Second class citizens – Part 1
If you were to ask me what I consider to be the greatest benefit of being a Canadian, I’d say it’s that I get to pass citizenship on to my children. While it’s still true for me, its no longer the case for one of my kids who happened to be born in the U.S..
My son was born in Boston because we knew that he would require a life-saving operation right after birth and my wife’s Canadian obstetrician recommended a surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Thankfully, everything worked out and our 10 year old child is perfectly healthy today. However, the fact that he is foreign-born means that he will not be able to pass on Canadian citizenship to his children. If his children are to be Canadian citizens, they will have to be born in Canada or their mother will have to be Canadian-born.
The practice of allowing all Canadian citizens to pass Canadian citizenship to their descendants, in perpetuity, has ended. As of April 17, 2009, new citizenship rules make it so that any person born abroad to Canadian parents will be a Canadian only if their mother or father was born in Canada, or if one or more of their parents became a naturalized citizen by immigrating to Canada. The only exception provided is for people who are born to a Canadian parent working abroad in or with the Canadian Armed Forces or for the Federal or a Provincial Government. For such people, citizenship is automatic at birth even though the person is a second- or subsequent generation Canadian-born abroad.
A little background is in order here. The tightening of citizenship requirements is the government’s way of squeezing out “Canadians of Convenience” who rose to prominent disfavor during the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon. Canada evacuated some 15,000 passport holders from the war zone at a cost of over $80 million in taxpayer money. Many Canadians were angry; and then angrier still, when they learned that almost half of those rescued chose to return to Lebanon once a ceasefire was declared.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the new rule was implemented to prohibit people who permanently live outside Canada and never pay taxes from passing on citizenship to their children.
Look, I get it. Most everyone would agree that Canada should not provide subsidized education, public health-care that is free at the point of delivery and full consular services without asking anything in return. It is just not fair to the vast majority of Canadians who choose to stay in Canada permanently, raise their families here, pay taxes and generally contribute to build a better country.
My objection is not to the intent but rather to the method adopted. There were other more equitable options that could accomplish the government’s goals. For one thing, why make an exception for children born to Canadian parents who work abroad for the government but not extend the same right to a child born to a Canadian parent who works abroad in the private sector? I submit that a Canadian employed by the Royal Bank of Canada and posted to the overseas operations in London, England is as worthy as a Federal Government worker posted to Beijing. Otherwise, it just smacks of entitlement and reminds me of the privileges bestowed on party apparatchiki in the former Soviet Union. What’s more, why the need for an all-or-nothing policy with regard to the “born in Canada” requirement? Our neighbors to the south, for example, take a less Draconian approach to the same subject matter. In the U.S., a foreign-born American can only pass on citizenship if he or she has lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years, two of which must be after reaching 14 years of age… clearly a more sensible and realistic solution for the globalized world of today.
I would like to know how you feel about this.