Waters: Life as a ‘second-class’ Canadian citizen

Canadian but eligible for dual citizenship? A new law appears to let the feds strip you of your Canadian citizenship.

According to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, my Canadian citizenship is second tier despite the fact I was born in this country to a naturalized Canadian citizen, have never even contemplated dual citizenship and have lived in Canada for 42 of my 52 years of life. (As a kid I lived overseas for 10 years, returning when I was 18 years old.)

Since I was eight, I have had a Canadian passport.

But the association maintains that under a new federal law the government of Canada could strip me of my Canadian citizenship if I was convicted of a serious crime, like terrorism—either here in Canada or abroad—or if I live outside the country for an extended period.

Under international law, a country cannot strip its citizens of their citizenship if they have no other country to claim them. But for me, like thousands of other Canadians who are eligible—but have not acted on—dual citizenship, the government says we have somewhere else to go.

The revelation came as a shock.

And frankly, after reading local MP Ron Cannan’s response to questions he says he has fielded about the issue, I don’t feel any better.

That’s because while Cannan addressed the issue of stripping naturalized Canadians of their citizenship in a recent column that appears on the Kelowna Capital News website (www.kelownacapnews.com/opinion/313377551.html) he didn’t talk about those who are merely eligible for dual citizenship.

Now, while it’s not likely I am about to become an international terrorist—I wouldn’t know an AK-47 (gun) from a B-52’s record—some may say  “if you don’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”

But, and there’s always a but, it’s the premise that citizenship can be taken away, not just from someone who came here from elsewhere and chose Canada over his or her former country, but from someone who actually is a Canadian born and bred, that bothers me.

We have a justice system to deal with criminals and we see Canadians pass through it every day of the week. Is that not adequate? And if not, shouldn’t we be fixing it? As for living abroad, Canadians live in other countries for a number of legitimate reasons.

According to opponents of the new federal law,  Canadians who are not eligible for dual citizenship cannot be stripped of their Canadian citizenship. They, say the opponents, fall into a higher tier of citizenship.

Of course, there are many in this country who are unaware that they are eligible for dual citizenship. So it may be a shock to them as well.

I think I understand what the federal Conservative government was trying to do with the law but it appears to have included far-reaching powers that may, or not, have been intended.

Citizenship is the overriding right of people born in a country. It grants them other rights and demands responsibilities.

I am Canadian. I have always considered myself Canadian, even as a kid living in Ireland.  And I’ll be damned if some right-leaning group of lawmakers in Ottawa will take that away from me because they are hell-bent on winning a few votes in the upcoming election by trying to look tough on crime.

The law will likely be challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada and will likely be struck down as unconstitutional. But the fact it was introduced in the first place says a lot about the people who crafted it.

And none of that is good.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.