Swiftboating Dion

Day #2 of Stephane Dion’s leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada gives us a taste of both the man and the tactics that the Conservatives will use to discredit him in the run-up to the next election. Right on schedule comes the “revelation” that Dion is a dual citizen of both Canada and France. Shamelessly, Conservative lapdog Ezra Levant has been trumpeting this “discovery” in a number of venues, and on cue the right wing echo chamber has been jumping on this non-issue, inflating it into something resembling importance. CanWest Global, known for its Conservative connections, has been “exploring” the story all day, using words like “we’ve uncovered evidence that Dion is a citizen of France”, even though this fact has been public knowledge since the day he entered the public eye years ago.

It is, of course, shameful that the Cons would use this issue to discredit a man. In doing so, they insult the estimated 3-5 million Canadians with dual citizenship, me among them. It’s an isolationist, racist appeal that seeks to exclude anyone with international origins or aspirations, which typically describes the bulk of urban Canada. And, as we all know, urban Canada is not the Conservative support base. The hypocrisy is also evident, as prominent Conservative Albertan Ted Morton, heir apparent to the Premier’s office, is also a dual citizen, having been born in the USA. But, I guess, in the eyes of the Harperians (and maybe Michael Ignatieff, too), Canada and the USA should be the same country, anyway.

Instead of hyping the fake controversy, a responsible media would point out that among the millions of dual citizens in Canada are tens of thousands of professionals and public figures, and likely thousands of captains of industry, diplomats, and other community leaders and people chosen to represent Canada. To question the “loyalty” of these people is not only ludicrous, but also the first step on the slippery slope toward demanding renewed loyalty oaths from certain immigrants, a scenario often talked about among the more rabid of the right wing set. The scent of fascism is prevalent.

A similar kafuffle was made when the new Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, was revealed to be a dual citizen of Canada and Haiti, and was compelled to give up the latter association before ascending to the vice-regal throne. Perhaps someone should have pointed out that the Queen herself, who supposedly owns the throne, is not even a citizen of Canada. Heck, at least Dion is a citizen of one of this country’s founding nations, France. Believe me, if he had British ties, the Cons might just be silent on this issue. This is as much an anti-French phenomenon as it is an anti-immigrant and anti-internationalist one.

We should be encouraging dual citizenships, not punishing them. The future, if there is one, is internationalist, not culturally isolationist. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the nation state itself dissolve in the next 250 years, as borders and national loyalties become increasingly irrelevant. (Actually I would be surprised to see it, since I intend to be long dead by then.) Citizenship itself is fast becoming an outmoded concept.

Dion’s response was an interesting one. When asked if he’d give up his French citizenship, he quipped, “Give me a reason why.” Now, I cringe at the poor grammar of that response, but I applaud its content and tone. The man has backbone and principle….

However, this is but a taste of what is to come. The Cons will try to “swiftboat” Dion, and he will be too detached to respond in kind, or to defend himself adequately. In the words of EK Hornbeck, Dion might be Canada’s Michael Dukakis, without the weeniness and the speed-walking.

We shouldn’t forget that Canada is a nation of immigrants, whose titular head of state is herself a foreigner. Dion should have responded, “I’ll give up my French citizenship when the so-called ‘Queen of Canada’ gives up her British citizenship.”