Printer Friendly

Best of both worlds: Canada allows its immigrants to have dual citizenship; they can be Canadian citizens and still retain the citizenship of the country from which they came.

Not every country is as generous as Canada. Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. It requires citizenship applicants to give up their original citizenship. They have to go to their old country's embassy and renounce their original citizenship. Male applicants also have to do two years of national service in the armed forces, police, or civil defence.

Others that don't allow dual citizenship include: Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Peru, Syria, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Countries that do allow dual citizenship (about 90 of them) usually operate under the principle that you are a citizen of the country in which you live; any other citizenship is not relevant.

This is where a Latin phrase comes in handy--jus sanguinis. It means "right of blood" and describes how some countries grant citizenship to those born of parents who are citizens of that country. It doesn't matter where a person is born if their parents are, say, Italian, they too are Italian.

This can lead to tricky and sometimes dangerous situations.

Someone might go to visit the ancestral homeland without knowing they are actually a citizen of that country. The visitor might then discover that their unknown citizenship carries certain obligations, such as a year's service in the military. Perhaps, the visitor owes back taxes because of their unsuspected citizenship and ends up in prison for not being able to pay them.

It may not be much use at that point calling on a Canadian foreign-service officer for help. The Canadian official will likely be told to buzz off because this is an internal matter.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) warns Canadians travelling abroad to be wary of this: "Whenever you are in a country that recognizes you as a citizen, its laws take priority over the laws of any other country of which you may be a citizen."

Huseyin Celil is a Canadian with dual citizenship who has run into this very problem. He was born in China a member of the Uyghur ethnic minority. (Uyghurs are spread throughout Central Asia and follow Islam). Mr. Celil came to Canada in 2001 as a refugee. He had been arrested in China in 1994 on charges that he was organizing a Uyghur political party. The only political party allowed in China is the official Communist Party.

Mr. Celil became a Canadian citizen in 2005. In 2006, he went to Uzbekistan in Central Asia. He was arrested and sent to China. He is now held in jail where, according to Amnesty International, "he is at high risk of torture or ill-treatment." The Chinese government does not recognize his Canadian citizenship and refuses to allow Canadian officials to visit him.

In November 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper raised the issue of Huseyin Celil's status in a meeting with China's President Hu Jintao. This intervention seems to have had little effect other than to put the Chinese leader into a bad mood.

The Canadian government was, however, able to do a lot more for citizens caught in a war zone in 2006. In July 2006, Israel invaded its neighbour Lebanon. Israel was trying to put a stop to Muslim guerrilla attacks across its northern border. Bullets, bombs, and rockets were flying everywhere and about 50,000 Canadian citizens were caught in the middle of it.

Ottawa mounted a multimillion dollar program to get our citizens out of harm's way. Ships were rented and sent to evacuate the Canadians. About 15,000 people were removed from the war-torn country, with the rest opting to hunker down and wait out the fighting.

According to the federal government the rescue cost at least $63 million.

Some of the people brought out of Lebanon were tourists who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others were permanent residents of Lebanon who happened to carry Canadian passports.

It was the second group that caused a stir in Canada. A lot of them came to Canada to escape the civil war in Lebanon that started in 1975. They settled here and became Canadian citizens. When the fighting ended in 1990, many of these war refugees returned to Lebanon to take up their disrupted lives. However, just in case, most of them kept their Canadian citizenship. For those who did, this turned out to be a smart decision.

As the bombs started falling on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, they dusted off their Canadian passports and called for help. This annoyed a great many citizens resident in Canada; they were the ones who were going to have to pay for the rescue. Why, they asked, should we have to pick up the massive evacuation bill for people who contribute nothing to Canada?

Here's how columnist Mark Steyn described the allegiance of these citizens to Canada in Maclean's in August 2006 "... they're merely indifferent to Canada. It's a fallback position, something in the back pocket for when the powder keg goes up." He says, for them, the Citizenship Oath "meant nothing."

One estimate is that about half the Canadians pulled out of Lebanon returned after the fighting subsided in August.

The case of these "citizens of convenience" was noted in Ottawa. In November 2006, Immigration Minister Monte Solberg spoke about the issue to a House of Commons committee: "If we're in a situation where somebody's absent, isn't paying taxes, but is going to be using our social programs down the road, I think Canadians would feel that that is unfair."

Mr. Solberg said the Conservative government has decided to take a close look at the dual-citizenship issue.

If Canada decides to change its position on dual citizenship it would be bucking an international trend. Currently, about 90 countries allow some form of dual citizenship; a number that

has grown rapidly in recent decades.

The argument is that dual citizenship helps immigrants integrate into their new societies more smoothly. There are some statistics to back up this theory. Countries that allow dual citizenship find that more immigrants naturalize and become citizens of their new home than countries that insist on renunciation. This leads to more immigrants getting involved in the political process and forming deeper ties with their adopted nation.

