Back in July the Canadian Court of Appeals decided to cut off the right to vote for about 1.4 million Canadians living abroad. As the October federal election approaches these travellers, who’ve lived abroad for more than five years, just lost their right to have a say.
I’m still within the time limit. And you better believe I’m going to use my vote.
First, my apologies for those visiting this website to read about Things To Do In ____. This post is directed at the Canadians living abroad who still fit within the time frame (and those of you set to vote from home).
Although, if you’re interested in the workings of the Canadian government and its relationship with its citizens scattered across the earth, please continue reading.
We live in a global world. Before now there has never been this many opportunities, and reasons, to live abroad. People are traveling all across the planet to study, seek work and reconnect with their family.
We know this, we’ve heard it a dozen times in the news, school, election campaigns and discussions of family reunions. If you’re a Canadian it’s pretty darn likely you have ancestors from across the ocean or down south. It’s our national heritage (though really we’re leaving out a lot about the true ancestors of the land).
Canada is a land of immigrants and we’re always talking about it. But the thing we seem to forget a lot is that we’ve got a pretty decent amount of people leaving to settling down abroad too.
The Canadian diaspora group contained a whopping 2.5 million to 3 million people according to numbers collected by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in 2009/10. This is a crazy eight per cent of the Canadian population (at the time) and more people than the population of six of Canada’s provinces!
Keep in mind that according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s definition, Canada’s expatriate population only includes Canadian citizens living abroad and dual citizen passport holders. Unlike countries such as Italy and Greece the government does not count all former residents of Canada or descendants of Canadians.
WHAT TOOK ME ABROAD
For me the long years living abroad began with an opportunity to study in Thailand. My chosen program, journalism, was meant to take me around the world—so I thought to myself, why not set out sooner?
I happily spent a year there exploring and learning about southeast Asian culture, politics and economics. The knowledge gathered then aids me daily, recently granting me a close understanding of the influences inspiring the work of Hideyuki Katsumata—a Japanese artist currently exhibiting at the Scottish arts centre I work for.
From Thailand I decided against immediately racing home to Canada. I wanted to get to know Germany—the land of my mother—and experience every part of Europe like my lucky German cousin (Greek visits on weekends, a night over in France, etc).
I set out to reconnect with my partner, whom I met in Canada when she was studying abroad at my British Columbian university. We met up again in Cambridge. My partner and I share four very useful citizenships: German-Canadian and Spanish-British (Scottish to be precise). With my German passport I walked into the European Union and set about building a life for the next few years.
I was very excited and optimistic, the United Kingdom was one of the centres of global media. Here I would seek my fortune. And some day I’d bring it home.
Seventy per cent of the Canadian diaspora in 2010 indicated an intention to return to Canada. Almost half of which said they wanted to return within the next ten years. While I’m all starry-eyed about Europe now, I want to home to Canada in time.
For now I live in the UK because I:
– Appreciate the ease of travel throughout the EU member countries.
– Want my partner to be close to her aging parents in Spain. My parents are quite young in comparison and they’ve got a large family to love. I visit annually and keep in touch as much as I can through Canadian news and anecdotes from my friends and family.
– Can appreciate the power of the pound. I have student loans to pay and money to save. The Canadian dollar sucks and it’s getting worse (0.77 to the US dollar and 0.50 to the pound).
– I’m in a hotspot for global media centres—there are many massive newspapers based here and with them a great number of opportunities for work.
If I ever have kids I want them to be Canadian and live in Canada—to experience the joys of greeting the friendly population, exploring the Rocky Mountains and being a part of a proud and open society.
On the one hand, Canada has been quite kind to Canadians abroad. I’m allowed to hold both my Canadian and my German passport thanks to its dual citizenship policy. My freedom of movement owes a lot to the fact that I was born on Canadian soil, but also gained German citizenship through my mother’s German status and Germany’s policy.
Similarly, if I have children abroad they will automatically gain Canadian citizenship.
Unfortunately, I’m worried. The current government is slowly cutting off me, and many others, from our homeland. I left Canada for Thailand in 2013. Another three years and I won’t be able to have a say in how I’m treated, how my friends and family are treated and how my descendants will be treated.
WHAT CAN WE DO WITH FIVE YEARS…
If I’m not back within 15 years like the British government has placed for its citizens abroad I say that’s fair.
However, five years is not enough. A PhD takes about eight years on average and that’s studying alone. If I wanted to extend my Bachelor of Journalism into a Masters it’ll take me two-three years? What if I choose to push for one last large trip—take advantage of my ability to work in Australia for a year for example and then use the money to visit more of southeast Asia?
If I wanted to move to Canada and bring my partner along we’d be looking at one to four years of paperwork.
The Conservative government has been paying to bring this argument to the courts over and over again.
The recent battle cost over 1.3 million dollars. They claim the other party’s will waste money Canada doesn’t have. I think this is ill-placed money that could have served far better purposes than reviving a continually disputed argument.
The Conservative government has made it clear the opinion of Canadians living abroad scares them.
So I’ll be voting.
And I’ll be trying to vote this government out. A government that doesn’t understand or choose to respect this global world will not be able to take advantage of its vast collection of opportunities.
Plus they’re wasting my tax money.