Canadian citizenship should signify a commitment to Canada

posted on February 19, 2018

By Vancouver Sun |

By Vancouver Sun |

Our MP sends out a regular newsletter, the main function of which seems to be demonstrating how many fine things she is doing for constituents. A recent issue contained a brief piece on citizenship and immigration, in which our MP referred to the Liberal government’s achievement in removing the “offensive requirement that, to become a citizen, a person must show they intend to live only in Canada.” As an immigrant to Canada who has been a citizen for more than 40 years, I find this baffling. To whom could such a requirement be “offensive”? Why shouldn’t Canadian citizenship require applicants to make a commitment to Canada? Would buying a house in Shanghai make me a Chinese citizen? Of course not. Would wearing a burka make me a citizen of Bangladesh? Of course not. Would investing in a dollar store or nail salon or language school make me a citizen of Spain? Of course not.

Our MP’s argument for easier access to Canadian citizenship cheapens it to the point that Canada is nothing more than a hotel or, more accurately, a luxury resort: Stay one night and come back as often as you like for free. And don’t forget to enjoy the amenities while you’re here: good health care and education, clean air, a sound legal system and abundant social services for a range of situations. If you have the right lawyer, you can pay minimal income tax and hide the rest of your income overseas.

At the other end of the economic spectrum, helping unfortunate individuals and families escape from the violence of war, economic breakdown and poverty is a positive humanitarian gesture that reflects Canada’s generosity and tolerance. However, there are economic and social costs to large-scale immigration that are rarely mentioned in public debate; anyone who does mention these costs is usually met with hateful and vituperative invective. Not all immigrants want to stay here. Not all want or are able to learn another language. They’re not all skilled workers or entrepreneurs. Not all want or are able to adopt new values that often represent what most Canadians feel are a matter of fundamental human rights.

Canada isn’t made stronger by people who continue to live and work elsewhere, but simply buy a house here or send their children to school or university here. Canada isn’t made stronger by people whose ties to their former home and culture remain stronger than their ties to their new one.

In the newsletter, our MP also made the fatuous claim that Canada is “uniquely diverse.” The U.S. and many countries in Europe are just as diverse as Canada. Moreover, diversity isn’t in and of itself a national strength, whatever the Liberals may assert. Diversity doesn’t automatically equate with creativity, innovation and progress. (Consider the Finns.) As Canada’s experience with Indigenous people and those of French background shows, integration into one big happy family isn’t easy. What we gain with “instant” citizens should be balanced against the loss of a sense of community.

We now have a three-tiered arrangement: “super” citizens who live elsewhere, “tentative” citizens who have had too little time to decide how much they want to be here and a larger group of citizens who essentially support those first two groups. This third group lives, works and pays taxes here. And to a greater or lesser extent, they’re the people who support local businesses, belong to community organizations, promote local artists and performers, and take part in the decision-making processes around housing, transit, employment and business opportunities, and a host of issues from poverty to environmental protection, from bike paths to pipelines.

Managing immigration and integration is a complex and difficult matter. Instead of mouthing platitudes and patting itself on the back, the Government of Canada would do well to pay more attention to practical ways to alleviate poverty and diminish economic inequality for the people who already live here. And that should involve a serious discussion and evaluation of current immigration policy.

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