On Being Canadian

Christopher Rath

2007-05-01

While this essay will probably cause me to be branded a racist, or anti-immigration, my frustration level is such that I'm going to go ahead and post my thoughts regardless of that risk. The longer I think about and consider Canadian immigration and citizenship policy, the more firmly I am grounded in the conclusion that our policies in this area are another example of irrational and unthinking politicking.

I am proud to be Canadian. As such, I am very unhappy when I see hyphenated Canadians. The 2006 escalation of violence in Beirut was a prime example: where tens of thousands of people carrying Canadian passports but who live in Beirut suddenly felt very Canadian and wanted the Canadian government to evacuate them when Beirut became dangerous; yet they do not feel Canadian enough to permanently live in Canada. Canadians of convenience are not citizens the nation can count on when the going gets tough. Encouraging such behaviour is not the way to build a strong nation with a distinct identity; instead, it sows confusion about what it means to be Canadian.

Consider the following questions...

Why should someone be granted Canadian citizenship simply because they were born in Canada? If a child's parents are not Canadian, yet that child was born in Canada, why do we grant them Canadian citizenship? This is not a rational policy. If someone is visiting Canada and they happen to have a child in our country, why would that child not continue to be a citizen of the parents' country? I am not anti immigration, but neither do I value my Canadian citizenship so little that I believe we should simply be indiscriminately giving that citizenship away.

Why do we allow Canadians to also be citizens of another country? I am all for immigration—it's what founded our nation; however, if someone wants to become Canadian why should we allow them to continue to also be a citizen somewhere else? Related to this, if a Canadian wants to become a citizen of another country, why should they also retain their Canadian citizenship?  How does a dual/multi-citizenship policy engender a sense of belonging to Canada or loyalty to Canada? One only has to witness the rioting in the streets of downtown Toronto each time a non-Canadian nation wins the World Cup (Soccer) to understand the large number of people who live in this country but do not identify with it (and part of the reason Canada's soccer team is second class are the hyphenated Canadians who return "home" to play soccer). If someone doesn't identify with Canada, they shouldn't be a citizen.

Why is Canada's immigration barrier so high? Why isn't it easier to immigrate to Canada? As long as someone can show that they will be gainfully employed and that they are not a threat to Canadian society, why wouldn't we welcome them with open arms? Canada's current immigration policy targets people with skills the Canadian Government has deemed needed in Canada; this would be a good thing, except that it closes the door to people with skills that are not in the "valuable" category. Some of the argument for this is that immigrants are willing to work for less money than Canadians, and so an open door policy would lower wages in Canada. This is probably true; however, in my personal experience hiring immigrants in these "valuable" professions, the fact that these immigrants generally do not speak & write English well (or French in French-speaking parts of the country) is a high barrier to employment. We should stop being so paranoid about immigrants "stealing" our jobs.

Last, and probably most controversially, Why do we allow anyone and everyone to vote? If we each value our Canadian citizenship, why do we allow those who do not value their Canadian identity to vote and influence Canadian policy? I am not advocating an intellectual means-test—since intelligence is not part of what it means to be Canadian—but I am advocating a measurement of commitment to our nation. One should earn the right to vote, it shouldn't be given to you as a accident of birth or a side-effect of immigration; that is, the right to vote should result from a demonstration of commitment to the nation. Successful completion of some sort of National Service should mark a second tier of citizenship that entitles you to vote. Please understand, I did not state "military" service. Military Service should certainly qualify as National Service, but National Service should entail a much larger set of roles. If we were to enact such a citizenship policy, we would need to decide if applicants to National Service had any choice in what work they were assigned to; which could lead to some applicants being assigned to military roles.


©Copyright 2007, Christopher & Jean Rath
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Last updated: 2007/06/28 @ 17:34:45 ( )