I’m Canadian – and I should have a right to vote – Donald Sutherland

He forgets that US citizens also have to file US tax returns:

Did you know that? If you don’t live here all the time you can’t vote. Americans who live abroad can vote. They can vote because they’re citizens! Citizens! But I can’t. Because why? Because I’m not a citizen? Because what happens to Canada doesn’t matter to me? Ask any journalist that’s ever interviewed me what nationality I proudly proclaim to have. Ask them. They’ll tell you. I am a Canadian. But I’m an expatriate and the Harper government won’t let expatriates participate in Canadian elections.

But the broader question, for every Donald Sutherland and those like him, there are many more that have a lessor connection to Canada. And there is no way that I can think of that could consistently apply a “connection to Canada” in an administratively fair and efficient manner.

I’m Canadian – and I should have a 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.

2 Responses to I’m Canadian – and I should have a right to vote – Donald Sutherland

  1. Victoria says:

    It seems to me that no one can make any judgment about those Canadians abroad that isn’t based on a WAG (wild ass guess). Has there ever been a serious study or poll or an attempt to gather more information about this population tht would inform the government or the Canadian public about who these people might be, their reasons for being abroad, their intentions, their sense of belonging (or not as the case may be). Is there an agency in the Canadian government that knows Canadians abroad well and can give informed answers?

    The underlying issue here is Canada’s relationship to its community living abroad. Are these people still part of the nation-state or not? And the answer to that can be “no” – no we will not recognize or negotiate with you or maintain your citizenship “package” if you leave. Once you leave our territory you will have only two rights: the right to return and consular protection. Which by the way for Americans abroad is limited and they are expected to pay for it out of their own pockets – they get billed for “evacuation services”).

    And looking at Canada (and the US) that “no” can make a lot of sense. Both are countries of immigration. They have absolutely no interest in recognizing that there is a flow out as well as one that flows in. The entire immigration story upon which these two nations base their national narratives (we are a nation of immigrants who came and stayed and built this country).is threatened and no none wants to call attention to those who leave or think too hard about it. It is even more complicated in the case of the US and Canada because the two have been vying for the cream of the immigrant crop for years.

    I’m not arguing for the rightness or wrongness of that lack of recognition or lack of interest in the community abroad. What I am arguing for is an open conversation about the relationship and the thickness or thinness of the connection which can not be limited to homeland Canadians talking to themselves – it must include those Canadians abroad. And what you might find if that conversation occurs (there are many Americans abroad who would like to see this) is they are willing to make this deal: OK, we accept that our home country will not extend the full citizenship package to those of us who leave. In exchange we expect the homeland government to acknowledge that they no longer have full sovereignty over us and what we do abroad is none of their business.

    But until that conversation happens anything anyone says about Canadians abroad is just speculation and projection.

    (You might be interested in this article in MPI which I think shows what happens when that dialogue between the homeland and citizens abroad doesn’t happen. Too many assumptions, no clear policy, confusion all around.)



  2. Andrew says:

    There is limited data on Canadian expatriates, both quantitative and qualitative. They do not get captured by the National Household Survey and the most-cited figure (2.8 million) comes from an old Asia Pacific Foundation report.

    So yes, there is a need for more data and evidence to understand how valid the various anecdotes we have. The Russell/Sevi article presented voting data at least, and I am not aware of any attitudinal surveys (and the challenges of conducting such surveys likely mean that they will not occur.)

    For the most part, Canadians are not particularly hung-up on expatriates. The five-year rule provides a reasonable balance in my view and I cannot see any way to administer a program that made distinctions on the basis of connection or contribution.

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