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Newcomers Must Put Canada First

Appeared in the National Post, 07 March 2006
Authors:
Release Date: March 7, 2006
On Feb. 28, the Fraser Institute published Canada’s Inadequate Response to Terrorism: The Need for Policy Reform, a report authored by former Canadian diplomat Martin Collacott. This week, the National Post will publish three edited excerpts from that report. In today’s first instalment, Mr. Collacott argues that the federal government must be more clear about what it expects from immigrants and refugees.

Greater emphasis has been given in recent years to the rights of newcomers than to their obligations to Canada. This likely has been a contributing factor in encouraging some of them to treat this country as a base from which to engage in, or mount support for, their favourite conflicts abroad.

While most Canadians are committed to the idea that Canada should welcome immigrants from around the world, there should be no misunderstanding the importance of their making clear that they will be loyal only to Canada and will not engage in activities such as terrorism, that are clearly in conflict with Canadian values.

It will often not be easy to identify those who do not share our values -- or, for that matter, even to determine how such a judgment can best be made -- when someone applies to come here; but there should be no problem in our making clear what is expected of them and that, if they fail to live up to our expectations, they will be removed from Canada.

When those granted-permanent residence status reach the stage of applying for Canadian citizenship, they should be required to take an oath swearing that they are not only fully committed to Canadian values such as the rejection of terrorism, and that they will give their complete allegiance and loyalty to Canada, but that their actions in the future will reflect these commitments. At the present time, naturalized Canadians can have their citizenship revoked if it is proven that they obtained it under false pretences -- a process that has been applied mainly in the case of individuals who failed to indicate they had been involved in war crimes when they applied to become Canadians. In like manner, someone who has sworn to uphold Canadian values, and who subsequently acts in a manner that is in serious conflict with such a commitment -- such as involvement in or support for terrorist activities -- should also be liable to have his citizenship withdrawn.

A proposal along these lines has, in fact, already been floated. When the Conservatives were in opposition, then-deputy party leader Peter MacKay recommended that Ottawa revoke the citizenship of Fateh Kamel when the latter returned to Canada after spending several years in a French prison following his conviction on terrorist charges. MacKay, now Canada’s Foreign Minister, appears to have public support for such a recommendation: A poll in 2005 found that three out of four Canadians would support revoking the citizenship of people who obtain it and go on to become involved in terrorism.

A major impediment to putting in place such requirements is the way in which official multiculturalism policy has been interpreted. Most Canadians find little difficulty in supporting the principle that people of different religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds should be treated as equal and valued members of our society. Official multiculturalism policy has, however, gone well beyond this, and has in many respects actively encouraged newcomers to preserve the national identities they possessed before coming to Canada and to regard themselves first and foremost as members of their distinct ethnic communities.

As a result, newcomers often hang on to old loyalties and hostilities brought with them from their former homelands. Such policies have been fostered in an atmosphere in which ethnic identity is often treated as virtually sacrosanct. Canadian authorities have been reluctant to look too closely into whether activities are taking place within ethnic communities that are in conflict with Canadian interests and values.

In general, Canadians oppose such an approach. A poll in 2005, for example, found that only 20% of those surveyed agreed with such an objective, while 69% thought that we should be encouraging immigrants to integrate and become part of the Canadian culture.


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