Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Permanence and commitment

The Secretary of State for External Affairs of Canada requests, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may necessary.

This La Presse article (Google Translate) has caused a certain amount of stir in the blogosphere.

On Vues d'ici, a blog I recently started reading regularly for its perceptive commentary especially with respect to equalisation, a post lambasted the report that permanent residents of Canada were to be denied evacuation by the Government of Canada's relief effort. The writer noted that her husband, a British permanent resident, could be stuck in Lebanon while she was evacuated. James Bow proceeded to make a similar point on his blog, having previously detailed the grief his wife got while becoming a permanent resident in the first place.

There's only one problem - the La Presse article indicates (twice) that accompanied permanent residents are evacuated with their Canadian citizen family members. It is unaccompanied PRs who are not.

Much of the outrage on this subject proceeds on a false premise - that permanent residents, with the exception of the right to vote, have "the same rights and responsibilities as Canadian citizens". This is especially because, you know, Canadians are all about the rights of others and there's no such thing as different classes of Canadians. Well, the problem is that's just not so.

Many point out that PRs pay taxes to the Feds and thus are owed extraction. As a permanent resident myself who is waiting for the three year citizenship qualification period to expire I can testify that just because you pay $2000 in fees to come to Canada is no protection against being screwed by Ottawa so being a taxpayer isn't any different.

There are several ways that PRs are differently treated, not the least of which is the prioritisation of citizens for federal public service jobs unless no citizen can be recruited. Among other things, PRs must reside in Canada two years out of every five and are liable to deportation if convicted of serious offences (although given the success of convicted murderers in beating deportation orders in court I guess that one's not so scary). I have no argument with any of these restrictions by the way. There are even differences between Canadian citizens - the Caledonia crisis has reopened for Ontarians matters of differential treatment of First Nations citizens and non-First Nations citizens & residents.

When you apply for citizenship you make a commitment to Canada as a nation (not least via the $100 fee to apply...) When the process is completed you make that commitment publicly before your fellow citizens:
I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
Having done this you can now claim a Canadian Passport which bears the inscription at the top of this post.

Unlike the blogging ranters of left and right I would compromise. The existing policy of the Government of Canada is correct - citizens first, but families must not be separated during evacuation. I don't give a damn, unlike some Tory and Liberal MPs, whether those citizens are resident in Lebanon and thus not paying Canadian taxes - citizenship is for life, end of story. It is the commitment that should be respected rather than the money.

When all accompanied PRs and citizens are evacuated (about 50,000 or so!), Lebanese PRs should be taken, given that their country is in no condition to help them, but only in the case of clear humanitarian need should non-Canadian PRs be taken. Their countries of origin retain primary responsibility for their welfare and it is not for Canada to let them off the hook. It's glib to say "we can't be decided who does and doesn't go" but the existing evacuees are already being streamed - it's not first come first served.

By contrast, the US will only take one non-citizen with a US dependent and levies fees on the evacuees... yeah Canada's such an awful country...
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