Rafe Mair on Bill C-24 finding out you're a second-class citizen

Rafe Mair on Bill C-24 and finding out you’re a second-class citizen

Rafe Mair on Bill C-24 finding out you're a second-class citizen
After a lifetime of speaking his mind in politics and media, these very acts could now get Rafe Mair – and a whole lot of other, suddenly “second-class” Canadians thrown out of their country (photo: Youtube/CMHABC)

What a way to come to the end of a long life!

Thanks to Bill C-24, a breathtaking piece of legislation that the Conservative Government somehow snuck past most Canadians last year, I am now a second-class citizen, though born a sixth generation Canadian. Actually, that part doesn’t matter since the point is I was born an unqualified Canadian citizen.

What did I do to deserve this punishment?

My sin is that my father, in 1906, was born in Auckland, New Zealand. He came to Canada in 1913 as a child, grew up in the West End of Vancouver and married my Mom, a fifth-generation Canadian, in 1930. Then I made my fatal error. On December 31, 1931, in Grace Hospital, Vancouver, I was born.

How I became a second-class citizen

Fatal error because at that second my Dad passed his citizenship of birth on to me by operation of the law of New Zealand. No one asked my opinion.

Since then I have lived entirely in Canada, behaved as a Canadian, was educated in Canada, had four Canadian children, 8 Canadian grandchildren, a Canadian great grandchild, practiced law for 15 years as a Canadian, served as a cabinet minister in the British Columbia government and negotiated constitutional matters on its behalf, and then spent 25 years in broadcasting. I have received many honours. During that time I stayed out of jail and I think generally behaved in a manner befitting the description “good citizen”.

Now, the government of Canada has declared that I’m a second-class Canadian.

You may be one too…

I suspect there are thousands that don’t yet realize they are second-class Canadians. I say that because I remember many, many years ago I had an offer to work in the United States and discovered that if my mother claimed the American citizenship she was entitled to because of her father was an American, I could then have claimed citizenship through her. Now, the rule about Canadian second-class citizenship is not just that you may be a dual citizen but that you could be! (Just to show how silly this is, my Mom’s dad was born to English parents passing through Minneapolis to Vancouver, making him a dual citizen!)

In the system under which I was born, and which developed in my lifetime, whether one was born in Canada or not, if they were citizens, unless that citizenship was obtained by fraud, it get could not be revoked. Even then if there was fraud, it took a federal judge to make the decision after a full court hearing, whereas now a decision will be made by a single citizenship officer and there will be no opportunity for a live hearing or an appeal.

It’s said I have nothing to worry about unless I plan to be a terrorist. Why, then, you ask, would an old fart like me be worried about this?

I have every reason to believe that given an opportunity I will qualify quite nicely. Let me tell you how.

One man’s environmentalist is Harper’s terrorist

There is a proposed LNG plant for Squamish and if that proceeds I will join the thousands of my fellow citizens in protest. It is a very short move from there to being branded a terrorist by the Harper government on the basis that Woodfibre LNG, owned by a crook, is a “national undertaking” and that it’s terrorism to obstruct it.

Could that happen in Canada?

Do I really have to ask that question given of the behaviour of the Harper government, especially in the last couple of years? Now, I must admit I don’t plan to wear a veil or convert to Islam or other such “un-Canadian” acts.

One of my problems – and I candidly admit it – is that I am so angry I have trouble keeping my emotions under control.

What did I do to deserve this? How come because my father was born in a country that automatically conferred its citizenship on his children, I become subject to special rules in the country in which I was born and have spent my entire life? By the same token, why should anybody who only took their citizenship yesterday be subjected to this humiliation?    

Citizenship is a right…or it’s supposed to be                                                 

During my lifetime, citizenship has expanded to the point it has become a right, not a privilege as the government says, and a right which, once earned, is permanent.

At one time, one became a citizen just by being a British subject. But that was rightfully changed, then citizenship was finally granted to people who couldn’t hitherto get it because of their skin colour such as Chinese Canadians, Japanese Canadians and so on. GadfreyDaniel! We even “granted” citizenship to First Nations who had been here for millennia. Come to think on that, First Nations are members of two nations – are they dual citizens too? Where will their “terrorists” be deported to? Have these Harper geniuses thought of this?

