Canadian expatriates should never lose the right to vote

The problem with Semra Sevi’s argumentation like that of others is that it relies on anecdotes and generalizations:

Canadians abroad are connected to global networks that Canada can benefit from. Instead of using derogative labels like “Canadians of convenience” or “Foreigners holding Canadian passports,” Canada needs to take a proactive approach to engage Canadians living abroad. People have many different reasons for moving away, and to label them as less Canadian for doing so is troublesome. There are many cases of Canadians studying in the United States who find work in the United Kingdom before coming back to Canada a decade later yet under the current system they would be disenfranchised after five years. Many of these Canadians working abroad do so for Canadian companies, yet these businesses are not facing the same dilemma as Canadians abroad.

Immigrants who decide to leave Canada for whatever reason and return to their native countries are not less Canadian as their compatriots who live in Canada. They may not be residing in the country but they are nevertheless subject to Canadian law and foreign policy decisions. Many of them actively retain connections to Canada. Questions like are expatriates “real” Canadians, is unconstitutional and un-Canadian in themselves. Canadians living abroad are significant global assets who deserve the same rights as those living in Canada. The world is as interconnected as ever, and is only becoming more so. Isolating citizens based on their current geographic placement, which is based on many factors, runs counter to the way the world operates in the twenty-first century.

The reality if varies by community, it varies by individual, and it varies by country of residence. My anecdotal experience with Canadian expatriates when I worked in the foreign service was mixed; some maintained a strong ongoing connection, others did not.

We do not have enough survey and other information to know, beyond the usual anecdotes, how many expatriates have a meaningful ongoing connection to Canada.

Generally speaking, the longer the time outside of Canada, the looser the bond as family, work and local connections become more meaningful.

I suspect if we applied the US approach of taxation based on citizenship, some of the enthusiasm for unlimited voting rights (no representation without taxation) would decrease.

Canadian expatriates should never lose the right to vote – The Globe and Mail.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

6 Responses to Canadian expatriates should never lose the right to vote

  1. Victoria says:

    “I suspect if we applied the US approach of taxation based on citizenship, some of the enthusiasm for unlimited voting rights (no representation without taxation) would decrease.”

    I think so too and some of my friends who fought hard for the right to vote from abroad (and are still fighting) would kill me for saying that.

    I am coming to see it more and more as a negotiation. There are many issues on the table and it’s hard to know what’s really important to the 7 million Americans abroad. I personally would much rather have, for example, certain constitutional protections that US citizens have in the homeland that are literally life and death matters. It is with horror that I see the current administration arguing that they can kill Americans abroad (or according to 3 recent court cases) torture or abuse us without any recourse whatsoever in US courts.

    Having the vote has not helped us here. Furthermore, we vote through our last US state of reisdency which means that our political power is diluted. The French system is much more generous with actual reps for the French Abroad. On the other hand, US overseas ballots have tipped at least 5 very important elections at the federal level since the year 2000. It is no secret right now that the Dems abroad are concerned about the Republicans making political hay over FATCA – those overseas ballots could tip the mid-term elections.

    Last point – they call it “citizenship-based taxation” and that’s something of a misnomer. The US tax system applies to all “US Persons” – a terms that includes US citizens but also quite a few non-US citizens (Green Card holders, for example). I looked for the logic behind that and it seems to hinge on the idea that these are on the path to citizenship and so they have some of the responsibilities of a US citizen (they are also subject to the Exit Tax) and it is assumed that the rights will come when they take the oath.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for your thoughts and observations. As always, pertinent and helpful to understanding the various complexities and nuances behind the issues, and agree with you on the fundamental rights being more important (where our revisions to citizenship have created a distinction between sole and dual nationals for purposes of revocation).

  2. Victoria says:

    Andrew, this one came up on my feed today and it’s about voting and the Indonesian diaspora
    In it I see a glimmer of some of the issues that are of concern to Indonesian expats – note one woman’s desire that the policy on “mixed marriages” be changed.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks. Good to have some non-European, North American and Antipodes examples. Issue is more dual nationality than mixed marriage per se, but the latter leads to the former 🙂

  3. Pingback: Victoria Ferauge: Expatriate Voting: Engagement or Illusion? | Multicultural Meanderings

  4. Pingback: Reframing the debate over expat voting: Russell and Sevi, Globe editorial | Multicultural Meanderings

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