I had a good job.”

But when Ms Canto lost her job due to cut backs, she soon began to see one aspect of why it would be better for her to have status.

“I applied for jobs everywhere and could not find employment for a year. I asked someone if they could tell me why I was not successful and they told me: ‘Bermudians come first’.  I tried applying for Financial Assistance and was told that I did not qualify because I was not considered a Bermudian.  That’s when I started to realize that I did not have many rights in my own country.”

In 2006, Ms Canto gave birth to a daughter and filed for her to receive her Bermudian status but just as she was, her daughter was rejected.

“But when her Bermudian father applied when she was four, the Department of Immigration granted it to her one time,” Ms Canto recalls.

I’m grateful to have a PRC

“With my daughter being a Bermudian, it only drives me harder to fight this fight. I would like to be able to vote on issues which will affect her future. This is my country, but most importantly this is her country, too.”

Ms Canto says she has been told that she should give up the hope of ever obtaining status, but she says she won’t: “Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I have a PRC but not having status makes a big difference to me. Even when it comes to travel. My daughter has a Bermuda passport; mine is Portuguese. It causes questions and sometimes difficulties.”

The single mother is pleading that situations such as hers be looked at  on a case by case basis and not lumped in with everyone else’s. She says this to those who believe that PRC holders will displace Bermudians in the workplace: “We already have the right to work so I don’t understand how it will be any different than what already exists. And for people who think granting PRC holders voting rights means they will automatically vote for the OBA in the next election, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I will not vote for a party simply because they granted me status while they were in power. I will vote for the party which will have a positive impact on my daughter’s future.”

Recently, Ms Canto spoke of her plight at a town hall meeting organized by the Opposition. She said shortly after, she was approached by a lady who told her there’s a difference between a Bermudian and an onion.

“She said a Bermudian is someone who is granted status and an onion was someone who’s family has lived here for generations. She said: ‘You people think you can come here, get status and take our jobs’. I just laughed. I was born here. This is my country, too.”