8.05.2006

duality

Under my radar, there appears to have been public griping about Canada's recent rescue of Canadians from the Israeli bombs raining on Lebanon. Many of the evacuated people are dual citizens, both Canadian and Lebanese. Horrors.

Apparently it is a horror for some people, who believe dual citizens are not "real Canadians" - that's the phrase being thrown about - and that Canada shouldn't recognize or offer dual citizenship. Dual citizens are "freeloaders", potential terrorists, disloyal and only using Canada for convenience. Based on what evidence, we don't know. Because we say so.

I first became aware of this debate bigoted ranting through this opinion piece on the CBC's website. The author is in favour of dual citizenship and responds to critics.
The debate over whether dual citizens are "real" Canadians represents the worst of Canada in that it seems at times to be both parochial and uninformed. Strong words perhaps, but it is difficult not to come to that conclusion after reading or listening to comments that ignore or overlook some basic facts.

Let's start with the implicit assumption by many commentators that the benefits in the relationship between country and citizen flow only in one direction — from Canada to the citizen. It is an obvious conclusion to draw in the midst of the evacuation of Lebanon, when what Canada had to offer was safe transit out of a war zone. But is this the whole story? There has been little or no consideration given to the idea, startling as it may seem, that benefits also flow in the other direction — from the citizen to the country — and that these benefits should also be considered within the context of the debate.

One would think that this would be evident from the fact that Canada is busy beating the bushes around the world at the moment for new immigrants. If these new citizens, who are allowed by Canada to keep their former citizenship if they so choose, represent only a burden, why are we seeking them out?
It's a good piece, but the real eye-opener is the comments afterwards. Some are supportive, others are just sickening.

One commenter writes:
When I read about some of the dark sides of Canadian history such as "Gentiles Only" and "Irish need not apply" signs or putting Japanese Canadians into concentration camps, I used to think, "How did that happen here?". Judging by some of the comments I've read, there are still some people who haven't learned from history. - Terry T., Toronto
Terry T, I thought the same thing. Good piece, worth reading, hold your breath for the comments.

9 comments:

L-girl said...

This is also another example of the either/or thinking that so many people adhere to. One must be either single or monogamously married, hetero- or homosexual, Canadian, American (or whatever-ian), but not more than one. People feel more comfortable with that fiction, I suppose, but identity is not so black or white.

One commenter declares that a person "cannot serve two masters". What a sad way to view your relationship to your country.

Yes, commenting on my own post - easier than rewriting.

David Cho said...

As long as your comment isn't longer than your post, you are alright.

So Japanese Canadians were locked up too? I did not know that.

L-girl said...

As long as your comment isn't longer than your post, you are alright.

Oh, good to know. :)

So Japanese Canadians were locked up too? I did not know that.

Yes. I don't know anything about the Japanese experience in Canada, as opposed to the US. I'd like to.

A new book just came out about the Americans of Japanese descent who fought (for the US, of course) in WWII. It's called "Just Americans", by Robert Asahina, New York Times review here.

Ferdzy said...

You might want to have a look for "Obasan" by Joy Kagawa, which was the first widely-known novel in Canada discussing what had happened to Japanese-Canadians.

Obasan

impudent strumpet said...

I don't know anything about the Japanese experience in Canada, as opposed to the US. I'd like to.

THE book on the Japanese experience in Canada in WWII is Obasan by Joy Kogawa. I'm sure there are others, but generally if people have read only one book on the subject, it's Obasan.

As for the dual citizenship thing, I find it odd that people are so focused about whether dual citizens are "loyal" to Canada, when in my own life as a Canadian-born Canadian citizen the fact of my loyalty or lack thereof has never come up. It might be because I'm young and sheltered, but I've never been in a situation where, if I had been loyal to another country over Canada, it would have made any difference to anything. I may well be only using Canada for convenience too, I've never actually had to think about it.

L-girl said...

Thanks for the book recommendation, Ferdzy and Imp-Strump both.

As for the dual citizenship thing, I find it odd that people are so focused about whether dual citizens are "loyal" to Canada, when in my own life as a Canadian-born Canadian citizen the fact of my loyalty or lack thereof has never come up.

Excellent point. One could argue that someone who consciously chose a country - as opposed to an accident of birth over which one has no control - might feel a very real sense of loyalty.

Or perhaps loyalty to country is a concept without much meaning. How is one loyal or disloyal to a country, anyway? Assuming none of us are terrorists planning to blow up a building in Ottawa, how could any of us be loyal or disloyal to Canada?

Scott M. said...

While many people use the discussion as a convenient path to display their bigotry and xenophobia, there is a valid argument to be made.

But in my mind, it's not a citizenship question but one of residency. I believe that Canada should work to evacuate residents of Canada from war-torn countries in this instance, without expecting compensation.

On the other hand, if a person has chosen to live in another country, they give up the basic protection that the government gives their residents. Yes, they still may be Canadian citizens, and have a right to return to Canada at their will, but if they do not have a permanent residence in the country they should have to pay the costs of returning.

In other words, I have no problem with the government providing safe passage home to people. If their home is not in Canada however, the government is therefore just providing a transport to a place which is not their home, which they should have to pay for (as refugees must pay transport into the country). After all, as they are not Canadian residents, they are now paying income tax to a different country and are no longer contributing signifigantly to the Canadian tax system.

I have no problem, however, once they are here in providing them with immediate health care coverage, and social services in the same way we provide those benefits to refugees (as they essentially are).

But I have difficulty with paying their way. Note that other countries are requiring their citizens to pay for their transit as well.

L-girl said...

Scott, I think that's a reasonable distinction, as long as if the person chooses to make their home in Canada, they have full rights and obligations like any other citizen.

But although I think it's a reasonable distinction, I have to say, I don't think it's an important one. I guess Canada could figure out a way to bill these folks for services rendered, but it's probably easier and more expedient - not to mention more humane - to just help, with no strings attached.

Scott M. said...

It might appear that it would be difficult to determine residency, but you can be absolutely sure that all of that was confirmed when the people were processed in Cyprus and Egypt before flying. As well, it's mandatory for Customs and Immigration when they entered the country.

The problem would have only been in billing them.