Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jack Layton on Dion's citizenship

Jack Layton proves himself a boor today: "I would prefer that a leader of a party hold only Canadian citizenship, because one represents many Canadians, and for me that means that it's better to remain the citizen of one country," Layton said. "But for a person that isn't in a position of representing others, holding dual citizenship is fine with us." Well, I am glad it's ok with you, Jack.

I presume Jack will also request that any future Jewish Prime Minister deny her right of return, lest we not know where her loyalties lie. Layton once again shows that he is just a politician like the others.

I can't believe this debate is even occurring. Does anyone really question Mr Dion's loyalty to Canada? Or do they have no argument beyond a birthright and a knowledge that some will respond prejudicially to anything French?

UPDATE: I'd say the following site might hold relevant information for any member of Parliament of Austrian descent who may be interested in running for Prime Minister someday.


dru said...

I'm not sure I see what the problem with Jack's comment is (and I'm not averse to criticizing him with regard to his political tactics). I agree that citizenship is irrelavent in 99% of cases, but if there's a case where it is relevant, Prime Minister would seems to be on the list.

I, for example, hold Estonian and US citizenship. In most provincial government positions, or even in 9 out of ten federal cabinet seats, this would not pose any issue at all on a practical level.

But if I was (and god forbid should this come to pass) in a position to become head of state (ok, *effective* head of state... I'm not part of the royal family), then I could expect that I'd have to choose between the competing interests of various states in making major decisions on a day to day basis--the US chief among them, and Estonia... well, not so much, but there *was* that diplomatic incident back in '03 when President Lennart Meri...

If citizenship were a purely symbolic thing, denoting ones history and heritage, that would still be fine. But it's not. I (technically) have a legal obligation as a citizen to serve in Estonia's armed forces (currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan). If I travel to Cuba or Libya, I'm subject to sanction under US law. Luckily for me, these things aren't enforced (not that I'm off to Libya, but I hear Havana is beautiful) with any kind of iron-fisted consistency, though I understand that I run a risk by being a citizen of both states.

When one is 'naturalized' as an American citizen, one takes an oath of loyalty that explicitly excludes all other states--as my mother did, a few years ago. Between you and me, I think she still has a soft spot for Canada, though.

So if I were Prime Minister (hey, they should have an essay contest or something), let's say I sign off on CIDA funding for a local NGO in Libya, or go on a diplomatic visit to Cuba. At that point, I'd be faced with saying either a) that I'm consciously breaking the law as it applies to me or b) that I renounce my citizenship(s) so that only Canadian law applies to me. I'm pretty sure that the US government would, if they considered it, revoke my citizenship at that point anyway, as I'm clearly not devoting my allegiance to them anymore, as is required, at least for those who are 'naturalized'.

All that's to say that I wouldn't find it unreasonable at all, for symbolic (and, conceivably, legal) reasons, that if I were potentially asking to wield the power of the Canadian state, I be asked to sever my legal rights and responsibilities with other states (not that it's always possible--I hear that you have to petition the Queen if you want to get rid of your Canadian citizenship). I would expect that a democratic society respect my cultural, linguistic, familial and historic ties to people living outside these lines dotted with customs offices, but that has little to do with state structure or legal obligations anyway.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.


ps. So, too early to speculate about Loewen in 2036?

dru said...

Er, I guess I should rephrase. Jack's comment about "representing others" doesn't make any sense. At least in the context available in your post.

But the argument that one shouldn't hold multiple citizenships, I maintain, is not without backing on purely practical grounds.

Peter Loewen said...

Geez, Dru, start your own newspaper or something.

I agree that there are interesting legal issues. But, for the most part, I think Jack and others are just being boors and doing so for purely tactical reasons. It is, to me, entirely unclear that Mr Dion's right to French citizenship (or actual citizenship) entails any real obligations on him. Moreover, the suggestion of some, though not of you, that loyalty automatically flows from citizenship strikes me as illogical and, in the extreme, just silly nationalism. I don't think there's any question of Mr Dion's loyalty to candidate. Indeed, everyday I walk down halls of professors who would turn the other way if he were to pass, merely because of the positions for which he has argued on behalf of his country. This is demonstration enough. I don't need any confessionals.

dru said...


You didn't answer my question! I figure your timing is perfect. After Dion retires, there'll be time for the Liberal party to cruise on the strength of his [perceived --ed] legacy, accumulate a healthy paunch of opportunists, careerists and businessmen -- along with their agenda -- and the base will start to long for a former professor to step in, suprise everyone with a sweep of an closely-fought leadership race, and define the new era.

So don't tell me you're not thinking about it!

Peter Loewen said...

I expect to be long dead from a motorcycle accident in 2036.

dru said...

That insouciance, that capacity to shock, that chutzpah, reminds me of...

Ok, I'll stop. But I confess to being curious, and it's hard not to see a barely hidden theme of 'future political career' emerging on your weblog. Carry on.