• Thu
  • Jul 10, 2014
  • Updated: 3:19pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 January, 2014, 3:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 January, 2014, 12:37pm

Canadian consular officials can't shirk their duty to so-called dual citizens

Canadian officials periodically worry about granting too many free services to their "dual" citizens, people who hold a Canadian passport yet are permanent residents elsewhere. They pay no taxes, rarely if ever vote, and generally have little or no commitment to Canada, so the argument runs.

There is now a debate - an old one that periodically flares up - about whether such citizens holding "passports of convenience" deserve full consular protection. Let me declare I am such a dual citizen, one of an estimated 295,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, of whom 88 per cent have dual citizenship. Let me put things in context. Expatriate Canadians lose most benefits that "normal" citizens enjoy. If I return to live in Canada and am unemployed, I will receive little welfare benefit because of the low amounts of tax and pension contributions I have made previously. I will not have free medical coverage for at least six months. Canada is not alone. Many countries have similar restrictions on their expatriate citizens.

Meanwhile, Canadian consular services have become more expensive. Nothing is free. The most common service is probably a passport application or renewal. It now costs C$190 (HK$1,330) for a five-year passport and C$260 for a 10-year one. I imagine having 295,000 Canadians who have to renew periodically their travel documents contribute to a rather profitable business.

Consular protection is just about the last thing that may be offered for free. But it only happens in an emergency such as a war, riot or natural disaster. In a stable society like Hong Kong, how often does that happen? In any case, consular protection goes back to the raison d'être of state, which at the most basic level is to offer physical protection for its citizens, living abroad or not. That is a government's most basic responsibility.

The current debate stems from the much-criticised airlift of about 15,000 Canadians - most were dual citizens - from Lebanon during the 2006 war with Israel. The exercise cost about C$100 million.

Ottawa can ban dual citizenship or restrict immigrants from poor or war-torn countries. But once they are accepted, you cannot offer them second-class protection.

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This article is now closed to comments

captam
This reminds me of a true story about a friend who wanted to renew his Canadian passport here in Hong Kong. He tried repeatedly to phone the consulate to make enquiries but the phone was forever on hold and he couldn’t get through. Irritated, he rushed to the Consulate and gave the passport counter lady a ticking off about not being able to telephone them. She responded “Don’t you realize we are the busiest passport issuing Canadian consulate in the world”. He tapped loudly on the counter and replied tersely “All the more reason to answer your phone”. That’s when she pressed a button under the counter and the security guards appeared from a hidden door. The story gets a bit uglier from this point on..... I’ll save it for another day.
321manu
Actually, while Mr. Lo is bemoaning "second-class" protection, what he is asking for is "private jet" service. I wonder how many Canadians living in Canada have required emergency air-lift from Lebanon in their lifetime. I wonder how many have received round trip airfare courtesy of the Canadian government? Why should nominal Canadians of convenience expect more from their government than Canadians living in Canada?
Ottawa should definitely ban dual citizenship. People can understandably have allegiances to more than one country, and that is their right. But to expect the simultaneous protection of more than one state at a time is an undeserved privilege.
syracuse37
This is ridiculous, what about children born from french and Canadian or American and Canadian parents aren't they a mix of both can't they be citizen of both country? Moreover most of HK people paid large amount to get a citizenship, shouldn't Canada respect its obligation after charging them the money? Just to make it clear I write this as a white catholic born in Canada from both Canadian parents. However I do think my country as to honor what it promises when it pocketed money from immigrants and I do think Canadian wherever they were born should have the same services all around the world.
321manu
A child born to a Canadian and an American parent would (and should), upon reaching age of majority, have the right to decide whether he/she wants to be a Canadian or American citizen. However, I'm not sure why he/she must have the option to be both, simultaneously. I wouldn't even begrudge them the right to switch between one and the other throughout their lifetime.
If someone wants to invest in Canada in exchange for acceptance as a permanent resident, that's a choice for them to make. And the deal is investment in exchange for residency. Even after attaining citizenship, that original deal does not imply any additional obligation on Canada's part to whisk them out from anywhere in the world where they found it more convenient to reside during the good times.
And going back to the OP, if Canadians residing in Canada aren't receiving free passage back home from another country, then those whose Canadian citizenship is merely for convenience are in fact asking for treatment that surpasses that which actual Canadians receive.
HK_eh!
agree with r6b. no thinking forward in govt until oops! houston, we have a problem as we accepted too many "rich" so-called immigrants from conflicted countries (middle east, africa, etc) who uses their canadian passports as a get out card.
poor immigrants leave to work for a better life and don't go back to the home country.
Canada was going down the path of giving citizenship if you invest **** in the country. You reap what you sow.
syracuse37
Just to make it clear though Canada gives away around 250,000 immigration application per year and the "rich" counted for around only 3,000 to 7,000 of them so we can hardly see Canad was going the way of the super rich. Moreover the wellfare in Canada is about 11,000 CDN per year depending on the province a skilled worker without work for one or 2 year that benefits from all the services is actually more costly ( considering there are around 15,000 new per year that don't find a job on arrival) than chartering a plane every 5 - 10 years.
Regards
chaz_hen
Loyalty works both ways
r6b
One of the main reasons this topic rose to the top of Canada's interest was due to a middle east conflict, where dual passport holders returned and resided in their home country (Lebanon I think ) but expected Canadian authorities to evacuate them out of the conflict zone, at Canadian taxpayer expense.
This is a very different situation to where individuals in HK/China may find themselves behind bars, and in need of consular support.
HK_eh!
hear, hear.
hk.speaks
I don't think it's a tax issue. I think what is being discussed is that if a person chooses to enter and stay in a country using documents other than a Canadian passport, for example, someone who enters China and lives there using a Home Return Permit issued by the Chinese Government only to Chinese Citizens, he/she should not receive service from the Canadian consulate. Indeed, the Canadian Consulate may have difficulty providing full consulate services to such person because, say in this case, the Chinese Government may feel entitled to claim that such person, who has voluntarily chosen to enter China and live there using identity documents reserved to a Chinese Citizen is a Chinese Citizen and governed by Chinese Laws. It becomes an internal matter of China and the Canadian Consulate will not be allowed to become involved. If an individual enters China using a Canadian passport with a valid visa, I think China will recognize that individual as a Canadian citizen and the Canadian Consulate will provide full consulate services to such individual even if he/she holds more than just the Canadian citizenship.

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