12.09.2006

stench

This fake news about Stéphane Dion's dual citizenship - and calls for the Liberal leader to renounce the French citizenship that his mother gave him at birth - are truly disgusting.

The Canadians kicking up this dust should know how very American, how very Fox News, they sound: concocting a non-issue to smear an opponent, pushing xenophobic buttons, and in this case, anti-French buttons, too, as they question the "loyalty" of a French Canadian.

One needn't be a Liberal partisan to find the stench from this filth overpoweringly vile.

Canada recognizes dual citizenship. It is legal. It is part of Canadian society.

Dual citizenship benefits Canada at least as much as it benefits the millions of dual citizens themselves. At the very worst, it's neutral. It certainly in no way harms Canada. Dual citizenship harms single-citizenship Canadians about as much as same-sex marriage harms heterosexual marriages.

As has been pointed out hundreds of times already, former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner was a dual citizen. Not only that, but in contrast to Dion, who was born in Canada and has lived here his whole life here, Turner was born in the UK. But apparently that is OK: it's British. More likely, it's OK because we weren't making a fuss about those things then, and we've decided it's an issue now.

Stéphane Dion was born in Canada. He is a citizen of Canada. He's worked for Canada his whole life. End of story.

Or it should be, but sadly, it is not.

I saw Dion on "The National" the other night, on the "Your Turn" segment where the interviewee answers viewer's questions. ("Your Turn" is archived here, but the one featuring Dion isn't up yet.) After Dion answered the various questions, host Peter Mansbridge said he had to bring up another issue because people are talking about it: What about you holding two passports?

Mansbridge goes on about how he holds two passports, British and Canadian, that many journalists find this useful, passport this, passport that. When Mansbridge finally wraps it up, Dion replies that he has only one passport, that of Canada.

To which Mansbridge replies, Oh, did I say holding a passport? I meant that symbolically, I meant the ability to hold two passports.

I thought that was pretty lame.

Dion handled the question, and has been handling it, very well: his French citizenship was a gift from his mother, no one should be questioning his loyalty to Canada, that's unthinkable, if forced to renounce his French citizenship, he will sadly do so, but why should it be an issue?

But yet it persists. This is a slimy, name-calling, anti-immigrant, anti-French, anti-diversity distraction, a sleight of hand on the part of a certain faction of Conservatives. Swift boats, anyone?

It needs to be buried, finally and deeply.

I blogged about dual citizenship, and about the concept of loyalty to one's country over the summer, when all this nonsense started in response to Canada's evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon.

On reflection, I'll quote some of that here.
Does loyalty mean "My country right or wrong"? We've seen what that attitude leads to. I've been accused of disloyalty to the US, since I chose to leave. I suppose I have been disloyal - because the US has been disloyal to its own ideals.

That's really the crux, I think: we should be loyal to ideals, to values, and we should support whoever supports those values. When our country lives up to the values we admire, or at least strives to, we support it. When it turns its back on them - when it chooses authoritarianism over democracy, empire over self-determination, conformity over personal liberty, selfishness over community - we have to speak up. Dissent is not disloyalty.

However, if dissent is consistently ignored, and the country continues to march to a dangerous beat, disloyalty may be the right thing to do. Imagine, once upon a time, if a few million Germans had been a little more disloyal.

In this sense, loyalty is the wrong word entirely. When a person flees their country because it has been taken over by a dictator, are they being disloyal to their country? The country they love and value no longer exists. They can either be loyal to the dictator, or if they're lucky, get out. Immigrants who have escaped fascist regimes all say the same thing: I love my country, but the country I love no longer exists.

How are people who are citizens of only one country more loyal than dual citizens? In our average, daily lives, how are any of us loyal to our country? By paying taxes? Dual citizens do that, of course - as do non-citizen residents such as myself. There must be something more than that, no?

If Canadian dual citizens live and work outside of Canada, then they don't pay Canadian taxes - but then, they don't use Canadian services, either. How, then, are they "freeloading"?

Are the Canadians opposing dual citizenship imagining a scenario where the country of birth wages war against Canada, and the dual citizen must choose which side to support? Seems a bit far-fetched, in today's world. Even so, history shows that country of choice will usually win over country of birth. It was usually chosen because it's a better place to live.

So (as I said yesterday in comments), 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?
Toronto Star columnist Allan Thompson wrote a good piece about dual citizenship last month, before this crap about Dion floated to the surface.
We don't really know how many dual citizens there are in Canada, where they live or who they are. By some estimates, there could be as many as 4 or 5 million Canadians eligible for dual citizenship. And we literally don't have a clue how many Canadian dual citizens are living in other countries. We simply don't keep track.

