Letter from Egypt

I heard the Big Guy twice repeat in person last week comments he made in the media earlier, that Canada’s policy of dual citizenship needs to be reviewed. That, needless to say, was just what I wanted to hear, along with countless other Canadians, in the wake of the Lebanon evacuation.

The article I posted last night from the current issue of The Economist tries hard to paint my views as those of a xenophobic provincial (don’t you love the Brits?). But they are not. Not racist. Not anti-immigrant. Certainly not anti-Arab or in criticism of Lebanese-Canadians.

Instead this is an issue about who contributes to Canada, and who gets to take from it. Everybody I know works hard and needs a sense that fairness is the supreme law of the land. Spending an average of $75,000 to remove each of 13,400 of our resident citizens from the conflict zone is no issue for Canadians, who would love to think they’d be equally treated if in trouble. But that’s a hell of a lot of money to donate to people who do not live here, don’t pay taxes here, and may never come here again in their lives.

So, do we dole out passports too easily?

I received this letter Monday morning from a guy in Egypt. I guess he reads The Economist. — Garth

I could not agree with you more on the issue of ‘Canadians of convenience’. It seems today that anyone with $80,000 usd can buy a Canadian passport through these so called ‘investment programs’ that are run by provinces such as Quebec and Nova Scotia.

All they have to do is put up the money, and they get their landing papers, they go to Canada ONCE to land, rent an apartment in Halifax or wherever, establish phony residency, and in three years apply for citizenship on their SECOND visit. Once they have their passports, they never see Canada again. It is simply a passport of convenience for those who can afford it.

So you have thousands of Canadians living in the Middle East, and in Egypt where I live, that are “Canadian” even though they have not the faintest idea of anything Canadian. They have never paid taxes in Canada, but they and their children will become Canadian forever. The Canadian passport is known here as the passport of convenience. I

think that citizenship should involve a lot more than 80K. It should only be granted to those who truly immigrate to Canada, live in Canada, pay taxes and demonstrate an attachment to Canada. They should at least know basics about Canadian history and culture and be proud to Canadian, not brag about their passport of convenience. 3 years is the lowest that any country asks from new comes for citizenship. in the US its 7, the UK 5 and other European countries about about the same.

Omar
Egypt

13 comments ↓

#1 PP on 08.07.06 at 10:13 am

Dear Garth,

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.

From this well-known English nursery rhyme we may take Tweedledum to represent the Palestinian Arabs and Tweedledee the Israeli Jews. The “nice new rattle” was the half promise of an independent Palestinian state in the area administered by the British since the end of World War I as “Palestine”. To carry the allegory further the “monstrous crow” will be the final result that can be expected from the war of attrition that is being waged between the two great Semitic tribes, a war that could easily suck in the rest of us. The crow “as black as a tar barrel”, is the spectre of what will be left of the main cities of Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan once the combatants come to their senses, still a long way off, but hopefully not too long.

