Another Canada Day is upon us -- our 147th as a country. As the BBQs are fired up and the beers cracked open on the one day a year that all Canadians celebrate, I have been reflecting on what it means to be a citizen of this country, particularly in light of recent events in the news.
Last week in an Egyptian court, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was sentenced to seven years in jail for simply reporting the news. Mr. Fahmy and his two Al Jazeera colleagues have been held since they were arrested on terrorism charges. The trial and conviction of the three men have been widely condemned as a miscarriage of justice around the world. Canada, however, has taken a muted stance in relation to the fortunes of one of its citizens abroad.
There is a broad range of speculation as to why Canada has done little assist Mr. Fahmy since he was arrested in January, including the fact that he is a dual citizen of Egypt. The fact that he is a dual citizen of Egypt should be irrelevant to the government raising the alarm bell on Mr. Fahmy's behalf. Although John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, insists that Canada has been an advocate for Mr. Fahmy behind the scenes, the fact of the matter is, with the government's new Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (Bill C-24), they now have the power to revoke his Canadian citizenship since he has been convicted of act of terrorism.
Under the legislation, whose name sounds like 1984-speak for undermining Canadian citizenship, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has the authority to strip anyone of their Canadian citizenship if a person has been convicted of a serious offense outside of Canada, such as terrorism, and given a sentence of more than five years. It doesn't matter what country -- how repressive it is, or how corrupt the judicial system is. As such, the travesty of justice that Mr. Fahmy faced in Egypt is simply irrelevant in this brave new world of protecting and enhancing Canadian citizenry.
In case those of you who are Canadian-born and not just naturalized citizens are wiping your brow in relief and resting on your laurels, think again. Canadian-born and raised Deepan Budlakoti is facing deportation under the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act because of drug and gun offenses. It is not clear to where Mr. Budlakoti will be deported to since he was born here and has no ties to any other country.
In effect, the government decision renders Mr. Budlakoti a man without a country. Although government claims that his parents were employees of the Embassy of India in Canada at the time of his birth, and as such citizenship is not necessarily automatically granted in this kind of case, both India and Mr. Budlakoti's parents dispute this.
As I post this and sit back to enjoy Canada Day festivities I wonder if I should be worried. After all, I've just written 500 words undercutting the government's attempt to strengthen our collective citizenship. Is this an indictable offense and for how long?
Happy Canada Day!
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