Lebanon: The Immigration Connection


As sages have said, crises often reveal things that would normally remain in the shadows. Canadians have sympathy for those who have been caught in the crisis in Lebanon. However, there are some uncomfortable but necessary immigration-related questions to ask about the current crisis there:

(1) Canadians have been told there are about 50,000 Canadian citizens in Lebanon. Other countries have citizens there, but their numbers are a tiny fraction of what Canada's are. Why? Is it because Canada's high immigration intake has been partly driven by immigrants' interest in establishing a foothold on generous Canadian social benefits? Has this led many to become merely temporary residents of Canada? We know there are about 180,000 people with Canadian citizenship living in Hong Kong. Does our government have figures on the total number of people (particularly immigrants to Canada) with Canadian citizenship who are living in other countries?

(2) Canadians have also been told that although some of the Canadians are vacationers, an unspecified number (possibly the majority) of the 50,000 are people who came to Canada as immigrants from Lebanon, but who have moved back to Lebanon and now spend all of their time there. Other former immigrants to Canada are doing the same in other countries. Is it legitimate for them to expect the Canadian government to come running immediately to their aid if they hardly set foot in Canada and make negligible contributions to Canada's social infrastructure?

(3) As with the tsunami in South Asia in 2004, pressure is now being placed on our federal government to allow relatives of Lebanese-Canadian citizens into Canada as new immigrants so that the relatives too can escape the crisis there. How many people are doing this?

(4) Unlike most (if not all) other countries who have citizens in Lebanon, Canada is offering free transportation back to this country. Canadian visitors to Lebanon most likely have return tickets. Conservative MP Garth Turner, while sympathizing with the people caught in this war situation, has said that evacuating Canadian visitors (who cannot make alternate arrangements) and a huge number of Canadian dual citizenship holders might cost as much as half a billion dollars. He agrees that things obviously have to be done immediately for a number of people. But he says that a debate has to take place about this whole crisis and about the immediate and future implications of this crisis and other similar future crises for Canada.

Immigration Watch Canada adds this question: Is Canada now going to be asked by those Canadian citizens, who spend all of their year in Lebanon and may not even have a residence in Canada, to provide shelter assistance here when they arrive?

(5) Our federal government knows of cases of immigrants to Canada returning to their original countries and collecting Canadian social benefits such as pensions. After the deaths of a number of these former immigrants, their relatives did not report the deaths and continued to collect the benefits. Has our federal government ever undertaken a study to determine exactly how many immigrants have returned to their countries of origin and are now receiving Canadian social benefits?

(6) As a number of critics have pointed out, it is quite possible that the majority of the 50,000 “Canadian citizens” in Lebanon hold dual citizenship in both Canada and Lebanon. How many are Canadians only in emergencies such as health care problems and crisis evacuation? In other words, is dual citizenship another in a long list of immigration abuses?

(7) Some Canadians are now saying that no citizenship differentiation should be made between immigrants who hold dual citizenship and long-term Canadians who hold only Canadian citizenship. Let's think about this. Besides the obvious difference of divided loyalty that scholars like Stanley Renshon have described, the difference that long-term Canadians see is that they have only one country to go to in times of crisis whereas those with dual citizenship have a second choice. What are the consequences for this country of divided loyalty for large groups of Canadians who call themselves dual citizens? Another difference is that most long-term Canadians have supported the Canadian economy by working and living here for most of their lives, whereas others who have come and left, have most likely done so only temporarily, but seem to expect their share and anything else they can get from Canada's social infra-structure. What are the consequences for Canada of allowing this attitude to grow?

To clear the air, Canada has to have a full discussion of this issue, not the usual intimidation and shut-down from the morally superior who tell us they are “deeply offended” when immigration-related issues have to be discussed.