What follows are my, zany perhaps, ideas as to how a long lasting peace may come about and what form it may take. All present plans on the table , including the latest UN security council compromise proposal (a giraffe where a horse was wanted), are even more zany, dead in the water, representative of wistful thinking, and even if they succeeded would only provide an interim of peace for a few years in what could be an 100 years war.
The only long term solution to the problem of The Levant, of which the current blitzkrieg endured by the people of Haifa and Beirut is symptomatic, is a complete rethinking of how the space between the border of Egypt in the south west and that of Kurdistan (not yet an independent state) in the north east may be filled.
Clearly, the region is not going to have a lasting peace so long as the present states of Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Syria continue to exist as they are today. Ideally there should be one secular democratic federation of the present states along with a new Palestine (each responsible for purely local government) formed from the complete West Bank including Jordan (let Egypt have Gaza, a Palestine split into two unconnected parts is not viable) with full freedom of movement and settlement for all people who currently dwell there with a halt to immigration from outside the region as population growth within it is high enough to sustain itself.
A federal Semitic state would allow total freedom of religious expression and speech, its capital would be Jerusalem, the west half serving as the local capital of Israel and the Eastern that of Palestine (the city itself under permanent UN control with free unrestricted access of all concerned religions to the holy places as recommended once by the Vatican) and its government would encompass all the Semitic people and tribes of the region Jews, Levantines and Arabs, regardless of religion.
The foundation of the new federal state (by the end of the war all or most of the governments of the present individual state may well have collapsed or will be incompatible with a federal democracy. For example no autocratic monarchy in Jordan or dynasty in Syria, or Jewish exclusiveness in Israel ) would entail a commitment to abandon all illegal settlements and determine compensation for those who have been displaced, one way or another by the upheavals of the past sixty years.
Does this seem like an impossible dream? Perhaps, but the peoples of the region cannot go on living like this. Also, given the region’s modern track record it would only come as lasting solution after a complete devastation by the current and future wars of attrition that are presently continuing there. If the Arabs win then Israel will disappear as a state and the Jews will become wanderers again, if Israel wins the wars will continue indefinitely. The way things are going, in the end everyone is a loser. That’s why a solution along the lines I have proposed is more likely to be accepted then than now when each side wistfully thinks it has a chance of being a winner.
Israel cannot continue to ignore dozens of UN resolutions and go one building illegal exclusive settlements across the West bank while adhering to its apartheid-like policies and wall building while at the same time expecting to be free from military attacks such as those being pursued by Hezboallah. The Arabs are not Indians and have no Gandhi so passive resistance to Jewish encroachments on Arab land as never been their option from their point of view. The Israelis, when they are inclined to negotiate, do so both from their own strength of arms and with the explicit support of the USA. At the same time the Moslem Arabs must relearn to live peacefully with Jews and Christians. But to ensure their willingness to do so first flagrant injustices perpetuated in modern times, the root cause of their anger and recourse to violence, must be resolved.

Thousands of year ago the Jews’ ancestors battled with the other Semites of the region after the arrival of Jewish tribes there, as outlined in the Holy Bible and substantiated by modern historians but there was later a long period of peace and harmony between Arabs , Jews and the main religions after the Arab conquests in the seventh century of the common era and under the Ottoman Empire until 1917. For the present situation the West-which was never as tolerant towards Jews and Moslems as the Arabs and the Ottoman Turks- has much to answer for in the modern era.. Initially the British, and the French imperialists, then Nazi Germany which through the holocaust caused the tsunamic wave of Jewish immigration that destabilised Palestine to the more recent ill-informed and clumsy meddling of the United States, particularly under the administration of George Bush II . This is not to exonerate the people of the region themselves from blame. Both the Israelis , and particularly the Palestinian Arabs seem to have a bad habit of shooting themselves in the foot. The UN Security Council resolution is doomed to failure as presently crafted. It is a pity that the only Western power with enough clout to bring things to a halt is unabashedly a supporter of Israel- seemingly right or wrong- in all its dealings, largely for purely domestic reasons. Thus the US is ineffective as a mediator, even of a short-term solution, though the Clinton administration came close to a good -but not lasting-solution that might have endured some years and the George Bush, the father, administration had it been re-elected might have also cobbled together some medium term solution during what it called “the window of opportunity” following Gulf War II (Gulf War I was between Iraq and Iran and only proved that Iran is a hard nut to crack).Unfortunately, there are no people in the present US government with the wisdom of a Henry Kissinger, a Madeline Albright or a James Baker.
I would not like to see any Canadian soldier killed or hurt in this conflict. Canada is too remote from the Middle East (what on earth are Canadian soldiers doing in Afghanistan? I can see a hemisphere role in say post Castro-Cuba but Central Asia?) let those closer to the region form part of any effective UN force to keep the warring parties apart, at least in the short term, such as the Turks who seem willing to assume such a role and the Greek military who have played an important role in evacuation and in the humanitarian aid delivery system to Lebanon. Both Greece and Turkey have good and unsullied relations with Israel and the Arab world and are close enough to the region to fully understand the issues.

Yours sincerely,
IRODOTOU 17
KIFISSIA 145-63
ATHENS GREECE

#2 ALW on 08.07.06 at 10:49 am

A logical analysis from someone with an in depth understanding of the history of the region and the current political situation….

Man are you in trouble. Both sides are gonna be after your hide. :)

#3 Janine on 08.07.06 at 11:27 am

I’ll second that, ALW.

