The Globe and Mail, channeling Bob Rae, editorially scorned the Harper Administration for considering ”knee-jerk legislation” that would strip dual citizens of citizenship “if they go abroad to commit acts of terrorism, or acts of war against this country and its allies”. Even as rhetoric this is feeble; as analysis it is doubly so. Regrettably it seems to reflect widely held elite attitudes.
To call something “knee jerk” is to imply that it’s a reflex action, typical and unreflective. Therefore something that, as the Globe admits, “would alter long-established rules of citizenship” might be a good or a bad idea but can scarcely qualify as knee-jerk. And given that we do face a relatively new problem of significant numbers of Canadians of convenience whose loyalty to core Canadian values is suspect, a small proportion of whom do in fact wage some sort of war against Western civilization, is it not appropriate to reconsider rules devised in a different world?
If we did so, we might well conclude that these people ought to be deprived of their citizenship for failing to share core Canadian values. If, that is, we were prepared to accept that there are core Canadian values beyond a fervid devotion to getting money from the government when we want it. (On this subject see also the Straight Talk interview the Macdonald-Laurier Institute did with Scott Newark, which I helped edit.)
The Globe does opine that “It would be far better to apprehend such individuals and to try them in this country for treason, in the case of those who fight against Canada and its allies. Those who commit terrorist offences abroad could similarly be vigorously prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws.” And I’m fine with that if we can catch them. But if not, we can at least remove the Canadian citizenship papers that facilitate these acts.
The main point is, there are things that are beyond the Canadian pale. The Globe apparently thinks otherwise, saying “Taking away citizenship is not something that we do. It is something more often associated with countries like the Soviet Union, which stripped Alexander Solzhenitsyn of his. Canada has a very different tradition. For example, the 1,200 Canadians who went to fight in Spain during that country’s civil war did not lose their citizenship.” But of course while they were misguided, those Canadians were not fighting against Canada or its allies. More bad rhetoric, and more bad analysis, I’m afraid.
Also bad history. Before 1977 we did indeed take away citizenship on grounds other than fraud in acquiring it, including serving in the armed forces of a foreign nation. We could have removed the citizenship of those who served in Spain, but did not conclude that it was a sufficiently hostile act (neither we nor they fully appreciated the nature of Stalinism at the time).
Serving in the armed forces of a foreign terrorist group ought surely also to qualify in the modern world. Cutting people loose who join Hezbollah doesn’t make us Stalinists or Brezhnevites, which we also weren’t in 1976 or indeed in 1944. It makes us decent, and willing to defend decency.
By the way, the Globe also worries that “Once we were headed down such a path, it might be hard to stop. What about other serious crimes committed abroad, or for that matter within Canada, by naturalized citizens? If a terrorist flunky can be stripped of citizenship, why not also a mass murderer or serial abuser of young children?”
Why not indeed?