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.Toronto Star columnist Allan Thompson wrote a good piece about dual citizenship last month, before this crap about Dion floated to the surface.
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?
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.Here's a very good essay from CBC columnist Margaret Drohan.
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.
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.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.
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?
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.