Finally, a comment worth reading.

#4 john on 08.07.06 at 2:06 pm

As a long time subscriber to The Economist, I find their occasional articles about Canada (seems to me Harper has garnered more than the usual attention) interesting if often incomplete or missing the mark. I wonder who their Canadian correspondent is and whether she/he resides in the U.S.A., which would help explain but not excuse the inaccuracies.

#5 john on 08.07.06 at 2:06 pm

As a long time subscriber to The Economist, I find their occasional articles about Canada (seems to me Harper has garnered more than the usual attention) interesting if often incomplete or missing the mark. I wonder who their Canadian correspondent is and whether she/he resides in the U.S.A., which would help explain but not excuse the inaccuracies.

#6 Charley on 08.07.06 at 2:42 pm

Excellent post PP but I keep coming back to the question of whether the islamic militants (Iran, Syria, Palestinians, Hezbollah, Hamas etc) will EVER agree to live alongside Isrealis, under any circumstances. Or if other Arab countries will EVER give up any of their own land to help in this dispute, they have never offered to do so…

We can create the “best peace plan in the world” but both sides have to want peace and I don’t think one side does, hopefully I’m wrong!!

#7 Judy on 08.07.06 at 9:53 pm

A “new middle east” proposed by Rice and Bush would surely consist of only one nation in the region being armed-Israel-acting as an enforcer of American interests.
Surely the only concern the U.S. has in the region is economic-they need the marketplace currently untapped by American corporations-if they want to remain at the top of the food chain.

#8 Gerry K on 08.08.06 at 9:17 am

Let’s make sure we have all the facts when talking about the dual citizenship issue. Most of the commentary from this blog seems to put everyone in one category, that of opportunistic, greedy people who merely want a Get Out of Jail Monopoloy card. Stereotyping isn’t helpful. There are many reasons, no doubt why people carry two passports. Hopefully there will be more balanced debate in the days ahead.

For instance, a study by a U.S. academic looking at StatsCan Census figures concluded that most dual passport citizens are highly educated. “In fact she suggested they could be considered part of an educated global elite. Professional and cosmopolitan individuals are more likely to embrace dual citizenship than people she described as marginalized.” She lists a variety of reasons why, including better career prospects, and check this out, to become more involved in politics in their host society.

#9 ALW on 08.08.06 at 9:56 am

Gerry:

If these highly educated, global, professional, cosmopolitan, elite individuals had offered to pay their own freight rather than expecting the Canadian taxpayer to pay there wouldn’t be a problem.

#10 Dube on 08.08.06 at 11:05 am

PP. Thank you for that. You have articulated, connected, and filled in many of the blanks between islands of ideas that I’m sure many have been grappling with. I’d be interested to know where you would draw the bounds of the new Palestinian state you’ve suggested within this mix, and am glad to see that you’ve addressed the Jerusalem problem with a “West Berlin” solution. Much of it comes down to the US, as the only remaining super-power, and with backing from as much of the remainder of the world as possible if an even-handed approach is taken, to have the balls to do the right thing and tell all players in the region – Israel included – that the remainder of the world is sick and tired of having that one small corner of the Earth so dominate the current events of the day, and every other day before and after that, ad infinitum: either changes are a comin’ or ALL support will be withdrawn. (Why should I have to hear any more about the goings on in the Middle East than say of those in Lapland or Easter Island?). Put the region on notice and the fear of Allah, Yahweh, God, etc. in its people, and if-and-when the last line is drawn and agreed to, let each party know that the aggression of one against any of the other will be met with swift and sure defence of the aggressee. Might also go a long way to taking care of the Islamist fire that’s smouldering and flaring by putting a damper on much of its raison d’etre. That said, I fear it’s only a pipe dream. When you see such urbane countries as Canada and Norway raising a ruckus about a remote piece of rock and ice known as Hans Island, I can only conclude that the emotions associated with loss of power and land may be an insurmountable hurdle.

#11 Laura on 08.08.06 at 12:47 pm

That was a very enlightened soloution PP. The only part I’d take issue with is the American role. That’s because, I think in that region of the world, they have no credibility to mediate thanks to the mess in Iraq. And that lost credibility means there’s a vacum; and that could be the reason for the extended delay in finding a solution.

