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A Convenient Form Of Citizenship

Canadian Navy Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle was sentenced to twenty years in prison this past week for selling secret documents to the Russians. Canadians across the country were outraged by this case and rightly so. It was a rare instance of what is tantamount to treason in a country where the word treason isn’t used anymore.

What makes this case so unusual is that Delisle was no shadowy James Bond-type spy. He was a petty, little man in financial trouble. He wasn’t approached by the Russians; instead he simply walked into the Russian consulate and offered to sell them Canadian state secrets.

Delisle is no ideologue either. He didn’t select the Russians out of some misguided belief that he would be helping their cause in the global war against conservatism in Ottawa.

To Jeffrey Delisle, his citizenship had become so devalued it was just one more ‘thing’ that could be pawned in order to get some financial relief. No doubt if a pawn shop would have taken a submarine in on hock, he might have tried to haul one down to the store.

It raises a question about the value of our citizenship which most of us pretty much take for granted.

Canada used to have two kinds of citizens. Those who were born in Canada or were born to Canadian parents who were living abroad (natural) and those who immigrated to Canada and qualified for Citizenship under whatever rules existed at the time (naturalized).

Now Canada has a variety of types of citizenship and it has devalued the very meaning of the word.

Along with natural and naturalized citizens, there are hyphenated citizens, dual citizens and citizens of convenience.

Hyphenated citizens are those who identify as much with their heritage or race as they do with their citizenship as in Italian-Canadian, African-Canadian, Chinese-Canadian and aboriginal-Canadian. At the rate some are hyphenating their citizenship we will soon have gay-Canadians, Liberal-Canadians and Greek-African-Gay-Socialist-Canadians.

I hope we have stocked a sufficient supply of hyphens.

Dual citizenship Canadians are those who are citizens of more than one country as, for example, Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair. Mr. Mulcair holds both Canadian and French citizenship although he prefers the Canadian healthcare and tax system to that of his other native land. One wonders what Mr. Mulcair will do should Quebec ever separate and become an independent nation. Will he then be a tri-citizen with French, Quebecois and Canadian citizenship?

It seems quite benign, maybe even a touch cosmopolitan to have a member of Canada’s Parliament holding dual citizenship but I wonder how happy we would be about it if Mr. Mulcair’s citizenship was Canadian and Syrian and Canada ended up at war with Syria along with its NATO allies. Would Mr. Mulcair then be in a serious situation of divided loyalties? Would Canadians feel their state secrets were safe?

Clearly that is not the case with Mr. Mulcair who while I oppose his politics respect his commitment to Canada but it is a situation that could happen and therein lies the rub.

Dual citizenship is like having a wife and a mistress; you live with one while sometimes enjoying the benefits of the other. and that simply cheapens everyone involved.

Citizens of convenience are those who leave their home country and who immigrate to Canada, qualify to become Canadian and then immediately move back to the motherland where they continue to make use of the benefits of the new Canadian citizenship without contributing to their new nation.

Instead, they combine dual citizenship with convenience; being Lebanese, for example, in their daily lives but Canadians when they need or want something Lebanon can’t provide.

We saw that a few years ago during the resurgence of the Lebanese civil war. Former Lebanese citizens who had immigrated to Canada but returned to Lebanon to live once they obtained their Canadian citizenship demanded the Canadian government save them by providing immediate emergency evacuation to safety. One of those folks was so grateful to Canada, when he was interviewed on television that he criticized the Canadian government for not providing sandwiches on the boat we had provided to get him and his family across the Mediterranean to safety.

Now we are seeing Canadian citizenship being used as a staging ground for terrorists abroad. It’s still in its infancy but it fairly clear that because obtaining Canadian citizenship is relatively easy and Canada is a very stable, it provides the perfect place for those who wish to travel freely after having plotted whatever it is they plotted.

We saw the results of that recently in Bulgaria and Algeria where naturalized Canadians were involved in terrorist attacks.

Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, is supporting a private member’s bill to have Canadian citizenship stripped from those who have acquired it only to turn around and violate Canadian law both at home and abroad.

