Until recently, some of my American friends continued to urge me to return "home'. They said I must find it boring to be in Canada. Or that I must get tired of the cold; or the high taxes; or the dipsy-doodle currency we affectionately call the loonie. The truth is, I am home. And it feels pretty good.
Truthfully, unless you are a member of our indigenous peoples, we are all immigrants, regardless if you gained your citizenship yesterday or 16 generations ago. Historically, immigrants and refugees who adopted Canada as their country of choice contributed to the development of Canada's social, economic and civil fabric.
Who do Canadians trust to shepherd our country though what may be a coming turbulence? Our current election sees once more a plethora of "Star candidates" that normal Canadians know nothing about -- and their victory or defeat will have nothing to do with the very little light that these stars emit.
While Canada Day is usually a time to celebrate the swearing in of new citizens, this year will be the first time that their citizenship will be marked with an asterisk, thanks to Harper's passage of Bill C-24. The new law threatens dual citizens and immigrants to Canada with revocation of their citizenship. Now, citizenship can be revoked by a Citizenship Officer without a live hearing, without opportunity for appeal, without a judge, and for reasons other than a fraudulent application.
Along with the widely-publicized sentencing of a Canadian journalist in Egypt, several other Canadians are currently being held abroad under dubious circumstances and critics say the Canadian government has repeatedly let them down. "Over the past decade a growing number of Canadian citizens and permanent residents have experienced serious human rights violations in other countries, while imprisoned by governments or held by armed groups," says Amnesty International on its website.
Should Canada not worry about acts of terrorism by Canadians occurring in different parts of the world, or hostile sentiments against Canadian armed forces? In the recent case of three Canadians found involved, and two dead, in a gas plant attack in Algeria last January, Canadian passports were used by the culprits to facilitate their free mobility across the globe. MP Devinder Shory's Bill C-425 proposes to strip the citizenship of those Canadians of dual citizenship who engage in acts of war against the Canadian Forces. In the wake of Canadians being involved in terrorist activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Mali, Bulgaria, Algeria, Syria and elsewhere, we should act now.
When I first moved to Canada from Ethiopia via Zambia I was confused and frustrated about my adopted country. I felt lost. Then I discovered Stompin' Tom Connors by accident. Through his music, I learned about Canada and its wonderful and unique Canadian talent. I spent hours listening to the music of Connors and studied the lyrics up close. They touched me and encouraged me to be familiar with the country that I intended to spend my lifetime in. His music became one of many milestones in my life. He made me feel Canadian.
Adel Benhmuda is owed an apology from this country, as are his wife, Aisha, and their four children. After living in Canada for several years their refugee claim failed and Benhmuda's assertions that he would be tortured in Libya were dismissed. In 2008 the family was deported. Upon arrival in Libya, Adel was arrested and tortured. What I would like Minister Kenney to do is stand up in the House of Commons, admit that his beloved asylum system made a grave error and most importantly, apologize to the Benhmudas for what their family was forced to go through.
Our country now mourns the passing of a great Canadian hero, Lincoln Macauley Alexander. He died on Friday October 19th, 2012 at the age of 90. Reading the many tributes to this outstanding Canadian makes it clear that Alexander's exemplary life was lived as an emphatic declaration that blackness and Canadianness can seamlessly exist in synergetic harmony, and that there is a black experience that is inextricably and simultaneously a Canadian experience. Indeed the passing of this legendary black Canadian should encourage us all to live lives that would leave us similarly criticized for our expressed concerns for the lot of the average Canadian, black and otherwise.