It sounds scary to look at the title of my blog. I have become a second-class citizen in Canada. As scary as it sounds, though, it is true.
I did not know about the change in the law that was implemented by the Harper government last year. Dennis Reeve, a criminal defense lawyer at ReeveLaw, posted a blog on LinkedIn that made me aware of this change. He attached an article that appeared in the Vancouver Sun; an opinion column, written by Efrat Arbel, law professor at the University Of British Columbia Allard School Of Law. I have read the article in horror. The article states that the Harper government implemented a law that allows some Canadian citizens to be stripped of their citizenship for certain criminal offences. Originally, the law targeted terrorists in the country. However, the implications reach far beyond the narrow target. Basically, terrorism has no strict definition and that allows for those people to be also punished who are allegedly aiding, abetting or happen to be members of certain political groups. According to this article, the law can affect journalists, political activists and bloggers amongst other groups. Citizens who hold dual citizenship or have the potential for dual citizenship can lose their Canadian citizenship; unlike those, who are Canadian citizens only.
Why did this horrify me? I think, it is the unfairness of all that made me hold my breath. Imagine that I participate in an environmental rally against company polluters. I feel that it is my citizen’s duty to protect the environment to create a better country. This rally may be an expression of civil disobedience, not supported by the law. At the rally, I get arrested with two of my friends. We are charged with eco-terrorism. My friend, X, holds a single citizenship; he is a Canadian only who was born in Canada. He goes to jail and he remains a Canadian citizen afterward. My other friend, Y, who was born in Canada, but gained dual citizenship, curtesy of his foreign born parents, is stripped of his citizenship and forced to leave Canada. I have become a Canadian citizen as an adult twenty years ago. I am arrested, stripped of my citizenship and forced to go back to Europe. Does this sound fair? Are we treated equal before and under the law?
Furthermore, the law creates less opportunity to speak up or stand up to make political changes in fear of retaliation. Imagine that, knowing the law, my friend Y and I may think twice about participating in an environmental rally that may be labeled as civil disobedience. We have fewer rights to be daring to speak up and participate in politically and socially questionable matters. We have fewer rights to express these issues in our blogs, in fear of being linked to wrongdoing that can have a devastation consequence of losing our identity as Canadians. We are now second-class citizens. My friend X, on the other hand, has nothing to worry about. He was born here and holds single citizenship only. As a Canadian, he can go to any rally, speak up about and participate in politically and socially questionable issues and, freely express himself in any blog or other publication. He has all the rights that we no longer have because he is a first-class citizen; he belongs to a freer and higher class than my friend Y and I.
I am outraged. Twenty years ago, when I became a Canadian citizen, I took a Citizenship Oath that I understood to mean that I became the same kind of Canadian citizen as everyone else. I did my absolute best to live up to my responsibilities. I learned to speak English, got educated, worked hard, paid my taxes and voted in every election. I proudly displayed the Canadian flag when I travelled. I even became a Canadian writer. Now, I feel belittled, dishonored and betrayed. I have become a second-class citizen simply because I was not born here and because I am a dual citizen. Despite my efforts, I am no longer worth as much as a person with single citizenship.
What about you, reading my blog? Are you one of the lucky ones? Are you still a first-class citizen? Or, are you a second-class citizen just like me?
M. J. Mandoki