With Canada Day around the corner, questions about Canadian identity take center stage. The ties to Canada of the 2.8 million Canadians living overseas have received particular attention since the evacuation of 14,000 Canadians from Lebanon in 2006. Whether these citizens are “real” Canadians has become a hot public policy issue. The latest results from the 2010 National Opinion Poll conducted for APF Canada show that most Canadians believe citizens living overseas should have the same rights and privileges as Canadian residents in Canada.
When 2,903 Canadians were asked whether Canadians born abroad should have the same rights and privileges as Canadians born in Canada, 66% agreed. When asked about the continuation of the practice of dual citizenship, a solid 63% majority agreed. Most significantly, 73% of Canadians supported the idea of the Government of Canada setting up a central agency for Overseas Canadians.
Yuen Pau Woo, President and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation, said “Canadians recognize the global presence of their fellow citizens and support policies that would encourage Canadians abroad to maintain their attachments to Canada.” He added, “With as many as 2.8 million Canadians living overseas, there is a strong case for better policy coordination on issues affecting the Canadian diaspora.”
Despite the perceived importance of Canadians Abroad, new research reveals Canada’s policy toward its overseas citizens remains ‘disengaged’ and ‘incoherent.’ In Attached, Less Attached or Not Attached? Participation in Canada of Overseas Canadian Citizens, APF Canada Senior Research Analyst Kenny Zhang concludes that while overseas Canadians actively participate in the political, economic and social arenas of Canadian life, many policy disincentives prohibit them from showing stronger ‘attachment’ to Canada.
In Us and Them: The Plumbing and Poetry of Citizenship Policy and the Canadians Abroad, APF Canada researcher Ajay Parasram traces the evolution of citizenship policy from its earliest days, highlighting the role that Canadians abroad have had on the ‘poetry’ of Canadian citizenship. Arguing that ‘Canada must come to terms with its dual role as an immigrant sending and receiving country,’ Parasram highlights the ‘plumbing’ of citizenship policy that needs to be repaired in order to engage with Canadians in a changing transnational environment.
These reports are the latest output of a three-year Canadians Abroad Project initiated by the APF Canada with the support of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Government of British Columbia and the Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation.
The survey was conducted online on behalf of APF Canada by Angus Reid Public Opinion between March 3 and 10, 2010 of 2,903 responses. The national results are accurate within a margin of plus or minus 1.8% 19 times out of 20. The results were weighted by geography, gender and age according to the latest census data of Statistics Canada.