Amount of assistance the government must offer during a crisis is open to question
What should Canadian citizens expect from their government when they find themselves in harm’s way abroad?
Canadian citizens residing in or visiting Lebanon are surely asking themselves this question.
Many Canadians opposed spending money to bring home dual nationals who deliberately chose to return to their native country permanently. Some even questioned if we should continue to recognize the Canadian nationality of those who may now be harboring support for Hezbollah.
Clearly, some Canadians find it difficult to express loyalty to those who hold dual nationality and who appear uninterested in living here.
Should such dual nationals be allowed back and transported at our expense?
A Canadian citizen is a citizen for life and cannot lose that status unless he formally renounces it or is found to have obtained it or retained it by fraud. No absence from Canada of any length will imperil one’s Canadian citizenship nor will the subsequent acquisition of any number of other nationalities.
Furthermore, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that “Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.” This would appear to apply even if a Canadian citizen were to return to Canada with some very unpopular beliefs. These rights are virtually absolute and are tempered only by “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
Permanent residents of Canada have the right to enter and remain in Canada but it is a qualified right. Permanent residents can lose their status if they commit a serious crime, if they do not comply with their residency obligation, if they fail to comply with a condition of their landing, or if they obtained their status through misrepresentation.
Countries are expected to assist their citizens abroad but what form that assistance takes is open to question.
Should the government of Canada have offered more assistance to Maher Arar in 2002 when he was deported by the U.S. to Syria where he was interrogated under torture?
Should it have paid the $24,000 cost of an air ambulance for Jason Campbell —who in April 2006 fell off a seventh-floor balcony while vacationing in Mexico — when his travel insurer denied coverage?
Should it have denied boarding in Beirut to the mother of a 14-month old Canadian citizen only because she was not a citizen of Canada but just a permanent resident here?
How we answer these questions will determine how confidently Canadians can be when travelling abroad.
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Ontario Law Society as an immigration specialist. Reach him at 416-862-0000. Confidential e-mails may be directed to Mr. Mamann at firstname.lastname@example.org.