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Marni Soupcoff

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A Terrorist's Passport Is the Least of Our Worries

Posted: 02/13/2013 8:53 am

It's easy to imagine why stripping dual nationals of their Canadian citizenship if they commit an act of terrorism would be a popular policy proposal. It's hard for most people to find a lot of sympathy in their hearts for terrorists -- and quite rightly so.

Yet this idea -- which Immigration Minister Jason Kenney brought up Wednesday, suggesting it could be implemented by expanding a current private member's bill that would strip citizenship of dual nationals who commit acts of war against Canada -- is seriously flawed. As disturbing as it is to watch the news and learn that, for example, one of the accused Bulgarian bus bombers held a Canadian passport (though he lived in Lebanon), the act of stripping citizenship after the fact hardly addresses the real problems.

One such problem: Why are individuals inclined to engage in terrorism being granted Canadian citizenship in the first place? It's true that such people don't come wrapped in warning labels. But to the extent a lack of loyalty to Canada is an issue, better to be more thorough and probing in the citizen application stage, than to wait for a horrible murder, say "oops," and then yank back what is supposed to be an inalienable charter right once it is granted. Consider: If Minister Kenney believes, as he seems to, that the bus bombing suspect's allegiance to Canada can in part be judged by the short amount of time the man apparently spent in this country, then wouldn't it make more sense to adjust the residency requirements for obtaining citizenship, rather than retroactively and selectively judging just how valid each individual's citizenship really was?

Part the illogic of the plan can be seen by taking a closer look at Minister's Kenney's own statements. On CTV's Power Play, Kenney explained his thinking this way: "If you go out and start blowing up buses and killing innocent people, maybe we should actually say: 'That's deemed renunciation of your citizenship. You lose your Canadian passport.'"

That would make a lot of sense if it applied to all Canadians. But it doesn't. It only applies to dual nationals. So what we're really saying is, if you go out and start blowing up buses and killing innocent people but hold no other passport, we still consider you loyal enough to Canada to call our own and won't deem your attack on innocents a renunciation of any sort.

I'm open to considering acts of terror against Canada's friends and on behalf of Canada's enemies a de facto throwing of the Canadian passport in the trashcan. But if we're going to go that route, the expatriation that follows should apply to all Canadians, not just those who hold a second official nationality. (Other countries take this approach.)

On the other hand, if we're not willing to go that far, then we need to be asking ourselves some serious questions about what dual citizenship means. If it can be stripped more easily than citizenship that is not shared with another country, is it of lesser value? If so, perhaps Canadians who are considering taking on a second citizenship should be warned in advance of what they're giving up by adding another passport? (The stripping of citizenship Jason Kenney is proposing would apply to natural-born Canadians with dual passports, as well as naturalized dual citizens.)

If what Minister Kenney is really getting at is that dual citizens' allegiance to Canada is more questionable and less reliable than that of other citizens, then can he explain why we grant and allow the dual citizenship arrangement at all? Is that where he's hoping this conversation ends up? Because, with apologies to Tom Mulcair, that's really the logical endpoint of the debate.

Much of the discussion of this subject has centred around the duties and responsibilities that come with the privilege of citizenship, and which are deemed to have been abandoned by dual citizens who commit acts of terror. I too think these duties and responsibilities are real and important.

However, we've got to be clearer about which part of someone like the accused bus bomber's alleged actions was the failure to meet his end of the bargain. If it was the alleged bus bombing alone, then any Canadian who engages in terrorism should be a Canadian no longer. If it was the combination of the alleged bombing and the fact that he spent most of his time in Lebanon, then we should set much stricter criteria for the granting of dual citizenship and rethink the dual citizenship model entirely.

The sad part is that none of these suggested actions -- not mine, not Jason Kenney's -- will do anything at all to prevent or reduce global terrorism. Changing the passport a terrorist carries in no way addresses the extremism and hate that motivate these kinds of attacks. Ultimately, our energy would be much better spent tackling these issues than worrying about the mass murderers' nationalities.

But if we're going to take the symbolic act of trying to distance ourselves as a country from associations with such horrific actions, shouldn't we at least be logical about it?

