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Subclass citizenship


I understand the optics: if someone attacks this country, why shouldn’t they be tossed out of it on their ear?

That’s the rationale behind changes made by the federal government to Canadian citizenship rules.
It’s captured quite simply in this snippet from the Munk debate: “Are you seriously saying ... we should never be able to revoke citizenship from somebody? Why would we not revoke the citizenship of people convicted of terrorist offences against this country?” Stephen Harper said.
Justin Trudeau’s response? “You devalue the citizenship of every Canadian in this place and in this country when you break down and make it conditional for anybody. ... We have a rule of law in this country and you can’t take away citizenship of an individual because you don’t like what someone does.”
It’s a good point, once you get past the terrorism dog-whistle scare tactics. Right now, the subject group for “de-citizenization” is pretty small. But, as someone who actually is a dual citizen (not by choice), it’s disquieting to know that I’m actually a second-class citizen in the country I chose.
I’m dealing with a repressive regime that happens to be our nearest neighbour: I was born in the United States and moved to Canada - well, I was moved to Canada - when I was three. I’ve never held a U.S. passport, don’t have a U.S. Social Security number, and have never used even one single U.S. government service. I’ve been a Canadian citizen for more than 40 years, yet it’s devilishly hard to escape from a country that now demands I file a tax return every year or pay absolutely massive fines. (Harper’s government has also recently changed Canadian law to have the Canadian Revenue Agency help the U.S. collect whatever tax and penalties it likes from U.S./Canadian dual citizens, something it does with no other country, but that’s another story.)
I will be able to get rid of what the Americans feel is my American citizenship, but for a price - the going rate is over US$2,300, plus accounting fees (huge), plus the cost of finding and getting to an American consulate that actually is willing to handle the paperwork. The wait time can be ages, because the Americans only offer limited appointments - and you have to go twice.
So, at the moment, I’m among those for whom Canadian citizenship could be a transitory thing.
Now, I know the immediate response - “Well, if you don’t become a terrorist, everything will be fine, Russell, so stop going off half-cocked here.”
First of all, the simple fact is that we’ve established that there are two classes of citizens - and two very different classes of punishment for their actions. Right now, the line is terrorism. I’m not sure what it will be next.
Why, for example, should Canadian taxpayers pay to imprison a dual citizen for any crime? Wouldn’t it be much easier to just strip them of Canadian citizenship and ship the problem and expense off to somewhere else? We’ve already set the precedent; we’re merely quibbling over where the next line will be drawn.
I don’t expect to be tossed out of this country summarily. What angers me is that I’m now in a sub-class of Canadian citizens that could be.
To me, it’s even more offensive than suggesting that there’s somehow a difference between “old stock” Canadians and the rest of us.
Why should someone who comes to this country and swears allegiance to it be considered a “citizen lite”?
There is now a rule for me that is different than it is for other Canadian citizens.
I don’t agree with Justin Trudeau on many things, but I agree on this one: by making it conditional for some and not for others, Canadian citizenship has been devalued.

Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic
regional columnist. He can be reached at
russell.wangersky@tc.tc Twitter: @Wangersky.

That’s the rationale behind changes made by the federal government to Canadian citizenship rules.
It’s captured quite simply in this snippet from the Munk debate: “Are you seriously saying ... we should never be able to revoke citizenship from somebody? Why would we not revoke the citizenship of people convicted of terrorist offences against this country?” Stephen Harper said.
Justin Trudeau’s response? “You devalue the citizenship of every Canadian in this place and in this country when you break down and make it conditional for anybody. ... We have a rule of law in this country and you can’t take away citizenship of an individual because you don’t like what someone does.”
It’s a good point, once you get past the terrorism dog-whistle scare tactics. Right now, the subject group for “de-citizenization” is pretty small. But, as someone who actually is a dual citizen (not by choice), it’s disquieting to know that I’m actually a second-class citizen in the country I chose.
I’m dealing with a repressive regime that happens to be our nearest neighbour: I was born in the United States and moved to Canada - well, I was moved to Canada - when I was three. I’ve never held a U.S. passport, don’t have a U.S. Social Security number, and have never used even one single U.S. government service. I’ve been a Canadian citizen for more than 40 years, yet it’s devilishly hard to escape from a country that now demands I file a tax return every year or pay absolutely massive fines. (Harper’s government has also recently changed Canadian law to have the Canadian Revenue Agency help the U.S. collect whatever tax and penalties it likes from U.S./Canadian dual citizens, something it does with no other country, but that’s another story.)
I will be able to get rid of what the Americans feel is my American citizenship, but for a price - the going rate is over US$2,300, plus accounting fees (huge), plus the cost of finding and getting to an American consulate that actually is willing to handle the paperwork. The wait time can be ages, because the Americans only offer limited appointments - and you have to go twice.
So, at the moment, I’m among those for whom Canadian citizenship could be a transitory thing.
Now, I know the immediate response - “Well, if you don’t become a terrorist, everything will be fine, Russell, so stop going off half-cocked here.”
First of all, the simple fact is that we’ve established that there are two classes of citizens - and two very different classes of punishment for their actions. Right now, the line is terrorism. I’m not sure what it will be next.
Why, for example, should Canadian taxpayers pay to imprison a dual citizen for any crime? Wouldn’t it be much easier to just strip them of Canadian citizenship and ship the problem and expense off to somewhere else? We’ve already set the precedent; we’re merely quibbling over where the next line will be drawn.
I don’t expect to be tossed out of this country summarily. What angers me is that I’m now in a sub-class of Canadian citizens that could be.
To me, it’s even more offensive than suggesting that there’s somehow a difference between “old stock” Canadians and the rest of us.
Why should someone who comes to this country and swears allegiance to it be considered a “citizen lite”?
There is now a rule for me that is different than it is for other Canadian citizens.
I don’t agree with Justin Trudeau on many things, but I agree on this one: by making it conditional for some and not for others, Canadian citizenship has been devalued.

Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic
regional columnist. He can be reached at
russell.wangersky@tc.tc Twitter: @Wangersky.

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