We eliminated the distinctions between Canadians of recent immigration and those born here. We went all way from a very limited citizenship to an all-inclusive one where we all accepted one another as Canadians no matter where we came from or when.

We accepted people of whatever race, colour or creed without question. At least that was the theory.

Now, for God’s sake, we find that if a woman wears a certain piece of clothing, she is assumed to be about to murder us in our sleep or at least she is supporting people bent up on that!

No longer are our fellow citizens presumed to be peaceful and loyal but quite the opposite if they happen to be, for example, Muslims. If they are Muslims that wear garb consistent with that religion, then, of course, it is almost certain they’re out to get us.

What the hell is happening to Canada?

In my lifetime I have seen us go from a highly restrictive country to one which gradually changed its approach to newcomers to the point where we were all Canadians together, all working to eliminate the discrimination that too often comes with difference.

I look at class pictures of my 8 grandchildren as they’ve grown up and have a feeling of pride seeing the different faces of obvious different origins. I talk to my grandchildren about tolerance and decency and I’m proud of the approach they take.

I have never said nor would I that we must all love one another. Nor am I any better than anyone else – I must fight my own Devils inculcated in me from childhood. But I do fight them and most people I know fight them. So, I daresay, do most of you.

What the hell was the matter with this result? Where is this enormous danger that requires us to turn on Canadians of a different faith than our own and assume they’re about to do the country harm?

I apologize for being so passionate on this issue but after all this time and having reached this stage of life I simply cannot understand what has happened to my citizenship, my country, and so many of my fellow citizens who support people who would destroy the goodwill so carefully and so painstakingly built up over all the years I’ve been alive.

Why am I a second class Canadian?

Will someone please answer that? 


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

29 thoughts on “Rafe Mair on Bill C-24 and finding out you’re a second-class citizen

  1. Another British Columbia who misses your dulcet tones. I assume I fit into this category as well. Born in England, father was british subject who got his papers to become Canadian but left out our mother born England and my two sisters also. I went through the
    Naturalization process with mum and sisters.
    Married to a Canadian (200 years) but guess that doesn’t count. I did write to my
    local conservative MP to explain to me the details of C24 affects as I am/was against it.
    I don’t remember reading anything about being a 2nd. class citizen.
    I like you don’t get why women who cover for any reason should be such a fear, although I have a friend who belongs to the Alliance Church who are all anti Moslim “they are going to take over the world”. Perhaps that’s Harper’s Christian bias too. What’s to fear a piece of cloth, which I think can be quite beautiful. Why not all men with full beards have to shave (includes my husband) as it works as a mask as all I can see is eyes, what’s the difference??
    Perhaps the new Liberal’s will give the bill a second look and either chuck it or amend it.
    Annette Code

  2. Thank you Mr Mair for giving me a way to explain how my siblings, my nieces, nephews and I can all lose our citizenship cause my parents were dumb enough to immigrate to a country that would strip their children of citizenship.

  3. I’m afraid Rafe it is partial my fault you are a second class citizen. You see, I was on the internal communications from the Conservative party on the first draft of the legislation which didn’t have the dual citizenship aspect, just that you could be stripped off citizenship. I pointed out to the minister that that would violate the conventions against statelessness which Canada was part of. The next round of the legislation was touted as avoiding violating the convention by requiring the dual citizenship aspect. No good deed goes unpunished.

    1. Probably the worst part of this gross insult to law abiding citizens is that the bastards haven’t the guts to apologize and repeal the bill.

      That says to me and others like me, “you are indeed a 2nd class citizen and if you don’t like it move to another country”.

      This tells me all I need to know as these ersatz Conservatives who co-opted the “Old Blue” Party show us that their default position is that only “their” type is really Canadian.

      To think that the favourite to replace Harper is Jason Kenney – ponder that friends!

  4. I like my husband children grandchild and many others appear to qualify for multicitizenship – will they put all the countries in a hat and pull out the name of the lucky country that will get us all? There are several things that I feel are deeply troubling – why are people just waking up to this now – I signed a petition against C24 some time ago? Harper has stated that they are considering adding to the categories where citizenship can be revoked! And let us not forget there have been mistakes already – remember Mahar Arar!!!!

  5. How can a person who has never been arrested or charged be given a non conviction record and this record is given to employers. This is what happened to me and there is no avenue for appeal. Stephen Harper has ruined the lives of many decent Canadians.