Second point: Jordan- that country has been an absolutist monarchy since time out of mind. How do you facilitate the change to democracy? Will it be more like a constitutional monarchy like Canada, or do you take it all the way to a republic?

The part of your solution, I really like is that about Jerusalem- a divided city, with the holy sites under UN control. That basically takes the controversial aspects completely out of the equation- no holy sites to fight over, no real reason to fight.

It’s going to be a very interesting discussion…

-Laura

#12 Lewis on 08.08.06 at 2:14 pm

Judy:

You seem to have a rather poor, or is it a selective memory?

Following the Lebanon civil war, the US were the largest providers of peace keepers. For a reward, the Hezbollah gave them a ton or two of explosives, detonated at their barracks, killing (make that murdered) over 200 of their soldiers. A considerable number of French soldiers were also murdered by the blast.

You say: “that the billions of dollars spent by American and other western nations to arm Israel should have been spent on the fragile Lebanon democracy after the withdraway of Syria and the years of civil strife”. Judy, you are a typical Dipper, whining, twenty years after the fact. But did you consider that just maybe both Syria and Iran who supplied the Hezbolla terrorists with the 14,000 + rockets, military training and suicide bombing lessons, would have better spent those funds on the fragile democracy?. OH, but neither of them are democracies are they, or do you think it is only democracies who should give foreign aid in the form of non military goods? Certainly the US have been one of the largest if not the largest givers of aid to Lebanon for some time now.

Judy, note excerpts from the following recent news release.:

“Military helicopters brought the U.S. shipment into Beirut, the first since President Bush ordered a Navy task force that had been evacuating Americans from Lebanon to shift gears and start bringing in aid.

The shipment included two large-scale medical packages “aimed at meeting the most urgent needs,” holding enough medicine and health supplies for 20,000 people for three months, the U.S. Embassy said. The goods were given to the international Red Cross to distribute, it said.

Washington has launched the aid effort in an effort to show it supports Lebanon at a time when many here are furious at it for refusing to press Israel to halt the bombardment that has killed hundreds, driven up to 750,000 people from their homes and demolished infrastructure. Israel launched the assault to rein in Hezbollah after it captured two of its soldiers July 12.

U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman said the shipment was the first in $30 million worth of aid from the United States. “We hope it will address some of the most pressing needs of the conflict victims. The United States remained deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Lebanon.”

Asked if there were a contradiction between U.S. arms sales to Israel and aid supplies to Lebanon, Feltman said Washington’s position was based on “two pillars to how we need to deal with the conflict. One pillar is humanitarian assistance. … The other is to find conditions for a sustainable cease-fire.”

The U.S. says a cease-fire cannot hold until Hezbollah is removed from Israel’s northern border and the Lebanese army, backed by international troops, moves into the south.

Judy, another of your brilliant suggestions: The U.S. knew that Lebanon would not be able to “disarm” Hezbollah on its own! Yet, they did nothing to help. They knew this conflict was brewing and did nothing to ease the tensions”.
So please tell me Judy, how is it that you figure it was the US’ responsibility to disarm the Hezbollah particularly since their last “peacekeeping venture” into Lebanon wasn’t exactly welcomed with a ticker-tape parade and it was the UN’s resolution for the Hezbolah to disarm. I guess you believe that the UN should do nothing but “observe”?

Speak of your “Republican reruns” Judy: The US military lead NATO in defeating the tyranical government of Yugoslavia (Serbia) in defense of Muslims in Bosnia Herzegovina and later also in Muslim Kosovo. This brought the end to the rule of the Butcher of the Balkans, Milosovic. Now c’mon Judy, tell us that the US were doing no- good there also.

Now on your “made in Canada policy”. This of course is one of the most used NDP cliches. Like their leader’s (CCF of the day) “Made in Canada Policy”, to not join the war against Hitler in 1939. Canadians for the 1st time in eons have a PM who has the courage to take a stand, to enunciate it and to carry it out. EG- To oppose terrorists, -to not negotiate with terrorists (just wait Judy, we may eventually get some of our own then I expect you to want ‘to negotiate with them’,) ‘to be neutral’, ‘broker a deal with them- ‘a made in Canada one’ and’ ‘not take sides’. The Dippers and those Libs who are chirping from the sidelines are a pathetic bunch of double talkers, void of any substance. There was a time when the Liberals would take a stand as in the WW1, WW2, Korean War etc.