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  • A Israeli survivor from a bombing in Bulgaria that killed seven people on Wednesday, cries as he arrives at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, July, 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Israeli women whose relatives were among the victims of a bombing in Bulgaria that killed seven people on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 wait for their arrival at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, July, 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Relatives mourn Maor Harush who was killed in a suicide bombing in Bulgaria during his funeral in Acco, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahikam Seri)

  • Relatives mourn Maor Harush who was killed in a suicide bombing in Bulgaria during his funeral in Acco, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahikam Seri)

  • Family and friends attend the funeral of Itzik Kolengi, 28, who was killed and his wife injured in a suicide bombing in Bulgaria Wednesday in Petah Tikva, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Relatives mourn Maor Harush who was killed in a suicide bombing in Bulgaria during his funeral in Acco, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahikam Seri)

  • People carry the body of Itzik Kolengi, 28, who was killed and his wife injured in a suicide bombing in Bulgaria Wednesday in Petah Tikva, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Family and friends attend the funeral of Itzik Kolengi, 28, who was killed and his wife injured in a suicide bombing in Bulgaria Wednesday in Petah Tikva, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Relatives cry over a coffin of victims killed in bombing in Bulgaria after the remains arrived at Tel Aviv airport, Israel, Friday, July, 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Israeli soldiers carry the coffins of people killed in a bombing in Bulgaria as the remains arrived back at an airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Israeli soldiers carry the coffins of people killed in a bombing in Bulgaria as the remains arrived back at an airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Israeli soldiers carry a coffin of victims who were killed in bombing in Bulgaria after the remains arrived at Tel Aviv ariprt, Israel, Friday, July, 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Israeli soldiers carry a coffin of victimes killed in bombing in Bulgaria after the remains arrived at Tel Aviv airport, Israel, Friday, July, 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Relatives react as the coffins of people killed in a bombing in Bulgaria arrived back at an airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • An Israeli family cries during a military ceremony for the victims who were killed in an attack in Bulgaria, at Tel Aviv airport, Israel, Friday, July, 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Relatives sit in front of the coffins of people killed in bombing in Bulgaria after the remains arrived at Tel Aviv airport, Israel, Friday, July, 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • This image taken from security video provided by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry Thursday, July 19, 2012 purports to show the unidentified bomber, center, with long hair and wearing a baseball cap, at Burgas Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, on Wednesday, July 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Bulgarian Interior Ministry)

  • This image taken from security video provided by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry Thursday, July 19, 2012 purports to show the unidentified bomber, center, with long hair and wearing a baseball cap, at Burgas Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, on Wednesday, July 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Bulgarian Interior Ministry)

  • Israelis move through the departure terminal at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Thursday, July, 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

  • Smoke rises into the sky after an explosion at Burgas airport, outside the Black Sea city of Burgas, Bulgaria, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital, Sofia, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. A bus carrying young Israeli tourists in a Bulgarian resort exploded Wednesday, killing three people and wounding at least 20, police said. Witnesses told Israeli media that the huge blast occurred soon after someone boarded the vehicle. (AP Photo/ Burgasinfo) BULGARIA OUT

  • An unidentified injured Israeli tourist is carried in front of Borgas hospital after an explosion at Burgas airport, outside the Black Sea city of Burgas, Bulgaria, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital, Sofia, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. (AP Photo/ Bulphoto Agency) BULGARIA OUT

  • Unidentified Israeli tourist is helped as she arrives to Bourgas hospital after a bus carrying Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian resort city of Bourgas exploded Wednesday, July 18, 2012, killing at least three people and wounding more than 20 others, police said. (AP Photo/ Bulphoto Agency)

  • An Israeli woman wounded in a bombing in Bulgaria that left five Israeli tourists dead on Wednesday is comforted by a medic at Soroka hospital in the southern city of Beersheva, Israel, Thursday, July 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • A damaged bus is transported out of Burgas airport, Bulgaria, Thursday, July 19, 2012 a day after a deadly suicide attack on a bus full of Israeli vacationers. (AP Photo/ Impact Press Group)

  • A damaged bus is transported out of Burgas airport, Bulgaria, Thursday, July 19, 2012 a day after a deadly suicide attack on a bus full of Israeli vacationers. (AP Photo/ Impact Press Group)

  • A Jewish man reads prayers during a mourning ceremony at a synagogue in Sofia, Thursday, July 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

  • Bulgaria's Interior Minister Cvetan Cvetanov, center, speaks during a press conference at Burgas airport, Bulgaria, Thursday, July 19, 2012 a day after a deadly suicide attack on a bus full of Israeli vacationers. (AP Photo)

  • Bulgaria's Interior Minister Cvetan Cvetanov, center, speaks during a press conference at Burgas airport, Bulgaria, Thursday, July 19, 2012 a day after a deadly suicide attack on a bus full of Israeli vacationers. (AP Photo)

 

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