And just as we have no way to measure the cost to Canada of allowing its citizens to hold multiple passports and move about freely, nor do we have any reliable way to measure the economic or other benefits to Canada of its dual citizenship policy. We're operating on gut instinct. We need more information.

. . . .

How many times in 30 years of allowing dual citizenship has Canada expended significant resources on absentee citizens? Apart from Lebanon, no other examples spring to mind. And in those intervening 30 years, how has Canada benefited from its openness to the world?

No, this discussion is being driven by political considerations and by politicians who are anxious to assuage their constituency.

These politicians are not making policy. They're making noise. And frankly, they're probably glad to be garnering some headlines about a review of our dual citizenship policy. It is one of those public policy deliberations that come at virtually no price to a government make some noise, get people talking, scare a bunch of people, satisfy some others - then do nothing.

After letting the citizenship question percolate for a while, sparking some news reports that the government was actually considering abolishing dual citizenship, the government finally made crystal clear last week that Canada's policy of allowing its citizens to also hold the nationality of another country was here to stay.

"We're not tinkering with dual citizenship," Solberg declared.

. . . .

Canadians - dual citizens and those attached only to Canada - should take a deep breath. Then we should think for a while before embarking on a civil, informed, national conversation about what it means to be a Canadian citizen in today's world.
Here's a very good essay from CBC columnist Margaret Drohan.
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?

Thinking of immigrants as penniless beggars harkens back to the time when vast numbers of people landed on our shores fleeing famine and war. My Irish ancestors were part of this group. They came with nothing and Canada offered them the opportunity to build a better life.

Canada still opens its doors to refugees. But they represent a small fraction of the 240,000 immigrants on average who arrive each year. Over the past decade, more than half of the people taking up permanent residence in Canada were economic migrants, a class that includes investors, entrepreneurs, skilled workers and those whom individual provinces selected to fill specific labour shortages.

At a minimum, they bring their skills and money to the table. Only anecdotal evidence exists of what more they contribute because the economic aspects of multiculturalism remains a neglected field of research. Yet we know from anecdotes that companies with a multicultural staff find it easier to reach out around the world for business and trade opportunities if they have employees who speak other languages, are familiar with other cultures and can travel comfortably in other countries.

Fine, you say, immigrants are a boon to Canada. But does the same hold true for dual citizens? That is, after all, what the debate is about.

It must be said that Canada collects very little information about its dual citizens. Citizenship and Immigration does not keep figures. In this, they are not much different from other countries, which focus on their own citizens and pretend that other citizenships do not exist. But since the 1981 census, Statistics Canada has been asking people to declare multiple citizenships.

. . . .

As for why they [choose to be dual citizens], she suggested better career prospects and income benefits were one possibility. People with more than one passport could engage in transnational activities. But she also pointed to research that indicated people applied for dual citizenship because they wanted to become more politically active and more integrated into their host society. "Allowing immigrants to keep multiple citizenship could further Canadian nation building and integration efforts, reinforcing the state rather than undermining it," she concluded.

None of this has come up in our current debate. Instead, dual citizens have been painted as semi-rapacious Canadians of convenience, who do little for the country, except demand evacuation when problems arise. And in return, we grant them the same rights as native-born Canadians. (Except that we don't entirely. Their citizenship can be revoked if they are found guilty of certain crimes, whereas that of a Canadian-born citizen cannot.)

Also ignored is the possibility that Canadians might be responsible in part for persuading people to hang on to their other passports, just in case things don't work out here. StatsCan surveys indicate 20 per cent of visible minorities say they encounter discrimination here and that it does not decline over time. Professional immigrants complain vociferously that their credentials are not recognized and they are forced to find jobs well below their level of education.

The final factor missing from the debate is that Canada has its own diaspora and that some of its members are almost certainly dual citizens. (And here I must say that I hold British citizenship, which I applied for during my eight years in London.) Again, this is an area where there is very little research. But one estimate by analyst Kenny Zhang of the Asia Pacific Foundation suggests there are 2.7 million Canadian citizens living abroad.

Do we feel as free to characterize these Canadian-born dual citizens as freeloaders, as some commentators have done with foreign-born dual nationals in Canada? Or is the situation somehow different when native-born Canadians are involved?
In comments, Lone Primate calls this uninformed, bigoted discussion "a national disgrace"; Idealistic Pragmatist says it's the first thing in her ten-year residence in Canada that has shaken her faith about the country.

Those are strong words from two people who feel strongly about their country. Please, Canada: come to your senses. Don't let the rantings of a small, yet vocal, minority drown out your essential nature.