It has generated the usual polarized debate.

Progressives are horrified at the thought that citizenship could ever be stripped from a Canadian. They accuse the government of trying to create two levels of citizenship and of undermining inalienable rights. What they don’t do or even consider is that it is possible that if someone has obtained their citizenship fraudulently, meaning they had no intention of being solid Canadian citizens, they never really were citizens.

It’s kind of like calling yourself a Christian but not believing in the divinity of Christ; sort of like the last moderator of the United Church of Canada.

They also don’t consider that if someone is prepared to violate the citizenship oath they took, just perhaps that is a renunciation of their Canadian citizenship.

“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

The oath isn’t all that difficult to remember although some who are required to take it have found it extremely inconvenient to the personal point of view.

Lawyer Charles Roach fought a number of battles in the courts in an attempt to have the oath eliminated. He wrote to fellow litigants in a class action suit brought in 2012;

“”If we win this class action, a centuries-old tradition would begin to unravel.”

It doesn’t seem very Canadian to want to ‘unravel traditions of the country you are applying to for citizenship.

It seems to me that there are too many who want the benefits of being Canadian but think they can achieve that by undermining our traditions and values at the same time. Mr. Roach died in October 2012 before his case could be heard.

Another naturalized Canadian, Ashok Charles, who took the citizenship oath in 1977, publicly recanted it and in writing to Immigration Canada. His citizenship was not affected.

I believe that if you are not prepared to honour your oath then you are equally unwilling to accept the conditions Canada requires for  becoming a Canadian,. No amount of misguided progressive thinking should be allowed to devalue our citizenship with confused politically correct ideas that this somehow makes us more inclusive.

It doesn’t. It simply cheapens the value of becoming or being a citizen.

Some may take exception to the mention of the Queen but she is our head of state and in swearing allegiance to her, you are basically swearing allegiance to the government of Canada.

While simple, the oath contains more meat than first appears. It demands loyalty, obedience to Canada’s laws and places a responsibility on citizens to be full and productive members of Canadian society.

Looking around these days, I sometimes think it wouldn’t hurt to have more than a few natural Canadians take the oath at some point.

This is not about immigration nor does is it a case against multi-culturalism. We too often confuse culture with nationality and sometimes religious observance. I think it is quite possible and very beneficial to the country for people to be a Canadian while celebrating their cultural and linguistic heritage and/or their religion.

The problem is that some place a higher value on their cultural background, religion or former nationality than they do on being Canadian and that is when Canadian citizenship starts to become devalued.

Muslims who flee the violence in the Middle East arrive in Canada and after becoming citizens make demands for the imposition of Sharia Law and that their observances are respected above those of others. We tolerate that out of some misguided belief that we are promoting fairness but as other nations are discovering, including the Netherlands and Great Britain, it isn’t fair and it doesn’t work.

Inevitably, the rights of other citizens become undermined and the overall society is often negatively affected.

By all means, Muslims should be free to practice their faith in this country as are all other faiths but under no circumstances should they be permitted to impose that faith on the broader society. We don’t practice genital mutilation in the country as is done in some North African Muslim societies and we consider honour killings to be nothing but murder.

We keep church and state separate and permit all citizens to practice faith freely. If that is unacceptable to those who would immigrate here, don’t immigrate here. It is up to new Canadians to adapt to the society, not the society to adapt to new Canadians.

It is the same with those who hold dual citizenship. I believe at some point, you should have to pick one and renounce the other. That is how it used to be in Canada. You had to choose when you became twenty-one. Now we simply accept that Canadian citizenship should not take precedence for those who are or who become Canadians.

It is this idea of dual citizenship that also devalues the concept of Canadian citizenship and far more than stripping citizenship from those who break our laws.

I know and have worked with Quebecers who are firm nationalists. For the most part, they were good folks and I enjoyed my working relationships and ongoing friendships. Like many other nationalists, some of them want an independent Quebec but believe they will be able to retain their Canadian citizenship, including its passport while still being Quebec citizens. They believe that they will continue to benefit from the Canadian healthcare system, education subsidies and be able to cross the border and work in other parts of Canada without visas or other requirements.

