This year I celebrated Canada Day in London, my fifth one spent abroad living as an expat. I received a lovely postcard from a friend in Ottawa just in time! It brought back great memories of the few years I spent working in the ByWard Market, where I could stroll to Parliament Hill or the National Gallery and meet friends and family for lunch or drinks on a patio. The Rideau Canal is lovely in all weather and the downtown area is serviced by walking and cycle paths, creating a nice pedestrian-friendly core.
It truly is a beautiful spot and despite Ottawa being a relatively small city, it offers plenty to do across four seasons and I will always call it my home.
I was so inspired, I was going to write a blog post about things to do in Canada’s capital city.
But first, let’s admire the cute red velvet cupcake that my Irish husband bought me to celebrate the day of ‘The True North Strong and Free’! As I contently nibbled on this red and white cake, smiling merrily and thinking fondly of how wonderful my native country is, little did I know I would wake up on July 3rd to a reminder that either him or I will always be second-class citizens in Canada.
So I will write about Canadian citizenship instead.
Now call me ignorant but between moving to London and getting setting up here, trying to keep tabs on the Australian, Irish and Canadian media at the same time has proved a tad difficult. So I missed the finer details of Bill C-24 until a friend and former roommate (also Canadian) who lives in Africa, shared the update and petition on Facebook.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who missed it because when I re-shared it via Facebook and Twitter, my fellow globe-trotting Canadian friends in Australia and Germany started commenting in disbelief as well!
Now this isn’t just a tiny gripe I have with the Conservative Government or a small complaint vented via the internet and social media from an expat living it up in foreign lands. This is a big deal people. We’re talking about fundamental rights and freedoms.
You may be wondering:
“But will you or your husband really commit a crime in a foreign or domestic land?”
No, I don’t plan on it. But do we really want the Minister for Citizenship or Immigration deciding people’s fate instead of a court of law?
“What about your future – can’t you just pick one country to live in?”
Well we could, but since we’re both from two separate ones and hold two separate passports, we had been planning on getting dual citizenship at some point for our own sanity, freedom and that of any future unborn children and yet-to-be-adopted pets. Now we know that one of us will always be a second-class Canadian. Either I will be if I get an EU passport because the Canadian Government will deem that I will be able to go somewhere else to live if need be or my Irish husband will be a second-class Canadian if he applies for citizenship after living in Canada for a set period of time and he will have to be ok with the possibility of not returning to Ireland for a long period of time.
“But won’t it help you, it will speed up his application process – haven’t you seen this handy infographic?”
Well yes I have, thank you. But did you know it now takes longer to reside in Canada as a PR in order to apply for Canadian citizenship? Besides that, he won’t have a problem saying he’s committed to living in Canada, he did marry me after all. But he has immediate family and relatives in Ireland and who are we to predict the future and what we will want to do or where we will want to live, depending on circumstances?
Things to be concerned about
OR if you’re like me, any other Canadian expat, someone who is married to a foreigner who had been considering dual citizenship at some point in your lives, have friends or family who have already moved to Canada and are working towards their citizenship application – well, you might be a bit pissed off.
Even if it doesn’t seem to affect you at the present moment in any way, shape or form, maybe you should have a think about your own circle of friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbours.
Do you know anyone who is an immigrant, first or second generation Canadian citizen because their family were asylum seekers, refugees or simply seeking a better life in our country before Bill C-24 was passed? I can count on both hands the number of people I am close to, friends with, related to and have worked with that would have been affected by this amendment if it happened prior to now. If anyone was granted Canadian citizenship prior to Bill C-24 going into effect, the old terms apply to them.
Of course, if you don’t commit any crimes and give the Canadian Government any reason to strip you of your Canadian citizenship, you should sleep easy. Or maybe you won’t because you’re living in a country that has allowed the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration to decide people’s future as opposed to leaving the legal and justice system to do its’ part.
But don’t just listen to me bang on about it, read these articles and think about what it means for Canada going forward:
Have we devalued Canadian citizenship? Created two separate classes of citizens? Just scroll through the #BillC24 hashtag on Twitter to see some of the posts people have shared about feeling conflicted about celebrating Canada Day.
Are these the makings of a modern democracy?
If you don’t think they are, then here is a link where you can sign the petition to repeal the citizenship changes.
I will leave you with this – it’s what I’ve been trying to do lately and I promise next post will be less political, more lovely photos and places to do nice things around London. But for now, I am thinking about what it means to be Canadian and what the future may hold.
Thank you for reading.