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76th Annual Summer Conference, August 9–12, 2007

What Does Citizenship Mean in a World Without Borders?

FAROUK SHAMAS JIWA (bio), Global Youth Fellow 2006, Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation (Speaker’s notes PDF)
PIERRE PETTIGREW (bio), Executive Advisor, International, Deloitte & Touche, LLP
IRVIN STUDIN (bio), author, What Is a Canadian? (Presentation)
Moderator: DREW FAGAN (bio), Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada

Summary by Mohamed Awad

Moderator: Drew Fagan

Today we want to broaden the scope to the international implications of diversity. Does Canada have a Diaspora? 10% of the Canadian population lives abroad, half of those were born in Canada. How can we harness that capacity? For instance, there are members of the Italian parliament who live abroad. [Intro to first speaker.]

Farouk Shamas Jiwa

Two inspirations: Being a young transnational immigrant and a Global Youth Fellow

  • Impact of multiculturalism on foreign policy and vice versa.
  • The multiple identities (pluralism of identity) may or may not offer something to foreign policy and vice versa.

Going to the geographic center of Canada in Nunavut, I felt a connection that I realized was because of my background and my identity. This self-reflection gave me the idea of looking at the relevance of our identities in foreign policy. For example, sharing our expertise on multiculturalism with the world.

Many people believe that foreign policy reflects our interests, so is there a relationship? For example, our stance on the Iraq war, or involvement in Haiti and Ukraine.

In terms of the potential challenges that multiculturalism represents to foreign policy:

  1. Perception that some groups will engage in illegal activities in Canada and overseas
  2. Canada’s foreign policy may instigate tension between groups within Canada
  3. The lobbying efforts of Diaspora groups are “derailing” our foreign policies

A foreign policy that could be seen through a “hospitality of difference.”

We have to think about how foreign policy will affect people or communities.

Thinking of having multiple identities, there is a “loyalty” issue here, an accusation that some people are “casual Canadians.”

On the issue of lobbying of Diasporas, who gets access to decision making, who represents who? Some may be in a better position to do this than others.

Multiple identities does make foreign policy complicated, but helps us be sensitive.

Can we take the challenges of multiculturalism and diversity at face value?

When it comes to dual citizenship, we should not lose sight of its advantages, instead of asking where “loyalty” lies.

We should appreciate our commonalities with people outside borders, e.g. a woman in Canada can fight for the rights of women overseas.

Opening Doors: If there is a perception that some groups have more voices, the government should ensure “consistency” (T. Ramadan).

We need to find the real challenges and sentiments that multicultural groups are facing on the ground so that the solutions are adequate.

Civic and global engagement, investing in our communities, connecting them, engaging them, are things that create loyalty, creates a “Canadian identity,” giving everyone reason to value their Canadian identity.

Irvin Studin

In the context of the “borderless world” I want to touch on responsibilities, opportunities.

I disagree that Canada’s reality is “borderless.” A Canadian in this so-called “borderless world” is nothing more than a citizen of a state called Canada.

Odessa in its 19th century heyday was a microcosm, of sorts, of the universe.

When the anti-Jewish wave started in 1821, the damage was mitigated in Odessa because of the cosmopolitan existence.

There was a “conspicuous assumption” that Canada was a place “not taken.”

So what is a Canadian? I asked that question everyday growing up.

I was bored with the lack of answers I was getting to this question.

What is a Jew?, a book that inspired my What is a Canadian? 43 responses. The only coherent conclusion I could say was that the Canadian is nothing more or less than a citizen of the state called Canada.

In short, the Canadian at this point in history has no essence. Just a citizen of Canada.

A beneficiary of rights and freedoms, also responsibilities because of citizenship.

A political creature that exists only because of the political project.

The Canadian is a political fact. This is the only concept, the rest is “commentary.”

We are often reluctant to discuss responsibilities.

Europe has just laboured to create a Union. Responsibility is hard and complex work that takes time, whereas rights can often be asserted without effort.

The first responsibility is to protect our Canadian institutions. We have few foreign enemies. The Quebec question remains. Diasporic questions tug too. The integrity of our Canadian institutions is under the microscope. They also have to prove themselves relevant; they must change, must adapt, and must “sell” their relevance.

It is worth defending these institutions.

Many might not feel “Canada” in their blood, because it is made up of many nations. The people of our country do not form a “nation.” Perhaps that’s a good thing, because we are young. Do we really want to be a nation? Do we need the mythology that goes with nation-building? Will some of these myths have fracturing effects?

For now I am talking about state-building, not nation-building.

Canada, like Australia, is lucky because we have borders. Canada is a continental peninsula, Australia is a continental island.

Our stability and productivity is because of our geography, insulating us from the chaotic world. The Canadian reality is not all “borderless,” our geography makes us lucky, affording us an unusual opportunity to initiate “secondary institutions,” serving to create a common or collective consciousness, a consciousness that is not yet there.

In most sports our international performance is inadequate, considering our stability. Even in hockey we don’t have a “national league.” Do we not see a problem in this?

The Australians perform much better, after winning zero medals in 1976, they built on their luck. We have much more work ahead of us.

Pierre Pettigrew

I feel I changed nations, from Quebecois to Torontois.

I’ve been picking up all kinds of things to which I want to share my view.

I believe that Canada is a country that needs to be reinvented every generation.

A very strange country, a political country, not an economic country.

When we say “Making Diversity Work,” I was always obsessed with one question: Is it possible to live together, equal but different?

We have to live together, that’s the key. I do believe that the “Canadian mosaic” is a wonderful concept, one I am proud of because from day one, our situation being a bilingual and Aboriginal country, we had an advantage.

If I could complement another idea, I would like to move from a “mosaic” to kaleidoscope where colours mix more than previous generations.

Identity is a very relative element, depends on your experiences.

The further away you are, the wider your identity becomes. (From Quebec City, to Montreal, to Toronto, to London)

Diversity: There wasn’t a black person in my city growing up; my father organized a party to welcome the first black family. The first pizzeria in Quebec City in the mid 70s.

I do believe that diversity is relative and has evolved, but we have always resisted it. It has been an asset that took a long time to come. And now we thrive on diversity.

Now we are at the end of a period, we have to reinvent Canada again.

We are doing an extraordinary job of sharing power with the whole population.

The “Quebec Question”: What to do? A complex question

Elements that shaped this country: “Quiet revolution of Quebec”; bilingualism; multiculturalism; Charter of Rights; Free Trade

For 50 years, Quebec has shaped this country. What more can we do?

As a Federalist politician you always lose in Quebec.

Diversity is a very relative concept; we have been striving on it, now to reinvent it.

Q: Is our charter flawed because it doesn’t include responsibilities?

Irvin: The Charter is only about the rights of the citizen vis-à-vis the state. Maybe imposing voting like some other countries.

Q: Should we have dual citizenship?

Irvin: People often think in terms of more than one country, but do exercise their immediate interests as Canadians.

Q: Does Canada have the time for “organically” developing into a nation?

Irvin: We are not a nation in an ethnic or religious sense, we are a political entity I would say. Our country is so vast, to say we are all united by a common history, is just not true. You can declare all you want, but it’s not on the ground. But we are all citizens of this country, with rights and responsibilities.

Q: Negative manifestations of Quebec nationalism: How to get more civic engagement?

Pierre: There are 2 trends: The red and the blue. The blue more focused on Quebec values and protecting the difference from other people. The red says that the best way to survive as a group is to engage with the rest of the country and the rest of the world. The historians in Quebec don’t take pride in our civic engagements, the pen is blue.