In other words, they wish to be dual citizens rather than citizens of one or the other. My attitude is, God love ya, pick what you like but pick one or the other. You can’t serve two masters nor can you contribute to one society while skimming off some of the benefits of the other.

Critics of the proposed legislation denounce it as turning citizenship into a privilege and there may be some truth to that but I would submit that perhaps citizenship should be considered more than just an accident of birth or the result of selecting a nation of convenience.

But even if it isn’t a privilege as some accuse the government of trying to achieve; even if it is a basic right – it is also a responsibility and I believe that when you fail to live up to those responsibilities in even the most fundamental way, you’ve pretty much renounced your citizenship and should be treated accordingly.

While it remains true that each individual retains the right to make whatever citizenship choice is best for them; it is equally true that Canada as a society has the same right. We don not, as a nation, elevate the individual by lowering the value of being a Canadian citizen.

Canadians shouldn’t be asking how someone like Jeffrey Delisle could commit the act of treason he committed; we should be asking why it doesn’t happen more often considering how much we are undermining the value of Canadian citizenship.

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  • Hector

    What if you have citizenship of another commonwealth realm? Surely there would be no conflict of interest if you had dual Canadian/New Zealand Citizenship. After all you pledge allegiance to the same Queen and have the same political system, same language and same common law. If Isaac Brock were still alive, would he have to choose between being British and Canadian?

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      The mere fact that someone wants to retain dual citizenship underscores the fact that they are not fully committed to the growth and values of either country. It’s a divided loyalty that is a little like ‘hedging your bet’ because you aren’t sure who is going to win the big game. It’s like trying to be Christian and Jewish at the same time. It’s like being married and having a mistress. Everyone involved is cheapened by it. If you’re Canadian, great. If you prefer to be a citizen of the other country, also great. No harm, no foul. Everyone gets to make their own choice and there is no wrong choice. But trying to retain dual citizenship is like having a foot in both camps and at the end of the day, is no choice at all. It’s like failing to make up your mind about which of your two girlfriends you’re going to marry. the fact that the two ladies might both be lovely people and happen to be cousins, is irrelevant.

      • Hector

        It’s not the same with realm countries because you are still loyal to the same head of State, Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
        You would have your foot in the same camp, the Empire. One Flag, One Queen, One Empire. If you were born in Canada before 1949, you were a British subject as well. Does that mean that being born in Canada before 1949 was akin to being Christian and Jewish?

        • http://abearsrant.com thebear

          That was true before the Constitution was repatriated in 1982. Since then, we are loyal only to the Queen of Canada. What other countries she may or may not be Queen of are irrelevant to our citizenship status and our government.

  • Lance

    Reading this and Conrad Black comes to mind. Although a successful Canadian, his ethics in Canada left something to be desired. Then, feeling that Canada did not allow him to stretch his bombastic life, he flung his citizenship off like an old rag and took a British citizenship and a lordship. His sordid past caught up to him and, although not guilty in the eyes of Conrad, he did time in an American prison. Some legal flim flam and he got out and where did he return? Canada, where he is no longer a citizen but, got special treatment to get in and stay. The ex-con even got to keep his entitled Order of Canada, contrary to stated and usually enforced policy.

    Yes, I think Conrad Black should be the poster child for “Citizenship of Convenience”.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      I agree with you. His traded his citizenship for a title but when he got nailed down south, suddenly it he was Canadian through and through. It cheapens the value of beign a citizen of Canada.

  • Bill

    Bla bla whine whine go the bleeding hearts boo hoo! This guy should have never even gotten a day in jail. Until we as a nation start actually getting tough on criminals such as our poster child omar khadr and his terrorists family; we should all just remain quiet and vote conservative!

