In the past few months, I’ve been personally present for several nasty anti-immigrant comments, which I guess I never blogged about. I won’t right now, except to say that there’s a real nativist streak that runs across the whole political spectrum in Canada. Despite the talk about multiculturalism and being a nation of immigrants, there is a dark underside that basically says “if you were not born here you can never really belong here.” Francophone Quebecois are often accused of this by Anglophones, but the reality is that it’s just as present in the Anglophone media. Obviously not everybody thinks that way, but I guess I believed the advertising about multiculturalism and tolerance enough that I am surprised to find how prevalent it is.
The current talk around dual citizenship for people born in Lebanon is particularly disturbing. For those of you who don’t know, there are estimates of 40,000-50,000 Canadian citizens living in Lebanon. And since the government has been busy helping people get out, there’s been much talk in the news about dual citizenship and whether those citizens in Lebanon were “real” citizens. What’s shocking to me is the degree to which commentators assume that dual citizenship is second class citizenship, which essentially means citizenship for all immigrants is in their minds second-class citizenship (except for those who renounce citizenship in the countries from which they’ve departed). Just today, Jeffrey Simpson was prattling on in the Globe and Mail about how maybe citizenship should be harder to get and maybe there ought to be conditions attached to it, especially for people who live abroad. Sure, and you’re telling me that we should also limit the citizenship rights of people who were born here? Right. I thought not.
The whole point of citizenship is that the same rights apply to everybody. Otherwise it’s not citizenship.