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Why benefits of citizenship aren’t always equal

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COMMENTARY

by Andrew Griffith

Policy Options
May 25, 2018

The phrase “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” was first used during the 2015 election, in the context of ensuring Canadian citizens convicted of crimes of treason or terrorism, whether they are born or naturalized Canadians, are treated equally. This is a restatement of the principal that naturalized Canadian citizens cannot be returned to their country of origin and may enter and leave Canada freely.

However, consideration of its application more widely, to consular services and voting rights for long-term expatriates (five years or more), suggests the following question: if a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and all Canadians therefore deserve equal protections under law, do all also always deserve the same benefits and privileges under the law? And do the actions of individual citizens affect the government’s obligations and responsibilities?

The arguments in favour of treating all Canadians equally are compelling in the cases of people accused or convicted of terror-related crimes, given that they could be single or dual citizens. As single nationals accused of such crimes are subject only to incarceration, adding banishment only for dual nationals, as the Conservative government did in its Bill C-24 (which most likely was not Charter compliant), meant that dual nationals were being subject to harsher punishment than single nationals.

Andrew Griffith is an author, commentator and blogger. He has worked for various government departments in Canada and abroad. He is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Environics Institute.

Image credit: CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson

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