P.S. If you jumped the gun and commented on this in a recent thread, please feel free to re-post your comment here.

16 comments:

Lone Primate said...

This is a national disgrace. If this is the bent the Canadian character is adopting, fine. We don’t deserve immigration to grow the nation and, cynically, keep the tax coffers filled and pay for the retirements of Canadians now and into the future. If this is Canada’s attitude, we hardly deserve their help. We should be left to twist in the wind like any other misanthrope. At the very least, these people need to read The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.

John Turner’s dual citizenship also occurred to me. I don’t remember it being an issue in the 1980s, ever, not even in Quebec. That English Canada reciprocates so boorishly is deeply embarrassing. Stephane Dion was born in Canada, for God’s sake. His French citizenship is incidental, but his birthright all the same. I would strongly urge him to retain it. He is who he is. Elect him or don’t. But if you don’t, accept the consequences, Canada. Those with dual citizenship at least have the option of sheltering elsewhere while Canada submits to another lobotomy by Doctor Conservative.

I wonder if Ezra Levant — a conservative from Calgary; colour me amazed here — has the same issues with Michael Chertoff being Secretary of Homeland Security just a few miles south of Alberta? As well as being a US citizen, Mr. Chertoff is, as it turns out, also a citizen under Israeli law. Somehow, though, I doubt Ezra is as worried about Chertoff’s views and policies about, say, Afghanistan, being influenced by the nation of his other citizenship as he purports to be about France’s influence on Dion on the same issue. I am, of course, putting words in Ezra Levant’s mouth here, but at first blush, I’ll bet I’m onto something. If I’m right, the man’s a hypocrite… and one who has voluntarily put himself in the same company with people who’d cast aspersions on Chertoff for his dual citizenship… company in which I’m sure Levant would find himself none too comfortable.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, I see citizenship neither as a convenience, nor as a matter of loyalty. Citizenship is no more and no less than an acknowledgement of the fact that one is an X. If Canada did away with dual citizenship, I certainly could comply with the law and give up my U.S. citizenship, but that wouldn’t make me any less American. In other words: I could pretend that I'm not American if I had to, but it would still be a simple fact that I grew up there, and it still would have influenced me a great deal. Nothing's going to change that.

As for loyalty, well, that’s a far more complicated matter that--at least for me--has little to nothing to do with which country's or countries' passport(s) I hold.

Lone Primate said...

Even if Canada did away with dual citizenship, it's essentially a meaningless act. Canada decides the citizenship of only one country: Canada.

I'm a dual citizen myself. A few years ago, I applied with the Irish Embassy in Ottawa to be entered into the Foreign Births Registry and became an Irish citizen. I did so for a number of reasons... it's my heritage (and I'm proud of it), it's my right, and there are a lot of practical benefits to it: aside from the obvious implications for travelling, living, and working in Ireland itself, an Irish citizen is also a citizen of the entire European Union, able to live and work pretty freely throughout the EU; more specfically, the rights of Irish citizens in the UK are nearly as robust as those of British citizens themselves (and vice versa). For the price of some documentation and the application, that was mine for the taking. Why wouldn't I want that? It doesn't mean I love Canada any less. These are simply advantages that Canada itself, dear as it is, can't offer us.

If Canada suddenly cut off dual citizenship, fine, I don't care. Canada doesn't say who is or is not a citizen of Ireland... Ireland does. And that's true of any country on Earth. It's possible, I suppose, for Canada to strip me of my Canadian citizenship if I used an Irish passport or voted or ran in an Irish election or something, and in that circumstance I would have to be careful. But I would still have that option. If life in Canada became, for whatever reason, a hardship, I would still have the option to look elsewhere (easing the burden on Canada). If I gave it up, I'd deprive myself of that option.

So it seems to me it's a pointless act worthy of King Canute ordering back the tide. The Tories can pass whatever law they like on the issue; none of us ceases to be whatever else we are besides Canadian. I'm Irish till Ireland says I'm not, not Canada. And how would Ottawa know anyway? What are they going to do, say "Ireland! [Or any other country!] Tell us who your citizens are!" I think the prompt response from Dublin to that would be "Ceanada! Póg mo thóin!"

...Look it up. ;)

L-girl said...

Thank you, Lone Primate. Thank you thank you.

I/P, I think the loyalty question is a kind of reflexive statement that people say but don't seem to examine or define. See my post here, also linked above. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Now, that's a blast from the past! That was actually the first post of yours I commented on. :-)

You can take the last paragraph of my latest post as my definitive comment on loyalty, though.

L-girl said...

That was actually the first post of yours I commented on. :-)

Ha! I see that now. How funny that I happened to highlight that one today.

