Category Archives: Canada

S*d the Royals!

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British Royalty has descended on beautiful British Columbia. Prince William and Kate and the Royal Children are visiting college campuses, tasting Okanagan wines, consorting with commoners and dedicating honorary plaques to the Queen.

Grand Chief Stewart Philip, the leader of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, boycotted the ceremony with the Royals in Victoria. This was in protest over the slow pace of reconciliation talks with the Government of Canada.

Only in Canada does the Royal Family get this sort of adulation. The Republican movement carries unabated in Australia. Having grown up in England, I can only remember that the Queen was universally despised except in TV appearances. Ask most Brits and they’ll tell you: the Royal Family belong to history.

And in Canada, we need a little more self-respect. We need to continue remaking ourselves as a nation. Our currency should show First Nations chiefs. We need to purge Canada not of its history, but of its exalted colonialism, the relics that do nothing but remind us who’s really exalted.

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One Canada, One Citizen

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It’s Canada Day, a good time to reflect on what Canada means to us. I immigrated to Canada like many before and after me. I became a citizen. I am proud to be Canadian.

The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (better known as Bill C-24), hasn’t made me any less proud to be Canadian, even if it does put me in a different class of citizenship.

All countries differentiate between citizens and foreign nationals or citizens and permanent residents. Canada previously revoked citizenship if it was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation. This was in accordance with the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; but, differentiating between citizens?

The French Revolution developed the modern idea of the “citizen.” The Revolution sought to create a society where people (men) existed as equal citizens before law, not as subjects with differing privileges. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt referred to citizenship as the “right to have rights,” the right to belong to a political community and have one’s rights protected by that community. In a 1997 ruling, Justice Iacobucci for the Supreme Court of Canada stated, “I cannot imagine an interest more fundamental to full membership in Canadian society than Canadian citizenship.”

In differentiating between different classes of Canadian citizens and in revoking (or maintaining) their citizenship status accordingly, the Government of Canada (the Conservative Party of Canada) is not only revoking a legal status; it is revoking all constitutionally enshrined rights associated with such status.

The law apparently infringes equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by discriminating between Canadians (individuals and groups) on the basis of national and ethnic origin. There are all sorts of practical and humanitarian concerns to consider. How can the government send de-nationalized persons “back” to a country which does not receive them? Can it return a person back to a country where he or she may be persecuted?

The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act is an act of splintering Canadian citizenship. It creates different classes of citizenship (for different reasons) just as states in the Deep South of the United States created different classes of American citizens through legal discrimination.

I can only take comfort that it will be challenged and under the grounds of the Constitution of Canada which affirms the equality of Canadians, regardless of their differences.

Further Reading:

http://www.toptipsclub.com/blog/immigration-citizenship/nine-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-changes-to-canadian-citizenship/

Works Cited:

“Revocation of Citizenship after the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act,” Peter Edelmann in Immigration Issues: Not Business as Usual, (Continuing Legal Education Society of BC, 2014).

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On Secularism in Canada

Secularism

Written by Randeep Singh

Is Canada secular? Not according to Doug Thomas.

Thomas is the President of the Secular Connexion Séculaire. He points out that:

  1. Canada lacks a an explicit declaration in its constitution separating church and state;
  2. Canada’s Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, is also the Head of the Church of England the Defender of Faith, and;
  3. The Government of Canada does not interfere with religion, but religion does interfere with government.

Thomas however is not so much interested in promoting secularism for all Canadians. He is interesting in promoting the rights of Canadian atheists. And in doing so, he mistakenly assumes that secularism is atheism.

This assumption is used by “non-believers” like Thomas to argue that secularism requires the absence of religion in the public sphere. It is an assumption also used by the “believers” (more in the United States than in Canada), to argue that a “secular” society is a “Godless” (un-Christian) society.

Secularism, however, is not atheism. Atheism is the denial or rejection of a belief in the existence of God. Secularism does not care whether there is or isn’t a God. It is concerned with the relationship between religion and the state as a political question.

And far from eliminating religion from public life, secularism seeks to create a public sphere in which the greatest diversity of thoughts, opinions, lifestyles and beliefs are tolerated. As Charles Taylor argues, secularism is not characterized by by an absence of religion, but by attempts by the state to maximize liberty of and equality between different beliefs.

What makes Canada secular is how the state governs. The Constitution Act divides political and legal power between the three branches of government, without any power accorded to an ecclesiastical authority. Canada has no official religion. The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms guarantees both freedom of religion and freedomof conscience (for agnostics and non-believers). If Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada have not “interfered” much with religion (which they did when ruling on or legislating on Sunday opening laws), they have certainly defied religious opinion by decriminalizing abortion, legalizing same-sex marriage and overturning the ban on physician-assisted suicide.

Canada isn’t atheist enough  perhaps Mr. Thomas, but at least it is secular.

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