Judy please answer the comments and questions directed toward you? Or will you continue to chirp incessantly with your warped, short sighted, left wing, anti Israeli, (perhaps anti Semitic), anti American perspective?

As to” independent thinking”, you obviously have a comprehension problem.
Canada is very fortunate to have such a leader during these times. We will in the future, recognize that our brilliant Prime Minister, Stephan Harper’s firm stand against terrorists, against crime in the streets, against light sentences for major crimes of violence, for getting tough on pedophiles and sex crimes against women, against sending billions of dollars for carbon credits to Russia (or any country which will do nothing to reduce green house gases in Canada or the world ), was visionary and courageous. The Dippers will again be quite as they were in WW2 when it became so readily apparent that appeasement of another despotic, tyranical, murderer was another of their very bad ideas.

C’mon Judy, an explanation by you of your position vis-a-vis your anti Jewish and American biases is over due.

Lewis

#13 Andrew Smith on 08.09.06 at 11:46 am

Garth:
Your comments on dual citizenship interest me and echo thoughts I had as long ago at the Indian Ocean tsunami (where many “Canadians of convenience” were stranded in Sri Lanka). As a fairly conservative guy, I sort of half agree with your point about Canadians of convenience. Then again, I am a dual citizen, raised in Halton county (but not in your riding) and now living in the UK (and socializing with the many dual nationality Canadians who work in British banks, law firms, etc). So I reacted to your ideas quite emotionally. And I am a strong believer in multiculturalism– I think it has helped maked Canada the prosperous economy and compassionate society it is today.

When you live in European countries, you realize what a good job Canada does at managing diversity. Coincidentally, the stations that demand the most of their citizens (e.g., long period for naturalization, high tax rates, national military service) have some of the largest problems with diversity. Canada asks relatively little from its citizens, and we all seem to get along.

The US rescues its citizens from crises but then asks for partial reimbursement once they are home. Sounds like a fair policy. But I don’t think it would be practicable to sort out passport holders into categories. For one thing, what would be the cut-off between a visiting tourist and someone you describe as a Canadian of convenience? If you are in Lebanon for a week and staying at the Hilton and your surname is Tremblay, you are obviously a tourist. If you have been there for 15 years and farming the ancestral plot, you are obviously a resident. But what about the in-between cases? How does a harried embassy staffer sort that out in a warzone where access to the internet is limited? Check Canada 411 to see if you have a landline with Bell?

Canada has a large number of citizens in Lebanon, but so did other countries. Australia has somewhat fewer than Canada, but has a small population. It rescued all of its citizens without asking how long they had been in Lebanon. It adopted multiculturalism and non-racial immigration at the same time as Canada.

Dual nationality is a great boon to Canada, not just the individuals who have it. It facilitates commerce and other sorts of exchanges between Canada and other countries. It reduces transaction costs and adminstrative hassles for entreprenuers, academics and others. As a conservative you should be in favour of this. Canadians are hampered by the fact that Canadian citizens are only entitled to live and work in Canada: nowadays most other developed countries have reciprocal arrangements (the EU is the classic case, and even Aussies and New Zealanders can live and work in each others countries). Until your government can get its act together and negotiate free mobility between Canada and the other OECD countries (esp. the US!!!), dual citizenship is a good thing for Canada.

I don’t buy the dual allegiance argument against dual citizen. Are Italian-Canadians bad citizens because they can vote for overseas MPs in the Italian parliament? Does this make them more like to break the speed limit or cheat on taxes or pursue unhealthy lifestyles? Canadians have always had dual allegiances: that’s why Ontario wanted conscription in WWI and Quebec didn’t. It’s why Jewish people tend to support Israel and Muslims sympathize with the Palestinians. It’s why Canada’s tsunami aid went to Tamil regions in Sri Lanka, not Indonesia, which was worst hit. It’s just a question of how we manage this diversity. I wonder if your government will do a better job than its predecessor.