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by Omar M. Mohamed
Sunday, May 26, 2013

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Canada is a land of immigrants.  From the viewpoint of our native Indians and Eskimos, even the handful of French settlers lured to Quebec by Samuel de Champlain in the early 17th century were immigrants. For that matter, the Indians themselves were immigrants; they came across the Bering Strait from continental Asia as the glaciers of the last Ice Age slowly crept back to the Arctic.

It has been steady government policy to encourage the growth of the population by immigrants. In the ten-year period before the outbreak of World War I, nearly 3 million European immigrants streamed into Canada. Latter on Canada also provided a haven for a great number of refugees fleeing from religious or political persecution – including notably some 8,000 Czechs who fled their homeland after Russian invasion of 1968.  In the 70’s, Asians expelled from Uganda were welcomed and received in Canada.  More recently, Somalis fleeing from civil wars in their country of origin in the 1990’s were admitted in the country.

According to the Canada Citizenship Act, there are only two ways in which one can acquire Canadian Citizenship: by birth or by naturalization.

Anyone who is born in Canada, or on a Canadian ship or aircraft, and who has not assumed another nationality, automatically becomes a Canadian citizen. This also applies in most cases to someone who is born outside of Canada but whose father is Canadian.

All Indians and Eskimos are Canadian citizens if born within Canadian borders.

All foundlings (deserted babies) discovered in Canada are regarded in law as having been born in Canada and are citizens.

Being born in Canada does not mean automatic citizenship for someone whose parent was an alien at his birth, had not been admitted to Canada for permanent residence and was employed as a representative of a foreign government. Thus, a son born to the Somali ambassador while he is on duty in Ottawa does not automatically qualify for Canadian citizenship.

Naturalization is the term universally used to describe the process by which a person becomes a citizen, or national, of a country other than the one in which he was born. The basic requirements you need to qualify for naturalization in Canada are:

(1)  To gain admission legally to Canada for permanent residence (that is, to be landed immigrant).

(2)  To be at least 21 years old or (if under 21) to reside in Canada with a Canadian spouse.

(3)  To have resided in Canada for at least five of the previous eight years, and for 12 of the immediately proceeding 18 months.

(4)  To be a good character.

(5)  To have adequate knowledge of either the French or English language.

(6)  To have some knowledge of the rights and duties of the Canadian citizenship.

(7)  To be willing to swear allegiance to the queen of Canada.

(8)  To intent to have your place of domicile in Canada.

How to lose your citizenship:

There are four ways in which a Canadian can lose his/her citizenship:

(1)  By formal renunciation. This applies to a person who has another nationality; acquired by marriage or while a minor.

(2)  By not claiming Canadian rights by age 24. This applies to persons born outside Canada to Canadian parents and who remained abroad throughout their childhood.

(3)  By voluntarily and formally becoming (while outside of Canada and other than by marriage) a citizen of another country.

(4)  By having your certificate revoked on grounds that it was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation or on the grounds that, while residing in Canada, you acquired the nationality of a foreign country and declared allegiance to a foreign country.

A Canadian citizen who is also a citizen of another country and who serves in the armed forces of that country when it is at war with Canada ceases to be a Canadian.

The Act had the effect of making Canada just about the easiest country in the world to enter, Reside and acquire citizenship. Somali-Canadians qualify for both classes; parents came here as refugees and become naturalized citizens; their children are Canadian-born citizens.

The citizen is entitled to enjoy without discrimination the rights conferred by Canadian law. True that discrimination is outlawed in Canada today, being seen – along with its blood-brother, ultra-nationalism – as one of the most insidious obstacles to social harmony and world peace. Perhaps we still have a distance to go to the perfect state, but look at the recent record will show how far we’ve come in a hurry.

A couple of weeks ago the mayor of Toronto was allegedly video taped smoking crack pipe with drug dealers. A picture was posted in the front page of the Toronto Star of Mayor Rob Ford flanked by young black males whose identities were concealed. The Toronto Star went with a damning story – with little evidence – that these young black males were “Somali drug dealers”. The story not only tarnished the reputations of an entire community in Canada, but revealed how the court of public opinion sat and condemned Somali not citizen of Canada – NEVER!

The freedom of the Canadian press to publish what it pleases without censorship is, in effect, a form of freedom of speech. Despite being documented in the constitution, however, these freedoms are not absolute; they exist under the law and not above it. Legal limits restrict both freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the interests of the community as a whole. For instance, common law makes it an actionable wrong to falsely smear another person’s character. Actions that injure the rights of the general public are crimes.

Having said that, arguments can still be found that “you can’t legislate morals” and that only education can truly cut the roots of racial discrimination.  Let this be a signal that the general public attitude towards minorities has not improved – in the media, as in the taverns. With the presence of so many ethnic groups, Canada has a long way to go to a perfect society.

Omar M. Mohamed
[email protected]


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