The federal government appears fixated on picking and choosing who’s a real Canadian, and who isn’t.
Right now, the headlines are focussed on Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who’s being attacked by the Conservative government for being a carpetbagger because he lived abroad for 34 years.
Apparently, he’s not Canadian enough to lead the nation.
This is an all-too-common theme in Ottawa these days. It’s belies a state of mind. Or, more accurately, it is an idea fixed in the state’s mind.
And that should make every passport-carrying Canadian very nervous.
Ignatieff will weather the storm.
Other Canadian castoffs aren’t so lucky. You probably don’t remember them.
There’s that guy with the funny name—Abousfian Abdelrazik, a citizen who has spent more than a year sleeping on a cot in the Canadian embassy.
Abdelrazik, who is from Montreal, has never been charged with a crime, but has been labeled an Islamic extremist based on … well, nobody has said precisely why.
In 2003, while visiting his sick mother, he was arrested by Sudanese police at the suggestion of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, and jailed in the notorious Kober prison.
There, he was tortured. But, after four years, he was released because Sudanese officials could no longer hold a man they had come to believe was innocent.
He’s on the US no-fly list. And the UN list, perhaps at the insistence of Canada. And yet no government has provided concrete evidence he’s a threat. It’s all innuendo, reinforced by the guy’s skin tone.
For more than a year he’s been sleeping in the Canadian embassy. He’s free to leave—odd, given he’s believed to be so dangerous—but he’s a Canadian citizen and wants to return home to Montreal.
Ottawa will not issue him an emergency passport (his passport expired while he was in jail), which would allow him to return home.
He is Canadian. But, through the actions of the federal government, he’s not entitled to the rights of citizenship—like facing accusations in a court of law.
Why? You have to guess that, for whatever reason, they don’t like him.
Then there’s Ronald Allen Smith, an Albertan on death row in the US.
Since 1976, Canada fought to bring home citizens who faced the death penalty.
But that changed recently. Stockwell Day, as public safety minister, altered federal policy.
Now it will pick and choose which murderers it champions.
Ottawa will decide which criminals facing the death penalty it will help.
It will judge whether the country has the rule of law.
That’s a slippery slope. Again, it opens protection of Canadian citizens to interpretation.
That is, if Ottawa decides a citizen is worthy, it will protect them. If not, they’re out of luck.
Federal officials and politicians can cherry-pick which citizens have rights by deciding whether a foreign nation is a stable democracy with a decent legal system.
A quick look around the world suggests there’s no way all those assessments will be easy.
It can quickly get messy.
Imagine sitting in a concrete box awaiting your hanging, and wondering why Ottawa ignored your case.
Is it because the country that’s jailed you is a stable democracy with a good legal system?
Or is it because that nation’s officials wield considerable influence over a Canadian mining play and Ottawa doesn’t want to compromise the deal?
Or maybe, as in the case of Omar Khadr, jailed in Guantanamo prison without charge, it’s simply that a powerful foreign government is looking for a scapegoat.
This is what we’re opening ourselves up to when we allow Ottawa to determine which passport-holding citizen is a worthy Canadian.
Abdelrazik and Khadr aren’t really Canadians—they’re deemed terrorists.
Smith, he’s a murderer.
Ignatieff … he’s a Liberal. (Richard Mostyn)