Rahim Mohamed: Trudeau has degraded the value of Canadian citizenship 

More commentary opposing the proposed change to the citizenship oath. Overly partisan in its narrative, the 2015 election was not “the niqab election” but driven more by the desire for change, the “barbaric tip line” and the uncertainty that citizenship revocation meant to many.

The usual simplistic mischaracterization of the post-modern comments of Trudeau. Canadian identity is more of a civic identity than one based mainly on ethnic origin, although Canadian institutions were shaped primarily by British and French Canadians, which of course continue to evolve and are influenced by more newly arrived groups (and have been increasingly influenced by the original Indigenous inhabitants).

And equally simplistic is blaming the recent steep decline in citizenship take-up rates on PM language neglects that this trend pre-dated the Liberals, the shutdown and slow recovery 2021-22 of the citizenship program due to COVID and other factors:

The 2015 federal election, which saw the Stephen Harper-led Conservatives fall to defeat after nearly a decade in power, is still known in some circles as “the niqab election.” It was, after all, the Harper government’s protracted legal battle to prevent Muslim women from wearing niqabs at citizenship ceremonies that effectively framed the race.

The drawn-out litigation, which dragged into the campaign, allowed the ultimately victorious Liberals to drive home the narrative that Harper’s team was using the issue to capitalize on latent anti-Muslim sentiment in pockets of the electorate (i.e., Quebec). Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau masterfully cast himself as an inclusive foil to the Conservatives, campaigning on the aspirational (and tautological) refrain, “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

These numbers conveyed a broad national consensus that citizenship ceremonies were not just a mere bureaucratic box-ticking exercise, but rather a meaningful rite of passage for all new Canadians — one that necessitated a certain manner of dress and decorum. The niqab, a restrictive garment rooted in a sexist culture of oppression, was self-evidently improper attire for a ceremony to become a member of a liberal, egalitarian society.

So how, in the years since then, have we reached a point where new Canadians may soon be able to finalize the process of becoming citizens by, quite literally, ticking a few boxes on a government website?

Per a notice published last month in the Canada Gazette, proposed amendments to Canada’s citizenship regulations could allow applicants to “self-administer” their oath of citizenship through a “secure online solution without the presence of an authorized individual.” In other words, new Canadians would log in to a secure government website where they would be directed to click a button to agree to “faithfully observe the laws of Canada.”

In a few months’ time, the process of formalizing one’s Canadian identity could look virtually identical to the process of becoming an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church. What on earth has become of our country?

As has been something of a pattern lately, Canadians have arrived at the bottom of an entirely foreseeable slippery slope. “Click here to become a Canadian citizen” is merely the logical endpoint of the postmodern vision of Canadian identity that Justin Trudeau articulated all the way back in 2015.

Throughout the 2015 campaign, Trudeau held firm to the position that the sole criterium for being a Canadian was holding a Canadian passport — not even taking part in a terrorist plot targeting Canadians could disqualify a passport holder from membership in the national community. Before the year was out, he would tell the New York Times that, “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada,” which he claimed was the world’s “first post-national state.”

Given Trudeau’s open (and vocal) nihilism toward the very concept of Canadian identity, it’s hardly surprising that his time as prime minister has coincided with a precipitous fall in national pride. By the end of 2019, more than four-in-10 Canadians said they felt more attached to their province than to the country as a whole. This included majorities in Quebec, Alberta and Atlantic Canada. (In 2013, majorities in all provinces outside of Quebec reported a greater sense of belonging to Canada than to their province).

Following last year’s Freedom Convoy protests, national media outlets ran think pieces debating whether the Canadian flag was a “racist” hate symbol. Just a few weeks ago, Canadian R&B singer Jully Black was widely applauded for changing the lyrics to “O Canada” to “our home on native land” in her rendition of the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

If this is how Canadians themselves view the Great White North, it shouldn’t come as a shock that newcomers aren’t exactly clambering to become citizens. Over Trudeau’s time in office, the percentage of permanent residents who go on to become citizens has fallen by nearly a quarter, dropping below 50 per cent in 2021.

The Trudeau government is looking to reverse this trend with technology. A more enduring solution may be to remind permanent residents why they should want to be Canadian in the first place.

The great niqab debate of 2015 wasn’t just about facial coverings — or even the place of Muslims in Canada. It was, more foundationally, a proxy battle pitting two visions of Canadian identity. Trudeau’s postmodern and tautological vision won out; today, the term “Canadian” is virtually meaningless.

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

Source: Rahim Mohamed: Trudeau has degraded the value of Canadian citizenship

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.

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