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Creating classes

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We’re due for some citizenship reforms, says the Harper Government, and possibly the worst reform on offer would quite literally create second-class citizens.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says we should revoke the citizenship of dual citizens convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying. This is a move that he implies all Canadians support. Well, there’s been enough time since the initial rumours of citizenship reform surfaced that he can only say that with honesty if he has trouble reading. Yeah, I bet a lot of Canadians would support such a thing. But for those of us who think about things critically rather than snap straight to bloodlust, there are some problems with this idea.

Most importantly, it would mean one set of rules for one group and a different set for another. The point of our citizenship, as described to me when I became one, is that I would have the full rights of any other Canadian. As a dual citizen myself, these rules will remove some of my rights. Yes, those rights might include things I don’t need to worry about like “keeping Canadian citizenship after being convicted of serious crimes,” but, regardless, it’s a bad precedent to set that some citizens can have fewer rights than others.

Terrorism is a broad term, and among the acts defined as the crime of terrorism are levying war against Canada, assisting a nation at war with Canada or assisting any armed forces against which Canadian forces are fighting. For one, this would make those dual citizens who, while wanting no part in any war, through no fault of their own happen to be citizens of both countries, easy scapegoats.

For both of those things, you just have to look at how the world’s leaders spent December gushing over Nelson Mandela to see how much more complicated reality can be than a set of rules called a “criminal code.” If you look at his actions, he committed his country’s equivalents of terrorism and treason. We revere him now because, it turns out, sometimes you have to do something that seems immediately harmful to a nation to foster the much greater long-term good. I’m not saying it should be a free-for-all, but we ought to at least not be in the business of attempting to simply purge these people and denying ownership of whatever factors led one of our citizens to commit a crime.

And don’t forget, there will always be wrongful convictions, and there’s never anything we can truly do as a society to undo the harm of convicting and imprisoning an innocent person. We might as well not make it worse for the relatively low cost of dealing with our legitimately guilty dual citizens ourselves.

 

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