Do you think being foreign-born is a non-issue for Canadian politicians (unlike the US)?

Discussion in 'Politics & Diplomacy' started by wild goose chase, Mar 30, 2016.

  1. wild goose chase

    wild goose chase Active Member

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    The last time we had a Canadian PM who was foreign-born was English-born John Turner in 1984. The other PMs born outside Canada had their birthplaces in the UK too.

    Apart from the PMs in the past, I think as a whole, Canada has a closer representation of foreign-born % in political positions of various sorts than many western countries.

    I don't know if average Canadians have any opinion on whether native-born Canadians seem more fit for office than foreign/overseas born. It shouldn't be an issue legally unlike the US due to their legal interpretation of "natural-born citizen" (whether it requires a birth physically within the country or someone born elsewhere who had citizenship at birth), and where birthplace is a huge deal (any "birtherism" controversies brought up were totally bogus but in any case from seeing that you can definitely sense the feeling many Americans have that foreign birth implies less loyalty to the country).

    I would say that a foreign birthplace in and of itself is not an issue but probably length of time spent in another country as opposed to in Canada would be, especially if one had a large part of one's career outside the country. I remember when the Conservatives blasted Michael Ignatieff for his long time spent as an academic at Harvard as well as his time in the UK.

    So overall, I would think a foreign birthplace and perhaps coming to Canada at a young age would not be really controversial but someone who has spent very little of his/her life in the country, including perhaps one's education, large parts of one's career, might have their experience questioned.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
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  2. Mading

    Mading New Member

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    I was actually appalled by Harper's slandering of Ignatieff. I'm Canadian born. My mother traces her roots to New France. My father immigrated from the UK. I've lived abroad myself. But how can we promote free trade and open borders and then suggest that Canadians who engage in free trade become less Canadian by doing so? Goods don't cross the border on their own you know.

    Also, living abroad can give a PM new perspective. I'm sure Ignatieff knew a hell of a lot more than Harper did about US culture. Could be useful for international relations maybe?

    Harper seemed to make a virtue of being inbred and provincial and never having left town as the pinnacle of patriotism.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2016
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  3. ksun

    ksun Senior Member

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    then apply for the job of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    As PM, it is more important to know more about Canada. I don't know why knowing a foreign country well is that important.
     
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  4. AlvinofDiaspar

    AlvinofDiaspar Moderator

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    That's assumes having lived abroad equate to not understanding Canada, which is faulty. Plus having lived abroad and gained an understanding of other countries is what I'd consider as an inherent plus - if anything it broadens perspective. Besides, just how much does one "understand Canada" given how diverse (and perhaps mutually antagonistic) the various parts of the country is? Being born of Canada is clearly insufficient in and on itself to assume understanding of the country.

    Besides, like it or not as a middle power the job of the PM requires an understanding of the motivations of other powers. It's not an option that's only applicable to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

    AoD
     
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  5. ADRM

    ADRM Senior Member

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    All good points, AoD. Worth remembering, too, that there have been at least a couple Canadian-born US governors and members of Congress. The question as it pertains to presidential elections is one of constitutional interpretation—under the generally accepted interpretation, a US President must have been born in the US or must be considered a "natural born citizen", as Ted Cruz claims he is.

    Strict interpretations of the Constitution contend that that clause is meant to limit presidential candidates who've been born only in the continental US or Hawaii and Alaska. Even when John McCain (who was born on a US Military base in Panama) ran for president, there was discussion as to whether he was qualified to serve.

    I'm quite confident that, at some point in not too distant Canadian politics, we'll see a non-Western European-born PM candidate surface—perhaps one who was born in a country that has seen many immigrants to Canada, such as India or Sri Lanka. I think that'd represent an interesting addition to our multiculturalism bona fides, in a way.
     
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  6. Mading

    Mading New Member

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    One thing that bothers me more is the narrow bilingual requirement of the major parties. Knowing French and English myself, I would meet the linguistic requirement for Prime Minister, but someone who is bilingual in English (or French) and Ojibwa, American Sign Language, or Chinese is out of luck.

    Official bilingualism effectively divides us into first and second-class Canadians and significantly narrows the Prime Minister's world view.

    I agree with requiring the PM to be at least bilingual so as to broaden his horizons, but we should not limit it to English and French, which perhaps explains the string of Prime Minister's from either British or French origin.

    I'm not sure what the solution is though. As a brainstorm, just to through the idea out there, what about two co-Prime Ministers, one who must know English and an unofficial language and one French and an unofficial language. The French-speaking one would also handle Francophone affairs and the English-speaking one Commonwealth affairs too.
     
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  7. ADRM

    ADRM Senior Member

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    Canada has two official languages, full stop—neither is in any way more important than the other. I can't possibly envision a scenario in which I could reasonably be convinced that that in any way "divides us into first and second-class citizens", as you suggest. It's even more ridiculous to assert that bilingualism somehow limits our leader's worldview.

    Obviously, there's nothing to stop potential leaders from being fluent in languages in addition to French and English. In fact, I think that would be a neat selling point of a potential candidate—one who speaks, say, Mandarin or Tagalog or Hindi, etc.—I think would have a leg up on other candidates in terms of being able to communicate with large swaths of Canadians of certain heritages and would also have a nice little PR feather in her or his cap.
     
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  8. AlvinofDiaspar

    AlvinofDiaspar Moderator

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    I don't know if bilingualism in the official languages is that much of an issue, and will remain that much of an issue in the longer run. Stephen Harper by all accounts does not speak great French - and besides it is something one can polish along the way. And honestly, I am not sure if the demographics will continue to favour the Francophones.

