When the new Governor-General was sworn in yesterday, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. I don't have a particular stake in seeing Michaëlle Jean occupy Rideau Hall, but the controversy surrounding her had left an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. I've already blogged about the inherent sexism in the questions that came up about her husband's ties to separatist groups, but even more unnerving than that was the ordeal about her dual citizenship. Jean is married to a French citizen, and in 2004 she naturalized as French through marriage, becoming one of the 600,000-plus Canadians with multiple citizenships. But on Sunday, she bowed to some combination of public, political, and internal pressure (precisely how that combination of pressures played out is something I don't think the public will ever know) and renounced that citizenship again.
I was travelling in August and missed out on a lot, and so it was an American journalist friend who
Canadian law doesn't forbid multiple citizenships; in fact, it doesn't even prevent the Governor-General from having multiple citizenships. This means that the pressures that caused Jean to renounce her French citizenship aren't pressures of legality, but of ideology. I'd like some clarity, though, on exactly what that ideology consists of. What is it that makes someone Canadian enough for a position like Governor-General? Who decides what those criteria are? And if we as a society are saying--whether legally or merely through ideological disapproval--that a certain class of Canadian citizens qualifies, while another class doesn't, are we not also saying that latter class of Canadian is inherently second-tier? I find it difficult to interpret this in any other way, but if that is what we're saying, then we'd better be sure we're ready for all the things it implies, because some of those things aren't at all consistent with what Canada claims to be.
At the end of August, blogger James Bow wrote the following:
I understand the need for a distinction between landed immigrants and citizens in this country. Citizenship should take some time and effort to receive. But once achieved, that should be it: a Canadian citizen should be the equal of any other Canadian citizen regardless of whether or not that citizen was born in Canada, or in the United States, or elsewhere.