Will Wilkinson – Canadian
Wilkinson, to use the breezy term used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, will be “waking up Canadian” on Friday morning as new and controversial changes to the Citizenship Act become law.
“It’s a strange thing to all-of-a-sudden one day gain a citizenship to a new country,” the 36-year-old journalist from Iowa said Thursday as he rode the train to Ottawa. “It’s exciting to me. I like the idea of just having a bigger community.”
Wilkinson is gaining citizenship by virtue of his Saskatchewan-born father, who moved to the United States in the 1960s and became an American, losing his Canadian passport in the process. When Bill C-37, an amendment to the Citizenship Act, takes the full force of law Friday, the elder Wilkinson will join thousands of so-called “lost Canadians” who automatically have their citizenship restored.
A new two-generation rule – which ends the line of citizenship for children born outside Canada to Canadian parents who were also born abroad – was inserted as a sort of quid pro quo in Bill C-37. But critics say that while correctly fixing administrative problems that disenfranchised an untold number of Canadians in the past, the government has elected to “fundamentally change” Canadian citizenship law and disenfranchise an untold number of Canadians of the future.
Rudyard Griffiths, founder of the Dominion Institute, describes a “growing diaspora of disengaged citizens who live permanently abroad, who aren’t assuming any of the responsibilities and obligations, but enjoy almost all of its rights and privileges.”
Apparently, the rule change was set in motion after some Lebanese-Canadians were given asylum in 2006.
While it may seem odd at first blush that an American-born child of a naturalized American citizen could have dual citizenship in Canada, the United States allows dual citizenship, too. Plenty of Americans move abroad and take citizenship in other countries without losing their American citizenship for themselves or their children.
Of course, the real question is why the United States and Canada still pretend to be separate countries. We speak the same language (minus, officially, Quebec), are each other’s largest trading partners, members of NATO, and travel more-or-less freely across the largest international border in the world.