Ottawa has been urged to limit consular help for dual citizens who travel on a foreign passport or who live outside Canada for prolonged periods, a plan that could cut services to the estimated 300,000 Canadian citizens in Hong Kong.
The proposal was described in briefing books prepared for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Trade Minister Ed Fast.
The proposal specifically suggests reducing the services provided to citizens who do not pay Canadian tax or have declared non-residency, a popular option for breadwinners in Hong Kong who have families in Canada.
Most Canadians in Hong Kong are dual citizens, many returnee immigrants.
"Recent [international] crises have highlighted that many Canadian passport holders have limited connection to Canada [and] are seen by some as maintaining a 'citizenship of convenience'," the document posted online by The Globe and Mail said.
The document also notes that consular officials had been asked to help Canadian citizens in 50 crises in 36 countries in one recent 15-month period alone.
In order to keep a lid on costs, it suggests "differentiating levels of service provided to dual nationals who choose not to use a Canadian passport when travelling or living abroad".
As well, it says the government could impose a "residency requirement or a tax contribution obligation as a condition to be eligible for assistance abroad".
Adria Minsky, spokeswoman for consular affairs minister Lynne Yelich, dismissed the brief, saying: "Our policy is to provide consular services to all Canadian citizens, to the best of our ability."
But the proposal enjoys the support of David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China.
Mulroney, who served as ambassador from 2009 to 2012, said via his Twitter account that "limiting consular services for expat Cdns whose links to Canada are tenuous is fair, smart, inevitable".
It is estimated there are 300,000 Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, of whom nearly 90 per cent are dual citizens and two-thirds of whom have family members living in Canada.
But neither the Hong Kong government nor Ottawa have any way of knowing the true number since returnees usually use their Hong Kong identity cards when passing through immigration.
Concerns about dual citizenship flared in 2006 when Canada had to evacuate nearly 15,000 citizens from Lebanon after fighting broke out between Hezbollah militants and Israeli soldiers.
It was the largest mass evacuation the country had mounted, at a reported cost of C$85 million (HK$605 million). A further 25,000 to 35,000 dual citizens living in or visiting Lebanon did not seek help.