Immigrant groups are mostly against any tinkering around with the dual-citizenship file. They find support from the New Democratic Party. That party's immigration critic is Bill Siksay. Here's what he has to say: "Revoking dual citizenship would hurt our country, be a major blow to many Canadian citizens, decrease mobility, make international travel more difficult, hurt tourism and immigration, and impact negatively on trade and Canada's international relationships."

However, in the post-9/11 world of international terrorism the tolerance for dual citizenship might be changing. Questions are being asked, such as:

* Can a person be loyal to two citizenships?

* Have liberal democracies gone too far in accommodating the cultural differences of immigrants?

* Should newcomers be more willing to adapt to the culture into which they move?

* Can dual citizens be relied on to help out in times of crisis or will they bolt to some more favourable country?

FACT FILE

Dual citizenship in Canada was made possible under the Citizenship Act of 1977.

The 50,000 Canadian citizens trapped in Lebanon by warfare in 2006 represented 1.3% of that country's population. If that proportion was applied to every country in the world there would be more than 81 million Canadian citizens living outside Canada.

THE HONOURABLE MEMBER FROM CANADA

Canadians sent Gino Bucchino to parliament in the election of April 2006. Ten other Canadian candidates were running for the seat.

You missed that vote? Not surprising really. It got very little media coverage. That's because the election was in Italy.

However, under Italian law, 3.5 million people of Italian origin living all over the world can vote in elections. These ex-patriot Italians get to send six senators and 12 deputies to the parliament in Rome. Dr. Bucchino is one of two deputies who represent everyone with an Italian passport living north of Panama.

TAKE YOUR CITIZENSHIP AND ...

Canadians who want to give up their citizenship have to do so formally. They must go to a Canadian consulate or embassy and sign a special form in the presence of Canadian officials. This is what Conrad Black (below) had to do in 2001. Mr. Black was born in Montreal in 1944 and became a highly successful newspaper owner. His main base was in London, England and the government there offered him a peerage, a prestigious title that would allow him a seat in the exclusive House of Lords.

There was bad blood between Mr. Black and Canada's prime minister at the time, Jean Chretien. Mr. Chretien had his staff dig up an obscure ruling from 1919 that Canadian citizens could not accept such a foreign honour. "You can have your peerage," said the prime minister, "but you'll have to renounce your Canadian citizenship to get it." Mr. Black renounced and became Lord Black of Crossharbour. He took the opportunity to say some nasty things about Canada.

Now, Conrad Black wants his Canadian citizenship back. He has run into a mass of legal troubles in the United States where he is facing numerous criminal charges. Should things go badly for Mr. Black in the American courts as a Canadian citizen he would be eligible to request that any prison sentence be served in Canada. Our jails, it is said, are more comfortable than those in the U.S.

FRIEND OR FOE?

Should Canadian citizens be allowed to tight in foreign wars? It's a question with some tricky catches to it. A number of Canadians of Israeli origin return to their home country to complete compulsory military service. What if they found themselves involved in a fight with Canadian peacekeepers? Whose side would they be on?

This situation could occur. When Yugoslavia fell apart as a country in the early 1990s some Canadians with dual citizenship went there to defend their homelands. Some Canadians of Serbian and Croatian origin were involved in the fighting. At the same time, Canadian forces were in the region as part of a NATO peacekeeping force. What if a Canadian peacekeeper had been killed by a Canadian militiaman? Would it be murder?

As ethnic violence spreads these questions may come up in reality.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES:

1. Discuss the questions posed at the end of this article.

2. Organize a debate on the following proposition: "Be it resolved that to become a Canadian citizen by naturalization all applicants must renounce the citizenship of their birth."

3. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay has suggested that dual citizenship might soon come with a price tag. The federal government is considering requiring all Canadians, whether they live in Canada or outside, to file an annual income-tax return as a condition of maintaining their Canadian citizenship. This is a national obligation for all U.S. citizens. Would it be a good idea for Canada to adopt this measure? Give reasons for your answer.

Websites

Canadiana Connection--http://www.canadianaconnection.com/index1.html

Centre on Migration, Citizenship, and Development--http://www.comcadbielefeld.de/

Dual Citizenship--http://www.cic.gc.ca/EnGlish/citizen/dualci_e.html
COPYRIGHT 2006 Canada & the World
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion

Title:

Comment:



 

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:CITIZENSHIP--DUAL
Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Words:1858
Previous Article:Group identity: unless you are born in Canada, becoming a Canadian citizen is a long and involved process.
Next Article:Citizenship light: Canadians seem less than enthusiastic about discharging their civic responsibilities but they sure like those rights.
Topics:


Related Articles
Protecting immigrants against discrimination.
The soil and the blood.
The New Americans.
Taking the oath. (The Immigrant Experience--Citizenship).
"We too are immigrants"; gay Latinos are crossing the border from Mexico in search of a better life and a place where they can be themselves. But...
The unmentionable problem of Australian citizenship.
Group identity: unless you are born in Canada, becoming a Canadian citizen is a long and involved process.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters