Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Duties of Being a Citizen of Canada

It isn't often that I agree with much that is opined about in the Toronto Star. But in today's paper there an excellent opinion article written by Angelo Persechilli in which he asks if Canadians have neglected the duties of citizenship in our emphasis on our rights and freedoms. He notes:

We have treaties signed with aboriginals that we rarely respect. We have natives living on reserves in conditions worse than those in Third-World countries, despite Ottawa's annual expenditure of more than $12 billion.

We had Canadian Omar Khadr in Afghanistan fighting against principles that Canadian soldiers are now dying for, and we have Canadians permanently living in the Middle East asking us to bail them out in case of problems. We have more than 250,000 Canadian citizens permanently living in Hong Kong, hoping that nothing happens to the former British colony. We also have Canadian citizens in the Italian Parliament in Rome elected by Canadian residents in Canada, and we have Canadians raising money for terrorist organizations that have nothing to do with our country.

All of us enjoy the protection of the Charter whenever we need it and wherever we are and wherever we are....

And then he drops the axe:

but now we also need a new set of rules establishing, for example, a direct relationship between citizenship and permanent residence, or addressing activities of criminal or terrorist nature when Canadian citizenship is clearly used as a cover.

From John A. Macdonald on, our leaders have done a good job defining a geographic area called Canada, but were not very successful with the definition of Canadian citizenship. They were too busy protecting the rights of the "distinct societies" or "celebrating the differences," believing that the geographic boundaries were enough protection for their rights.

For more than a century it was Canada that protected its citizens. Now, with globalization crushing geographic boundaries, it is Canada that is in need of its citizens.

He is absolutely right. This fuzziness did start from the very beginning of this country, as John A. desperately wanted to keep Canada within the British fold. This led to Canada not truly developing its own sense of nationhood until the 1960's and even since then, there remains a confusion as to just how much we can expect from those who call themselves "Canadian" (again a legacy of confederation as the protection of minority language and cultural rights were protected right from the start).

Persichilli's suggestions of starting with a new set of rules establishing a direct relationship between citizenship and permanent residence and addressing activities of criminal or terrorist nature when Canadian citizenship is clearly used as a cover are good places to start.

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