  6. You know, as a supposed ‘old stock’ Canadian myself, I thought so smugly with all the other smug bastards that I was one of the privileged protected class who could stay in my beloved country after committing whatever crime that they in their arbitrary whimsy decide deserves deportation. But alas, I discovered that since I’m married to a foreign national, it might make me eligible for citizenship in my spouse’s home country, thus suddenly throwing me below deck with all the dual citizens, Jewish people, and new immigrants. So thank you Harper, for making me see that falling in love with a foreigner was perhaps not a wise decision, that it’s far preferable to marry one’s own kind of the pure sort, you know, the old stock, the right people, whose criminality will be sure to receive special dispensation, even possibly a wink and a pass.

  7. Thank you, Rafe. I think we could start a button/social media campaign labelling ourselves as second class citizens, where applicable. In my case, I’d like to design a button and profile label that states “I’m married to a second class citizen” and/or “My son is a second class citizen”, etc. I think it would be surprising to realize how many people are in this category. I agree that being an activist is cause for concern but the loss of our rights is wrong.

    I heard Jason Kenney on As It Happens. They’d like to have the power to remove anyone they deem has crossed the line but the courts would be unreasonably preventing that.

    Here’s a quote from CBC.ca: “Critics have accused the Conservatives of creating two tiers of citizens: those with dual citizenship and those who are solely Canadian. Under United Nations conventions, Canada cannot revoke the citizenship of people who have no other nationality because they would be left stateless.

    “Kenney says that legal obligation is the only reason for the distinction. Otherwise, he would strip anyone who plots acts of violence against Canada of his or her citizenship.”

    1. Laurel – I love the idea of a club for second class Canadians. This was a slow starter as an issue because most of us simply couldn’t believe that goofy act people were talking about applied to us!!!

      I have an English/Canadian friend (Conservative) who smugly told me that C24 was meant to catch, you know the sort of people I mean, and he couldn’t grasp that he and I were 2nd Classers while many of his “other sort of people” might just not be!!

      This tells you that the “default” position of the present Tories is where I just can’t ever be. I hope on Monday most Canadians will vote for Canada, not the elites who would fracture and destroy it.

      1. Great article which I really enjoyed reading.

        Perhaps today a government will be elected that will repeal C24 and make my adult children (born in Canada, work hard, pay taxes, etc) into the first class people I always thought they were instead of “second class citizens”. Unfortunately, I could not vote for that party as I am still waiting to see if I can get my citizenship, stripped 11 years ago, restored. All it tookfor me (and many others) was being born to a Canadian soldier & his British War Bride in WWII – and (how un-Canadian!)3 months prior to their marriage due to military requirements for permission in WWII.

        I will never take citizenship for granted again, nor will I ever feel secure that it cannot be removed at the whim of a government.
        Wonder what the plans are for future restrictions on the second class?

  8. Hmmm….my 4 Grandparents were born in different countries and came to Canada in the early 1900’s. Where are they going to send me back to?

  9. Rafe, old boy, I’ve missed you! It’s good to read your editorial as I can still hear your voice inside of my head (as I can still hear Jack Webster, as well) and I can pick up on your sarcasm and pointed humour. Keep up the good work and don’t let the buggers get you down! Second class, my arse! You’re top shelf in my books!

  10. Rafe, I wonder then if Ken and the rest of your children will be classified as second class if you are as well….how far will this go?
    I am a second class citizen under C24, having been born in Germany to ? Canadian parents ( I might have to research this even though my mom and dad were born in Canada). My father was serving in the Canadian Military when I was born overseas…so I feel like an outcast from my family….different ….. Destined to take up a Gypsy existence wondering where I belong. And, yes, what if I decided to protest a logging road…I could possibly be deemed a terrorist, against the CanDian government…and sent to a country I have never lived in or can even speak the language, ready to join the masses seeking refuge

    1. I’m not sure if Ken, Kevin and Ashleigh have the potential to be NZ citizens through me or not. As I understand it, your parent must be a born New Zealander but whether or not I could, through request, extend my citizenship to my kids I’m just not sure.

      It wouldn’t be so bad if my health were better and I could hike to the Cathedral Pool (which I named 30 years ago, incidentally) on the lovely Tauranga Taupo River and start casting, with Wendy at my side but I’m afraid the Great Flyfisher has told me I’ve cast my last fly! Drat!

