Globe and Mail, June 27, 2011
(The following is a list of ex-patriot Canadians and the countries in which they are living:)
United States: 1,062,640 Canadian citizens
United Kingdom: 73,000
South Korea: 14,210
Hong Kong: 300,000
New Zealand: 7,770
Some Questions for your reflection and response:
- What are the primary differences between your native land and your adopted land?
- How amenable are you to serving as a Canadian diaspora, providing information to the Canadian government to facilitate enhanced relationships between your adopted country and the land of your birth?
- How long have you been there?
- How long do you intend to stay?
- Do you intend to return to Canada?
- How do you keep in touch with Canada and its affairs?
- Would you be interested in communicating with other ex-pats in different countries, about Canada?
- Are there specific issues and questions about Canada for which you would like information?
- Is the Canadian government providing adequate services to its Canadian citizens living abroad?
- If not, what additional services would be helpful?
Thank you for considering this request.
By Joe Friesen, Globe and Mail, June 28, 2011
Canadians are divided on whether citizens living abroad should retain the right to vote in Canadian elections, just one example of Canada’s mixed feelings toward its expatriate citizens.
A survey conducted for the Asia Pacific Foundation found 51 per cent of Canadians believe those who live outside Canada should have the same voting rights as other Canadians, compared to 43 per cent who were opposed. Currently, Canadians abroad can continue to cast a ballot until they’ve been out of the country for five years.
But Canadians are often ambivalent about their obligation to compatriots abroad, as illustrated by widespread resentment over the costly evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon during the conflict with Israel in 2006.
While citizens of the United States who live out of the country maintain the right to vote in U.S. elections, and Italy and other countries allow citizens abroad to elect members of Parliament, Canada revokes the franchise.
Don DeVoretz, an economist at Simon Fraser University, said Canada’s voting policy is confusing.
“We allow you to be a dual citizen, but if you live overseas for more than five years you lose your right to vote. That sort of cuts your interest in Canada if you can’t vote any more,” Prof. DeVoretz said.
Mike Quinn, the 30-year-old Canadian CEO of a technology company in Zambia, was dismayed that he couldn’t vote in the last federal election after being out of the country for several years, including time spent studying at the London School of Economics and Oxford University.
“I was a bit surprised that someone like me isn’t recognized as being worthy of making a political contribution to my home country, even though it’s very much part of my identity,” Mr. Quinn said. “I do believe [voting] is a fundamental principle of a democracy, and the Canadians I know here are very much Canadians – even if they’re living in Zambia.”
A recent report by the Asia Pacific Foundation argues Canada needs to do more to engage its citizens abroad, and to see them as a potential asset rather than a liability. Canadians living in the U.S., for example, are seven times more likely than those in Canada to have a professional or doctoral degree and more than twice as likely to have a bachelor’s degree, making them a potentially influential group, according to research by economist Ross Finnie.
Of course, we at the acorncentreblog.com, support the right to vote for all ex-patriots, including those who have been out of the country for more than five years. In that way, there will be some incentive to remain familiar with at least the highlights of Canadian events, personalities and issues. And such an exercise is not only much easier today than ever before, it is also worthwhile both for the ex-pat to continue to compare his/her native land with the developments of his/her adopted country.