In Canada, once a citizen always a citizen

 

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Chris Alexander is a young man on a mission. And as all young men do on missions he makes mistakes, for which the rest of us must surely pay.

Canada’s 45-year-old citizenship and immigration minister apparently believes his beloved country is under siege. Droves of dual citizens (Canadian and pick-a-nation) are queuing up to undermine the foundations of this perfect democracy that perches between the Niagara escarpment and the Arctic Circle.

Says he: Off with their imperfect, great-white-northern heads. 

“This. . .is historic because it addresses an asset that Canadians consider absolutely fundamental to their identity,” he opined in Ottawa as his Bill C-24 was set to pass its third reading in the House of Commons last week. 

In fact, he insisted, Canadians think his proposed legislation is “absolutely essential” to counter treachery against the state in this country – activities that are, apparently, rampant among young, downwardly mobile scions of upwardly mobile immigrants to whom this government has, until now, opened up its hearts and pocket books.

Specifically, Bill C-24 would, as the Canadian Press reports, “strip dual nationals of their Canadian citizenship if they commit acts of treason, terrorism or espionage. . .the federal bill would increase the scope to those born in Canada but eligible to claim citizenship in another country – for instance, through their parents – and expand the grounds for revocation to include several criminal offences.”

As for that, says CP, Mr. Alexander elaborated: “The Conservatives (are) fixing flaws introduced by the Liberals in 1977 – legislation that ‘actually cheapened Canadian citizenship, opened it to abuse and put to one side the whole question of allegiance and loyalty to this country’.” 

Clearly, from this perspective, rot must fester at the root of our system.

The important question, though, is whether a duly elected government has the right to determine whom among those who may or may not cleave to “allegiance and loyalty” and “country” is worthy of citizenship.

Unfortunately, there are no legal precedents available to answer that question, a circumstance which tends to arise when politicos are entitled to freelance their ideologies over and above their responsibilities to protect the rights and freedoms of all  their fellow countrymen and women. 

Still, no evidence, whatsoever, exists to suggest that rougher, more punitive citizenship laws will preserve law and order in Canada. Generally, perpetrators of crimes against the public well-being are local fools and maniacs who were born and raised in communities that are both ostracized and forgotten by ‘polite’ society. Generally, these disenfranchised individuals are not immigrants. Rarely, are they dual citizens.

And yet, facing stiff opposition from federal Liberals and NDP, Mr. Alexander now drapes himself in the finest Harperite raiment: denial. 

According to the Canadian Press, Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett asked last week, “How can the minister justify this abuse of power which trample on the rights of Canadians, even those who were born here in Canada?”

NDP multiculturalism critic Andrew Cash added: “This is nonsensical and it’s most likely unconstitutional. Why did the government turn down every single suggestion put forward to try to fix this bill?”

In turn, Mr. Alexander accused Mr. Cash of being “lost in the thickets of his own ideology,” which is, if ever there was one, a perfect pot-kettle-black moment in recent Canadian politics.

In 1977, Mr. Alexander was exactly eight years old, just wise enough to recognize that a two-wheeler was marginally better than a trike. I was a hopeful political science aspirant at Dalhousie University. Even then, though, I knew the difference between callow indifference to the gravity of truth and a flat tire.

No Canadian asks his brethren to declare fealty to the state; rather he demands that the state produces democracy as a condition of his participation. If the state fails to comply, then it is the right of every citizen to object. 

Mr. Alexander’s measures would, by extension, turn this objection into sedition. And that, in his own words, is no “asset that Canadians consider absolutely fundamental to their identity,”

Lawyers and scholars are already having a field day with this proposed legislation, as others have had with the Harper government’s similar forays into constitutional engineering. 

What remains to be seen, however, is the degree to which citizens embrace the nobility of their enfranchisement as among the luckiest people on Earth, before their luck runs out thanks to a young man “lost in the thickets if his own ideology.”

 

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