Thursday, July 20, 2006

When is a Canadian not a Canadian?

Sadly, that seems to be a debate we're going to have to have in this country once all the Canadians of varying degrees of residency and hyphenation have been safely evacuated from Lebanon. I'll tell you now where I stand though: A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.

With some estimates pegging the number of Canadians in Lebanon at around 40,000, not all of whom are looking to leave, the question that has been raised is what is the obligation the federal government has to these people.

And I can accept that question, to a point. Even before this latest crisis the region was far from safe, and wasn't high on my list of possible vacation spots. When you travel to the Middle East I think you have to be ready for the possibility of trouble, and accept a certain level of risk.

However, all-out war is a different matter, and in such cases governments have traditionally taken pains to evacuate their citizens. While it might not be in the Charter, it's one of the duties governments have come to owe their citizens, and I think that's right. I think most Canadians would agree with this principle.

The debate tends to get more complicated though when we get to the issue of dual citizens, and residency. Some are asking, if they're a Canadian citizen but have lived in Lebanon for some time, do we owe then a boat cruise to Turkey? Or, what if they're Lebanese-Canadians currently living in Lebanon; do we have the same obligation to them as a non-hyphenated Canadian?

While I can see somewhat where such critics are coming from, I have to say an unequivocal yes, they are all Canadians and we have the same obligation to them all, no matter their residency or hyphenation.

Going down such a troubling road would lead to different classes of Canadians. Perhaps a rating scale of one to four. Citizen? One point. Born in Canada? One point. Resident in Canada? One point. No dual citizenship? One point. Four out of four, congrats, go to the head of the line. There's another troubling question that bears asking here. Would we be having this debate if we were talking about British-Canadians, for example? Perhaps not.

If there is a will in this country to change our laws to prevent citizens from holding dual citizenships, that's one thing. I'd disagree with that policy, but that would be a fair and legitimate debate to have.

In the meantime though, there are no varying classes of Canadian citizenship. A Canadian is a Canadian, and all should be treated equally.

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Anonymous said...


besides the fact that these Canadians dont pay taxes so dont contribute is ridiculous, they pay (huge) consular fees (such as 200$ per five years to renew passports, register kids' births, translate Canadian documents, not to mention remittances to relatives here).

Anonymous said...

It takes 3 years to become a "citizen" here. So the Lebanese guy who lived here for a time and then automated his 6 children citizenship by proxy deserve evactuation?

Jeff said...

Adrian, my position is that all Canadians deserve evacuation, period. If you want to change the rules around dual citizenship down the road that's one thing, but until such a time a citizen is a citizen. Our laws make no distinction.