Wed, Jul
19
2006

Second Class Canadian Citizens

Wed, Jul 19, 2006

And here I thought our summer would be boring. Hey, Greg, maybe this calls for a special Hotstove?

Regardless of whether you view the Israel invasion of Lebanon as a valid act of self defense or an overreaction, regardless of whether you believe Canada is moving too slow or as fast as humanly possible in evacuating the 50,000 Canadian nationals in Lebanon, I would have thought that we could all agree that governments have an obligation to look after the safety of its citizens, and that governments shouldn’t split hairs over who their citizens are. Sadly, in this chaotic situation, there is no agreement, even on this.

From comments on Andrew’s blog, I learn that our attempts to evacuate Canadian residents from Lebanon doesn’t include Canadian permanent residents. Basically, if Erin and I were in this warzone, and it was before November 2005, when Erin gained her citizenship, I would be evacuated back home, and Erin would not. Now, I’m sure the reality of the situation is that if a Canadian citizen were leaving a warzone with his or her permanent resident spouse, the permanent resident would be able to tag along, but it still sounds like a heartless policy, doesn’t it?

But believe it or not, as heartless as this sounds, I can understand the distinction. We have a separation between Canadian citizens and Canadian immigrants, and we accord Canadian citizens certain privileges that we do not accord immigrants, including the right to vote, and the right to re-enter the country without too much difficulty. Pushing further, however, I come upon a situation that leaves me shaking my head in disgust. Hat tip to Greg at Sinister Thoughts:

A debate raged yesterday over the government’s decision to rescue thousands of Canadians in Lebanon who are dual citizens and likely reside there permanently.

Conservative MP Garth Turner said the Canadians with two passports are not “accidental tourists” and taxpayers might question the cost.

A Liberal MP agreed, saying priority should be given to Canadians who were only visiting Lebanon when Israel began air attacks.

But other MPs criticized Mr. Turner — saying “a Canadian is a Canadian” — while an entry on the Conservative MP’s blog sparked an Internet war of words over the issue.

Ottawa Citizen

Whoever said “a Canadian is a Canadian” gets my vote. Whatever the reasons for the split in rights between Canadian citizens and Canadian landed immigrants, once landed immigrants jump through all the hoops to become citizens, that’s what they are. If we call them citizens, that means we have accorded them all of the rights and privileges of Canadian citizenship, including getting them out of a war zone. This is what the Danes are doing.

It is, frankly, disgusting that we are splitting hairs in this fashion. It is, frankly, disgusting to see people question the loyalty of Canadians who are currently caught in the crossfire. The presumption implicit in this statement (a comment from Greg’s blog), is staggering:

“Do you think they consider themselves Canadian or Lebanonese?”

I have two reactions:

  1. Are you willing to go out and ask each and every one of them, rather than making blanket generalizations and:
  2. So what?

By debating whether or not dual citizens are worthy of our aid, we are saying that even though we call these people Canadian, the fact that they were not born here makes them less than Canadian. Right now, there is no distinction between natural born Canadian citizens and Canadian citizens born in other countries. If we are going to create a class of second class Canadian citizens, well then let us be honest about our exclusionary attitude, at least, and say it in our law.

Until then, we are making sad hypocrites out of ourselves.


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