The Apartheid of Canadian Citizenship

My hero of the day is Dr. Nandita Sharma (another bio is here), who kicked some serious ass on this week’s episode of TVOntario’s Diplomatic Immunity. The debate was on changing immigration policies in the wake of terrorism. The author of a report for the Fraser Institute, Martin Collacott, had suggested that immigrants must overtly offer a loyalty oath to the nation of Canada, and risk post-citizenship deportation if they engage in specific criminal activities, such as supporting criminal groups.

Of course, Collacott’s argument is understandable and born of a limitedly rational fear that some people use Canadian citizenship as a foundation for mounting political activities abroad. But Dr. Sharma put her finger on the crux of the matter: when you suggest that there should exist separate and unequal legal regimes for different classes of people, the word for it is apartheid. After all, if one can potentially be deported after having obtained legal citizenship, then what we would have is a de facto system of two classes of unequal people: naturalized versus birth citizens.

It was suggested in the debate that it is rational to remove citizenship for those who “support terrorism.” An eloquent law professor, Sharryn Aiken, pointed out that one cannot practially distinguish between supporting human rights efforts and supporting terrorist efforts. For example, if one assists the Tamil Tigers in providing tsunami relief, is one aiding terrorism?

What was not discussed is the unavoidable slippery slope of criminalization. Once government is given this blunt legal tool for removing citizenship, rest assured that this tool will eventually be abused. All it would require is a shifting definition of “support for terrorism”. And one thing I have learned from watching the duplicitous government to our south is that one cannot trust a government with such a tool.

This is an important topic, and it concerns me that these subtle racist suggestions are percolating upward from conservative think tanks like the Fraser Institute. This is a last gasp of those who cling to a fading world order. The borderless world is in sight; maybe not in my lifetime, but I think it’s coming; citizenship as a concept will be outdated very soon.

In the mean time, I continue to advocate for birth citizens to be given the same testing that immigrants must undergo before they, too, can participate in political life. It would encourage everyone to gain some basic understanding of civics, and maybe we’d have a moderately less stupid voting population.

Kudos to Nandita Sharma. Her laurel wreath is in the mail!