    • RunningWithTheWolves

      A good read on the Khadr case. Liberals and NDP say they where glad to have him back on Canadian soil.
      They where upset with conservatives for “dragging their feet,” on this issue.
      http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/ndp-liberals-slam-handling-of-omar-khadr-case-1.976710

      • http://abearsrant.com thebear

        It is a good read and one I had seen before. The Khadr case was very troubling for me and I think it was one of the situations that started to focus my thoughts about being a citizen. It finally came down on the side of the law. Two things influenced my decision. The first was that he was being held on a charge of murder which is an arbitrary charge in the middle of a fire fight but more troubling for me was the fact that as a Canadian citizen, if he had committed the same crime in Canada, he would have in all likelihood been tried under the Young Offenders Act. I have no use for terrorists or for those who abuse their Canadian citizenship to commit acts of terror or war in other countries on behalf of some cause but when it is a kid, it falls into a grey zone that is very difficult, at least for me, to assess in black and white terms. I’ll leave the link up and let those who are interested read it and decide for themselves.

        At the end of the day, I believe the government did not uphold the law in this case. I understand and even sympathize with their sentiments but the law is the law and until it is changed, it is essential that our government adhere to it. If they can violate the law for the worst of us, they can just as easily violate it for the best of us well. If you don’t like th law, change it but until it is changed – obey it.

        • RunningWithTheWolves

          Thanks Bear, I think what remains very troubling for me is Omar Khadr’s mother. She has an extreme distain for Canadian and western values, rights, freedoms and laws. This is an incredibly contradictory point of view considering Omar is now back in Canada…….

  • L

    I agree with you, for the most part, but it is complicated to change the rules and I greatly fear that my son will be stripped of his Canadian citizenship by all of this legitimate concern about citizens of convenience and citizens who violate Canadian laws, unless exceptions are granted.

    My spouse and I were born in Canada, but served as diplomats abroad at the time he was born. Our collective ancestry includes loyalists, pioneer Ontarians, pioneer Albertans, pioneer Saskatchewans and 1903 immigrants to BC. Our ancestors helped build this country. Usually, such diplomatic children are not accorded the citizenship of the country they were born in, but we were posted to a consulate vs. an embassy, so the rules were different (and bizarre, i thought) at that time. The US recognized dual at the time, so he was deemed American, and would have to choose at 21. By the time he was 21, the rules changed, for the better, in our special case.

    Six weeks after the birth, we returned to Canada and left again for two postings totaling 6 years. Otherwise, our son was raised as a Canadian abroad and at home. In 2002, as an adult, he moved to the US for economic reasons, as he is in a specialized field which pays double the Canadian salary for the same work. He is a huge hockey fan and goes to all of Flames games in the US; yet his children, if born in the US, will not now be Canadian if the mother is American. So, essentially, my grand child will not now have Canadian citizenship, due to a quirk of diplomatic rules in the 1970s.

    Taking this further, if dual citizenship is cancelled, my son will lose his legitimate Canadian citizenship. Other Canadians who were born in Canada, not serving their country abroad, have more rights than he does now, and into the future if dual citizenship is eliminated.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      I appreciate your concern and it is legitimate. It also highlights one of the problems with dual citizenship. Here’s another. In the U.S., the government has decided that even if you have emigrated to another country and become a citizen of that country, you are considered American and owe them tax money. There are Canadians who are the children of Canadians, like your son, who happened to be born in the United States while their parents were working, visiting or just on vacation the the U.S. now wants to tax.

      Clarity is what gets lost with dual citizenship. I would consider your son more American than Canadian, not out of any sense of acrimony but simply because that is the nation where he has chosen to live and to which he contributes. Residency is obviously not the only criteria; I’ve lived abroad myself but always as a Canadian, not as a citizen of another country and that is the key difference. In this country, you used to have to choose when you turned 21 as my wife did when she had to choose between being Canadian or Dutch. It isn’t an onerous choice that prevents anyone, including your son, from pursuing their lives as they see fit, it just clarifies which country they owe their allegiance.

      We always look at these things through fuzzy lenses but I like to simplify things a bit. If Canada and another country went to war, which side would the person with citizenship in both choose? At that point it’a a little late in the game to make choices.

      Anyway, I wish your son well. I doubt that any changes that are being contemplated will have much impact on him or his family. The government’s focus seems much more on terrorists and those who cam our system.

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