Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dual citizenship in Canada...

Seems as though the government is going to take a new look at dual citizenship. I'm curious to see how this develops, and how it might eventually effect me. I was born in Canada, but I also hold British citizenship (and I have a British passport) deriving from the fact that my dad was born in the UK. Interestingly, I actually had my British passport before I had ever even been to the UK, and it was no harder for me to get than my Canadian.

Now, if the government changes the law to no longer "accept" dual citizenship, how would that effect me? Unlike an immigrant to Canada, the government of Canada has no record indicating that I have British citizenship, or that I hold a British passport. So, were the law changed, would I have to surrender my British passport? If so, how would the Canadian government know to ask me to surrender it, or whether or not I had? Would I surrender it to Canadian authorities or British? What if I didn't surrender it? Could the government strip a natural-born Canadian of citizenship for such an offence? Would I then have to move to the UK? Would the UK take me (unless they change UK law, I'm certain the answer is yes, but for other nations it might not be clear). These are all hypotheticals of course, but interesting questions in advance of any debate. (For the record, I always knew if the law changed I'd give up my UK citizenship, but the logistics and other considerations are interesting nonetheless).

I'd imagine there are a fair number of Canadians who were born in Canada, have lived all their lives in Canada, perhaps have never even been outside of Canada, who nonetheless possess passports from other nations. The Canadian government would have no way of knowing that these people have said passports, unless they've used them to re-enter Canada (and since they presumably hold Canadian passports too, if they've ever left the country, why would they have used their second passport to re-enter?). I wonder how a change in law would be enforced upon these people.

It'll be an interesting debate if it gets that far.

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Glyn (Zaphod) Evans said...

I was reading somewhere that they are considering applying income tax to people with dual citizenship working overseas.

I also have dual citizenship (Canadian and British) but if I was working in africa say, and living there as well, I would fight paying Canadian income tax. Why would I? I am not usign any services, or infrastructure whatsoever. I am not getting paid in Canadian money, nor am I spending any in Canada.

Well this is of course, hypothetical but still...

Mark said...

I actually hold UK, Canadian, & American citizenship. The US gets grumpy if I don't file with the IRS every year, although I don't have to pay any taxes on the first $80,000 Canadian earned income (or something like that... perhaps higher?). Anyway, not a limit I've ever run into. I've never filed UK taxes. I'd be okay with tossing the US passport, but the British one is nice for travelling in Europe. :)

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I've never paid British taxes either, but I've also never worked in Britain (actually, I've only ever been there for 2 weeks in my whole life!) so my understanding is that I am not required to pay taxes if I am neither living, nor working in the UK. I've also never voted in the UK, but again, as I've never lived there I'm quite certain I can't, which is perfectly logical, and fine with me. From my own point of view, I have no interest in taking advantage of any social services from Britain, though I am loathe to give up my passport which is nice to have. It's also nice to know that, as a citizen of the U.K. I am a citizen of Europe, which means, in theory, easier travel in Europe, and also that I could go work anywhere in Europe if I really wanted to, and not have to think about any red tape (in that circumstance, I would feel (and I assume BE) obliged to pay any British taxes required of a British citizen working elsewhere in the EU, and I would gladly do so, though I don't see myself ever moving to Europe). Actually, when I went to Europe on vacation, I was travelling with a friend who only has a Canadian passport, so I used my Canadian the whole time (my British has never even been stamped) to avoid always getting through checkpoints ahead of my friend (though, frankly, at most Eurpoean borders, EU citizens were only getting through marginally faster than us Canadians, hardly worth noting....).

As for evacuation from Britain in a Lebanon-like crisis (HIGHLY unlikely of course, but the only hypothetical that applies to me) I'm of two minds. I AM a Canadian (born and bred, not that that makes me any more Canadian than an immigrant to Canada, just for clarification) and I've always considered myself a Canadian with a UK passport, never remotely the other way around (30+ years in Canada, a week and a half in Britain - lifetime) so in that sense, I would expect to be rescued by Canada. If I were living permanently in the UK though, and working and paying taxes there, I'm not sure I would feel entitled to the same treatment (though I think I would still expect the Canadian government to save me, I would not fight a demand from the government that I pay my own way.... AFTER THE FACT, of course). Foreign Affairs does warn you that if you have dual citizenship, and you are arrested, or otherwise get tangled up with local authorities the Canadian government can't help you, as it is then a case of the other governemnt dealing with one of their own citizens. And I understand, and completely accept that (never been a worry, since my dual citizenship is British, not Syrian or Iranian, but I do understand that if I were to be accused of a crime in the UK, I wouldn't get consular assistance from Canada, on the basis that it is the British government dealing with a British citizen, and I accept that...). That being said, the Lebanese Canadians in danger recently were not being bombed by the Lebanese, they were being endangered by a third party (I supported Israel's actions, just to be clear, but in this discussion, that is neither here, nor there) so it's not quite the same situation of the Canadian government not being able to intervene between the Lebanese government and one of its citizens. Presumably, the Lebanese government had no problem with Lebanese citizens being evacuated from Lebanon by Canada, if the happened also to be Canadian, so the same conflict doesn't exist.

Personally, I wouldn't be terribly opposed to people being charged, AFTER THE FACT, for being rescued, if they are permanent residents of the country in trouble. Vacationers who happen to hold passports of the country in question are different, imho, and should be treated no different from any other Canadian. Making that distinction isn't easy though, of course. In actual fact though, I'd want dual citizens to be treated the way I HOPE we would treat citizens of allies. I would hope, that in an emergency, and American, or Brit, or Australian... who showed up at a Canadian embassy would receive as much assistance as we could provide, and not be charged. Likewise, I would hope that a (non-dual citizen) Canadian, showing up at an American or Commonwealth embassy would be given as much assistance as possible without charge in such an emergency. I think there's actually a protocol for that sort of thing in the Commonwealth. I always knew that if the shit hit the fan while I was overseas, and I couldn't make it to a Canadian embassy, I'd make for the British, or the Australian, or New Zealand... and that I would (hopefuly) get help there. I think that's true for all Canadians, not just me because of my UK passport. And to me, if we're going to rescue Americans, Brits, Australians etc... (which I think we should do in a real emergency, giving priority to Canadians, but as much help as humanly possible to our other allies, knowing they'd do the same - I think) then we should certainly save dual-citizen Canadians, regardless of their second country of citizenhip.

In the heat of the emergency, I say, if you have a legitimate, valid, up-to-date Canadian passport, your butt gets saved. Maybe, under some circumstances you have to pay for that later on, and fair enough (under some cricumstances) but at the time, in the middle of the crisis, screw bureaucracy. Your ass is on the plane.

The Tiger said...

If it were a change back to the pre-1977 rules, then those who get a second citizenship by virtue of their parents' nationality would keep their Canadian citizenship.