Straight up, my perspective on the whole dual citizenship row is tainted by the fact that I recently became a dual citizen. Thanks only to my grandmother happening to be born in Ireland, I got Irish citizenship last Spring. And with my newly minted EU passport, I came over to... England. If any country should be irritated by my "citizenship of convenience," it should be Ireland.
We all know the reason why dual citizenship is even on the agenda with Stephen Harper's government. The Israeli-Hezbollah conflict earlier this year forced about 15,000 Canadian citizens to be evacuated... at Canadian taxpayers expense, as the blusterers say.
As far as I know, the evacuation of American, British and French citizens from Lebanon has not sparked the same debate over dual citizenship. And as far as I know, there are few people upset that an estimated 300,000 Canadians are in England at any time. My understanding is that the anti-dual citizenship argument is mostly put forth by people who are ignorant about the size of Canada's Lebanese population -- and who consider them to be less Canadian than those of British, French or Irish stock...
I have no argument for these folks, so let's instead turn to Andrew Coyne, whose views are not based on such quasi-racist grounds. Coyne believes one of the inherent problems with dual citizens is that their loyalties are divided:
I asked one fellow, a dual citizen who accosted me at a party: so if there were a sporting match between Canada and (your other country), who would you cheer for? He refused to answer. The question, he said, was impertinent.The sports metaphor is not a good one. Rooting for Canadian teams is not a condition of citizenship, neither is it a good indicator of how devoted someone is to Canada. I know people who rooted for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals, even though they were playing a Canadian team. But I know that in, say, a war with the United States (god forbid!) or, more likely, a really nasty trade dispute, they would unhesitatingly side with Canada.
Why? If their loyalties are truly not divided, there should be no question what they would do: if asked to choose, they would unhesitatingly choose Canada. If not -- if the question caused them any difficulty whatever -- then we cannot even say their first loyalty is to Canada, let alone their undivided allegiance. That doesn't make them bad people. It just doesn't make them quite ... Canadian. Not if citizenship has any meaning.
Likewise I have a friend who is rabid Boston Red Sox fan and cried when they won the Series; his politics, however, are very anti-American.
Similarly, I know Americans who root for Canada in Olympic hockey. Why? Because we're awesome... And I don't think it makes them any less American.
During the World Cup, thousands of Canadian-born residents of my neighbourhood rooted for the Italian team -- not just those with dual citizenship. Not just those who were Italian either! I rooted for the French, even though I have no French blood in me.
If Ireland and Canada were, theoretically, to battle each other in the World Cup... Well, I'm not sure who I would root for. Likely the Irish, because I think they would go farther in the competition.
If the Irish and Canadian teams faced off in Olympic hockey, well, it doesn't really matter who I root for because hell has frozen over and we are all doomed regardless of citizenship.
My point is that sports are just that: Sports. And unhesitatingly choosing Canadian teams does not a Canadian make.
But loyalty surely is an important part of citizenship, right? Well, there are those who say that people who question one's country are the truest patriots. And that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Coyne doesn't seem to be in this camp:
If it is too much to ask that citizens of Canada should be loyal to Canada, that is the problem in a nutshell. I realize this is radical talk, in a country that cannot even assert it has a right to exist, choosing instead to spend forty years perched on the brink of dismemberment. But that just speaks to how radically dysfunctional we are as a polity.Just as sports-team preference is not a solid indicator of loyalty to Canada, however, neither is dual citizenship. There are people who have dual citizenship -- like Stephane Dion -- who love Canada so much that they have spent years fighting to keep it together. Meanwhile, there are many Quebecers who are only Canadian citizens and who want to break up the country...
Coyne is really making an argument in favour of some sort of loyalty oath, one where presumably we would agree to only root for Canadian teams. I don't think I need to get into the reasons for why loyalty oaths are a bad idea. (Cough, Acadian explusion.) Certainly, if it involved swearing allegiance to the Queen, well you'd lose me as I am anti-monarchy. If it involved swearing allegiance to the constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, well I know certain Canada-loving conservatives who would object.
Again though, I must emphasize that there is no reason to assume dual citizens as a whole are any less "loyal" to Canada than single-citizenship Canadians. The truth is there are Canadians with dual citizenship who are extremely loyal to Canada, and Canadians who are just Canadians who are not. Homegrown terrorism, anyone?
Basically, I don't see any disadvantage to there being dual citizens. They roam the world acting as ambassadors for Canada, make business connections between countries, produce art that crosses national boundaries... If their loyalties are divided, well, so are most everyone's in this crazy mongrel world! New immigrants, third-generation Canadians, Conrad Black, Michael Ignatieff...
But what if there was a war between two countries where people have dual citizenship... Well, not allowing dual citizenship doesn't make this any less of a problem. That's why the Canadian government interned Ukrainian-Canadians in the first world war... even while other Ukrainian-Canadians were fighting for the Allies! In a country that isn't racially or even politically uniform -- that is, every country in the world -- there is always going to be a conundrum when war erupts.
Now this is just speculation on my part, but I think the existence of dual citizens makes the possibility of war less likely. Having people who understand and who connect the people of two different countries could be one of our biggest weapons of peace.
Coyne finishes his blog post with what is apparently his clincher:
Still not convinced? Then answer me this. Suppose Quebec were to separate. (I don't think it's likely or even possible, but leave that be.) Should the citizens of an independent Quebec also be citizens of Canada?Well, how about we rephrase the question to: Should the citizens of a newly independent Quebec have the option of retaining their citizenship in Canada? I certainly hope so! Imagine turning our backs on, say, 40% of Quebecers who wanted to and voted to stay in Canada.
As someone who grew up in Montreal and Winnipeg, I would really like to have the option to be both Quebecer and Canadian. In fact, I have that option right now! Let's hope it stays that way... The fact that people can have two identities -- Quebecer and Canadian -- is why our country works. Coyne says you have to choose... and that is what the separatists say too.