January 19, 2012 | 8 Comments
The more I think about it, the more the issue of citizenship seems to beg greater discussion than the rhetoric thrown around when political parties want to attack their competitors. (Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments on the previous post.) And the debate is unavoidable, since globalization continues to advance it.
So Andrew Coyne is right: the issue of dual citizenship is not about NDP MP and French citizen Thomas Mulcair at all. It speaks to a larger debate not exclusive to Canada: statehood versus nationhood and how this manifests in individuals in the form of citizenship. Not surprisingly, the Economist takes a rather flippant and pragmatic approach, i.e. statehood, nationalism and citizenship are mere technical arrangements.
But statehood and being a legal resident of a state, which are concrete ideas, prompts one to ponder the less definable notion of nationalism, and this is, as Coyne alludes to, an issue of political symbolism.
In reality, being a member of a state is more than a series of financial arrangements. It is an emotional and personal status that people live and die for.
So in this context, I am still thinking about the propriety of holding dual citizenship while serving the public as an elected official. Something from Max Weber helped me to develop my thoughts on top of Coyne’s persuasive argument- that giving up another citizenship is a necessary sacrifice for holding public office.
Weber writes that a nation is a values-based concept that cannot be defined empirically, and that it is proper to except both solidarity and sacrifice from its members.
“The significance of the nation is usually anchored in the superiority, or at least the irreplaceability, of the culture values that are to be preserved and developed only through the cultivation of the peculiarity of the group. It therefore goes without saying that, just as those who wield power in the polity invoke the idea of the state, the intellectuals, as we shall tentatively call those who usurp leadership in a Kulturgemeineshaft (that is, within a group of people who by virtue of their peculiarity have access to certain products that are considered ‘culture goods’) are specifically predestined to propagate the national idea.”
In this context, it is making more sense to me that sacrifice (giving up citizenship in another country) is involved with nationhood.
But I have a problem mainly with the questioning of loyalty of a dual citizenship holder intent on running for public office in Canada. Most people who run for office are motivated by a genuine desire to serve their community. You could also argue that politics involves a lot of personal sacrifice already.
Furthermore, does holding public office not necessitate sacrifice? Does it not illustrate a public display of loyalty already? Does holding another passport automatically degrade one’s loyalty to one’s country of residence? I would think that, perhaps ideally, loyalty and sacrifice are implicit qualities required to represent one’s fellow citizens in a democracy, but maybe not.
And here are a few more scenarios to consider:
Let’s say an MP has dual American/Canadian citizenship. I could see a problem if he or she were debating a bill on, say the Keystone pipeline. There is a clear conflict of interest there.
What about a Hatian/Canadian MP who travels back and forth, helping to rebuild infrastructure and fundraise? Would we have a problem with that? Should her or she renounce one citizenship?
Should all those running for office declare their citizenships? Should this happen at all levels of government?
Should we legislate citizenship requirements for potential holders of office as globalization proceeds? If so, should we distinguish between people who actively sought dual citizenship, like Mulcair, and those who received it by familial ties?
Somehow, I’ve ended up with more questions than answers.