Thanks for the link, I'm off to read it now.

impudent strumpet said...

Thing about Dion specifically is that, because he has been a Minister/Privy Councillor (and perhaps because he has been an MP, I don't know the exact rules) he would have already gone through top-level security clearance, because everyone who works in Privy Council has to have clearance. (I know someone who had a minor, non-political job for Privy Council, and she wasn't even allowed on-site until her clearance went through.) Part of the purpose of security clearance in Canada is to assess the individual's loyalty (http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/en/newsroom/backgrounders/backgrounder09.asp). I haven't the slightest idea what exactly they do to assess loyalty or how effective it is, but the people who are best qualified to assess his loyalty have already done so, and have already taken into account his dual citizenship. If it were a problem, he wouldn't have been allowed to be a Minister in the first place.

L-girl said...

ImpStrump, good point! That's a good point for letters to the editor and such. Thanks.

James said...

Does loyalty mean "My country right or wrong"?

Saying "My country right or wrong" is like saying "My mother drunk or sober." It's something no true patriot would say.
-- G.K. Chesterton.

If Canada suddenly cut off dual citizenship, fine, I don't care. Canada doesn't say who is or is not a citizen of Ireland... Ireland does.

Yeah, but then Canada could say, "Well, if you're a citizen of Ireland, then you can't be a citizen of Canada". Sort of like saying, "You can't quit, you're fired!"

It kinda reminds me of the old George Carlin bit about Muhammad Ali:

Ali had a strange job. He beat people up for a living. The government wanted him to change jobs, they wanted him to kill people. He said, "No, that's where I draw the line. I'll beat 'em up, but I won't kill 'em." And the government said, "Well, if you won't kill them, we won't let you beat them up!"

Anonymous said...

Dear god, I move off the continent for less than 1 month, and the whole place starts destabilizing behind me...very disconcerting. :(

What's next? Citizens who don't live in Canada aren't Canadian, either?

Argh.

Someone's getting an earful when I'm home for Christmas in a few weeks. I'm not sure who...yet... :(

Anonymous said...

Dear god, I move off the continent for less than 1 month, and the whole place starts destabilizing behind me...very disconcerting. :(

What's next? Citizens who don't live in Canada aren't Canadian, either?

Argh.

Someone's getting an earful when I'm home for Christmas in a few weeks. I'm not sure who...yet... :(

impudent strumpet said...

then Canada could say, "Well, if you're a citizen of Ireland, then you can't be a citizen of Canada".

And of course the problem with that is that some countries don't have any mechanism whatsoever for allowing citizens to renounce their citizenship. No matter what you do, Other Country will always consider you a citizen.

orc said...

I'm not surprised that the Tories have signed on for this US-style bit of character assassination, but Jack Layton too? W-T-F is he thinking? Has he looked south of the border and said "The DLC. Yes, that's what I want the NDP to look like!" or has he decided that if the NDP is going to prop up the Harper government he might as well look like Mini-Me's Mini-Me?

Lone Primate said...

Yeah, but then Canada could say, "Well, if you're a citizen of Ireland, then you can't be a citizen of Canada".

And how would they go about proving this? Ask Ireland very politely for a list of its citizens? Confront people wearing "Kiss me, I'm Irish" buttons on St. Patrick's Day? Audit Guinness and Kilkenny consumption in Canada's pubs?

And on and on and on for any of a hundred and fifty other (or so) nationalities. Which is why we abandoned the point in the 1970s... it's a non-starter.

Lone Primate said...

And of course the problem with that is that some countries don't have any mechanism whatsoever for allowing citizens to renounce their citizenship. No matter what you do, Other Country will always consider you a citizen.

Yeah, exactly. Renouncing your citizenship is pretty much the same as promising not to cheat when you get married. Your spouse either believes your or not. Practically, there's no way they can know what's in your heart or what you're doing every moment you're out of sight. People who are asking for one person, one citizenship are crying for the moon. They are really not living in the modern age. And, honest, with the realities involved, I don't believe Parliament will indulge them. Australia just threw in the towel in the opposite direction a few years ago; India now lets its citizens abroad pay to retain Indian citizenship. None of this is to say we don't need to shine a light on the darkness, as we are doing right here, right now.

L-girl said...

I'm not surprised that the Tories have signed on for this US-style bit of character assassination, but Jack Layton too? W-T-F is he thinking? Has he looked south of the border and said "The DLC. Yes, that's what I want the NDP to look like!" or has he decided that if the NDP is going to prop up the Harper government he might as well look like Mini-Me's Mini-Me?

It's clearly not the latter - whatever propping up is going on is clearly strategic. But his statement on this really disturbed me, too.