  11. I don’t have an answer to your question, because I too am now a second-class citizen, despite having contributed to Canada for half a century. And I am as angry as you. And have been since C-24 came into law. I am also angry about C-51, which is dangerous, but C-24 is a personal insult that wounds.

  12. Me too. I’m 67 born in Canada of parents in their 90’s born in Canada. To my everlasting shame I have grandparents born in Ireland. This makes me eligible for Harper’s Grand Exclusionary Tour package.

    To make matters worse I have sent money to help First Nations in court as they try to get treaties honoured by the government. So I’m an environmental terrorist too.

    When little Scott Armstrong came looking for votes I expressed my displeasure with Bill C-24.
    He lied and said it didn’t exist. I took him over to my truck and blew the horn. I told him that every time he lied I would blow the horn. Two more questions, two more lies , two more hoots and he ran like a peeping tom when the yard light comes on.

  13. My mom was brought here from England when she was a toddler. My dad arrived here still in his mother’s belly, and was born in Nanaimo so I expect I’m a first class citizen. Yay me!
    Not to worry, Raif; if you just off-load your current wife we could get married, that might make you safe. Do you cook? I hope so because I’m fair sick of doing it.

    Harper is the one who should lose citizenship. He and Conrad Black, you know, Lord Twinkie of Bloviation, could then be deported (if we could find some other nation which would have either or both). Then they could sit and tell each other how unfair it is and how it only goes to prove how stupid the rest of us are.

    Our history is not spotless, and this nation has done vile things to First Nations, and to minorities and immigrants, but we were overcoming the sins and errors of the past and moving toward an egalitarian society until… ah, shyte, until Harpy arrived in a trail of ooze and slime…

    My hope is we’ll get the Vancouver Island Separatist party off the ground, withdraw from Confederation because we no longer have the damned train we were promised. Then, as a first class born-here citizen, with you as my spouse… you’d be safe and could even claim to be a Salmonbelly.

    Harpy would be a bitter joke if he wasn’t so dangerous. Do you happen to know if there is any truth to the rumour he isn’t really human, but is a space alien, a Reptilian in disguise?

    Hang in, old man. You well may be a second class citizen, but you’re OUR second class citizen.

    1. Anne – if your Mom was born in England you may be in the same spot I am.

      I appreciate your kind offer but after I met Wendy 22 years ago in Heathrow, I was happily hooked for the duration.

      Just in case, I’m learning the NZ national anthem and contacting my fishing buddies at the Taupo Flyfishers and see if there’s a room for me somewhere!

  14. I, too, am now a second class Canadian. My family has been here 400 years with the first Acadians, which puts us on the land about as long as the Blackfoot have occupied southern Alberta. I was born in Europe to a European mother, so I enjoy dual citizenship – or, I once enjoyed it. Harper’s “old stock” couldn’t be more of a joke, but still he makes a mockery out of his own case by victimizing me.

  15. Excellent commentary Rafe, as always! I’m another second class citizen because my father was born in England in 1918 – he was a “war baby” born to a Canadian father who had lied about his young age and joined the Canadian Army in WW1, then married my grandmother, an English nurse he met when wounded in action in France. He returned to Canada with his new family shortly afterwards, where I and my brothers were born.

    1. Oops, I mean my father was a 2nd class citizen under similar circumstances, not me. As an adult, he had to formally apply for citizenship to obtain a Canadian passport, but had no problem obtaining it. One wonders if it would be the same under Harper.

      1. All you need is one grandparent born in the UK to be eligible for citizenship there, thus potentially a dual citizen. Same for Irish citizenship. And, if you are Jewish, there’s the right of return to Israel. I’m not Jewish, as it happens, but I was born in the UK and have one grandparent born in southern Ireland before partition, so I’m a triple. However, Bill C-24 affects not just me but my Canadian-born children, my Canadian-born husband (UK-born mother) and my Canadian-born father-in-law (UK-born father). It’s extremely unnerving when Harper is quoted as saying “Well, you know, obviously we can look at options into the future,” when asked about expanding the grounds for revoking citizenship to those convicted on other grounds. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/09/30/bill-c-24-harper-tories-criminals-trudeau_n_8223162.html

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