On a clear day, from his beachside home in the northwestern United States, Bobby Brown can see, and even breathe, Canada. He was born there, of Canadian parents. His roots and relatives are there. He wants to raise his three children there. His yearning to go back, he says, is like a force of nature, like 'a salmon swimming upstream'. But the Canadian government that stripped him of his citizenship when he was five refuses to give it back. Mr Brown is no lawbreaker, he just fell between the cracks of a system that Franz Kafka might have imagined. His story shows that even the freest of democracies have their dark corners. Mr Brown is one of thousands of what are called 'lost Canadians' - men and women who are trying to get back home. They are children of parents who left Canada between 1947 and 1977, and renounced their citizenship. Under the law of the day, these children, like Mr Brown, lost their citizenship, too - as if they were property without rights. 'It's immoral,' said Don Chapman, a pilot who lost his citizenship when he was six, and has also been fighting to get it back. Mr Chapman, who lives in Arizona, is related to one of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation. He manages a foundation that has donated millions of dollars to Canadian universities. Yet Ottawa recently told him he could only return as a landed immigrant. 'That's an insult,' he said. 'An immigrant in my own country.' The law that keeps him out has since been declared unconstitutional by the Canadian Supreme Court and today, anyone born in Canada is automatically a citizen for life. But that change is not retroactive, so Mr Chapman and Mr Brown are left on the outside, looking in. No one knows for sure how many 'lost Canadians' there are, but estimates range from 10,000 to 100,000. The federal government is afraid that if they are all readmitted at the same time, it would put an enormous strain on the health-care and pension systems. It is a supreme irony that South Korean women are now paying as much as C$22,000 (HK$125,000) for 'birth tours' to Canada to have their children here, so they can get Canadian passports. But some Canadians born here of Canadian parents 30 years ago do not have the same rights. Mr Brown was born in Prince Edward Island. When he was five, his mother fled the family home and took him to the US. He was 33 when he came back. He met his father, and wanted to set up a business. But the Canadian government slammed the door shut. So now, he can just barely make out the coast of British Columbia through the ocean mists - a home so close, but still out of reach.