New leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, Thomas Mulcair, doesn’t seem to think it is any big deal that he still retains dual French citizenship. Apparently didn’t even think of giving it up, prior to commencing his leadership campaign several months ago. Same with former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion. Supposedly no big deal about wanting to be the Prime Minister of Canada, while also being a citizen of France.
Two cases that illustrate how citizenship in one’s country of permanent residence seems to be cheapened through contemporaneous recognition of citizenship in another country. Many countries recognize dual citizenship, while a large number do not. Most notably, Japanese and Chinese citizenship is lost when another citizenship is acquired. U.S. citizenship may be lost if the act of applying for non-U.S. citizenship is interpreted as rejecting U.S. citizenship. The majority of Commonwealth countries, including Canada, Great Britain, Ireland and Australia, recognize dual citizenship.
The issue becomes one of relative convenience, for some people, or of avoiding relative hardship. If there are greater immediate benefits to be obtained from one’s country of origin, suddenly some are quick to try to represent that there was no departure.
My recent experience with dual citizenship was when former Ottawa lawyer Luc Barrick, whom I volunteered to help with practice management, given his represented health challenges, suddenly left for France. Thereafter, a significant amount of money was found to have been misappropriated. Barrick is, conveniently, also a citizen of France. Particularly convenient is the fact that France does not extradite its citizens to face trail elsewhere, while Canada is quite willing to extradite alleged wrongdoers to France.
In my view, dual citizenship should be globally prohibited, concurrently with denying citizenship solely based on place of birth, irrespective of the citizenship of one’s parents. One can still choose the country of one’s economic future, which may not necessitate a citizenship application, if one feels strongly about maintaining the citizenship of one’s country of origin.
In 2006, there was talk in Canada about reviewing dual citizenship, following the costs of rescuing persons in Lebanon, who appeared to be citizens of Canada in name only. The term “Canadians of convenience” was popularized, as a result. At the time, it was estimated that nearly 2.7 million people calling themselves Canadian citizens were living outside of Canada–and, implicitly, a large number of those were in dual citizenship circumstances. This number represents approximately 8% of the entire Canadian population.
My maternal grandmother is Irish. On my father’s side, I am descended from people who were fairly prominent in the early political and economic history of the province of Quebec. Their direct tie to France is as expelled Hugenots, who then intermarried with Catholics in Canada, thus making the objectives of the expulsion somewhat moot. Maybe I should try to apply for French or Irish citizenship, or both.
Maybe not. Citizenship is much more than a choice based on considerations of relative convenience, or collecting relative benefits. It is a choice of national identification and, through that choice, social identity. Those who maintain or who seek to obtain dual citizenship have not made that choice. And such persons have also eliminated themselves from any serious consideration for political leadership in Canada.