    AoD
     
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  9. ADRM

    ADRM Senior Member

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    Right, good point—anyone who speaks decent French can attest to the fact that Harper's was pretty awful, and it didn't hold him back in a particularly significant way. He did work hard at it, by accounts, and there was obvious improvement in the quality over his tenure.

    It's also worth pointing out that there are benefits from an international perspective as it pertains to Canada's place in the world. In addition to, of course, another French-speaking G8 country, there are more than 50 countries in which French is the first language, and at least 70 million people worldwide speak it as their first. By comparison, both those numbers are higher than those corresponding to: Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Tamil, Italian, Persian, and Malay.

    The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie is the organization representing 57 countries with predominantly French-speaking populations, and
    Michaëlle Jean is the current Secretary-General. Our involvement with that organization is a nice bit of soft power projection.

    Having lived in both the UK and US for extended periods of time, I found that our bilingualism is seen as a defining characteristic, and one that I've come to be quite proud of and thankful for. Similarly, from Scotland to Catalonia, Friesland to Belgium, I've had many politicos spark discussions with me asking about how Canada has handled our bouts with separatism so well, comparatively—it's easy to lose sight of that during the flare-ups.
     
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  10. Mading

    Mading New Member

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    Now this is somewhat off-topic, but not entirely. I'll explain the relationship to this thread in the last paragraph.

    We'll soon be moving to Scarborough. As a Franco-Ontarian, I reserve a Constitutional right to register my child at a French language school. If you read the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, this right is conditional on my knowing French, my child's knowledge of French being irrelevant. Furthermore, since the courts have already proclaimed that provinces have a Constitutional obligation as a consequence of this right to better fund French language schools so as to compensate for the extra cost of teachers and the greater tendency of children to not know French due to high rates of exogamy and French not being spoken in the home, the province must provide extra funding for French as a second language for the first three years of school.

    Ironically, this creates a perverse motive for me to raise my child in an unofficial language. My wife and I address one another in Chinese. Besides Chinese, I also know Esperanto. My wife and I have discussed this matter and have decided that as per my Constitutional right to send my child to a French language school and the state's obligation to provide extra funding to integrate our child into the francoohone school environment, we will therefore raise the child in Chinese at home. One motive for moving to Scarborough is also the Chinese community there. To help our child make the transition from the Sino-Tibetan environment of the home and local Chinese community to the Indo-European one of the school, I intend to raise him in Esperanto whenever I'm addressing him alone. Though not technically a European language due to its somewhat non-European grammar, Esperanto is still a mostly Europesque language due to the majority of its morphemes. Esperanto could also help him with English and Spanish in high school.

    Some might counter that even if I did not know French, I could still raise my child in Chinese at home and benefit from ESL funding for the three years of school there. True. The difference though is that English language schools do not receive sufficient funding to teach French well, whereas French language schools do. So while overall non-linguistic academic qualities are the same at both schools, the French language schools receive extra funding for the language curriculum.

    This will give my child an unfair advantage over yours should he ever wish to become the Prime Minister, not to mention many other jobs.

    Isn't it ironic that the system unwittingly encourages parents to raise their children in an unofficial language so as to benefit from extra funding to develop multilingualism?

    To my mind, this is a bigger problem that the PM's former residency status from the standpoint of equality and democracy.

    Now just to clarify, just as legitimate criticism of Israel's human rights record does not legitimise anti-Semitism, so legitimate criticism of the Charter does not legitimize Francophobia. I'm a Francophone and Francophile who thinks the Constitution is seriously flawed and who is honest enough to acknowledge that the policy of official bilingualism is a product of the notion of "two founding races" developed in the B&BB Commision Report to the exclusion of indigenous and other people's. Contrary to popular belief, there was nothing altruistic about it. It was nothing more than a grand collusion between the "two founding races" against everyone else. You only need to read the B&B Commission Report to see that.
     
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  11. ADRM

    ADRM Senior Member

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    Super interesting perspective, thanks for sharing. At the end of the day, of course perversions tend to arise in any codified system and there are always imperfections and unforeseen offshoots. I think it's important to remember, though, that the existence or nonexistence of funding isn't the sole factor in a consideration of how a country or its laws support (or don't support) a particular belief or education system.
     
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  12. Johnny Au

    Johnny Au Senior Member

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    Mading, Chinese is not a single language, but a group of many related languages. Mandarin, Wu, Hakka, and Cantonese are distinct Chinese languages. Those languages are as different as French and Spanish are different, and yet, it would be absurd if one were to say that Quebeckers and Mexicans both speak Latin on a daily basis, given that French and Spanish both descended from Latin.
     
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  13. Mading

    Mading New Member

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    Unless specified, Chinese refers to what many mainlanders refer to as Putonghua (the common language) and everyone else refers to as Guoyü (the national language): Modern Standard Chinese, Mandarin, the official language of government administration in the mainland and in Taiwan and that Hongkongese are also studying more and more.
     
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  14. Mading

    Mading New Member

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    For example, if I say I speak English, unless otherwise specified, we're not talking Tok Pisin, but a official standard variety is intended.

    Even Hongkongese who speak Mandarin poorly refer to it as Guoyü (national language) and to Cantonese as Yüeyü (Guangdong language, or language of the ancient province of Yüe). The nation is understood to be China which cultural boundaries extend beyond the PRC by the way.
     
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  15. AlvinofDiaspar

    AlvinofDiaspar Moderator

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    Beg to differ a little on this, given the cultural differences between Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan and the fact that we have significant populations of each in the Canadian context, the use of the blanket term "Chinese" in reference to Putonghua can be problematical (think about what that assumption will do in situations where translation services are needed, for example). Fundamentally, Cantonese and Putonghua (not to mention Shanghainese, etc) - are not that inter-intelligible - it definitely isn't like UK vs. North American vs. Caribbean English.

    AoD
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2016
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