In the 40 days leading up to the federal election, wedged between high-stakes political allegations of wearing blackface makeup and inflating credentials as an insurance salesman, a minor controversy bubbled up for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer: the revelation that he is, in fact, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen.
While Ottawa-born Scheer says he is in the process of renouncing his American passport that he originally received via his U.S.-born father, he has insisted it’s inconsequential, and therefore should not have been a factor for prospective voters. A bit hypocritical, perhaps, given the Conservative party’s past haranguing of dual citizens — but I think he’s right: it’s not an issue.
In 1990, sick of the brutally cold winter, my Toronto-born parents applied for U.S. green cards via lottery and, against roughly 50-1 odds, they won. (Tragically, Canadians are no longer eligible for this simplified back door to American citizenship.) With visas in hand, my parents set course for the hottest place they could think of: the Arizona desert. I was born in Phoenix eight years later.
I have two passports, two driver’s licences, two permanent addresses. I know both metric and imperial units, and can recite the lyrics of two national anthems. If Scheer is a passive dual citizen, then I am surely an active one.
Citizenship usually isn’t so cut-and-dried, though. Canada, just like the United States, primarily confers citizenship through the philosophy of jus soli — an increasingly controversial law that deems anyone born on a country’s soil to become a citizen of said country automatically. Dual citizenship makes things even more complex.
While several countries permit dual citizenship outright, many others do not. Some allow it with restrictions, such as being banned from running for public office; others place an age limit on it, allowing a second passport to be acquired only at birth. A handful of nations require you to renounce your previous citizenship in the event of naturalization; even fewer maintain “multiple citizenship treaties” with certain allies.
While I was born and raised in the U.S., I do not feel any less Canadian than my friends. I have no loyalties that would inhibit me from being an effective politician, if I had any desire to be one. If I found myself wanting to enlist in the military, I’d be just as willing to fight for Canada as I would the U.S.
To discriminate against a Canadian based on citizenship, just as with national origin, ought to be unacceptable on all fronts. Based on my own 21 years of being a dual citizen, there is no truth to the idea that dual citizens must be more aligned with one nationality than another. That aspect of someone’s history should never become a point of criticism.