Before we start crying foul over delays and snafus in evacuating Canadians from Lebanon (PMO wanted Crisis Kept Under Wraps, Sources Say - July 20), let's pause and ask: What are 40,000 Canadians doing in Lebanon in the first place? They are not domestic help or unskilled labour, like Sri Lankans and Filipinos. France has historic ties with Lebanon, yet only 20,000 of its citizens are listed there. I do not recall a long history between Canada and Lebanon.
The answer is that the vast majority of them are not Canadians. They are Lebanese who obtained their Canadian passports and then chose, for various reasons, to return to their home country. Many of these so-called Canadians in Lebanon have no ties to Canada except their passports. They deserve to be treated as refugees from a war-torn country, but please stop the travesty of calling them Canadian.
PETER MALAKHOV, Toronto
This letter pissed me off for multiple reasons. In the interests of actually getting my letter published, I kept my response short, and focussed only on the last part of Mr. Malakhov's letter:
Peter Malakhov writes to the editor in the July 21 edition of the Globe and Mail, and requests "please stop the travesty of calling them Canadian." in reference to the Canadian citizens being evacuated from Lebanon. My Canadian citizenship should not be so fragile - regardless of whether I gained that citizenship by virtue of birth or immigration. The opinions of bigots in Canada should not eliminate my citizenship, nor should we cease refering to our fellow citizens by their proper designation. My citizenship should not change because somebody doesn't like my accent, or how I spell my name. Nor should it change if it becomes necessary to spend some of the tax-payers' money to assist Canadians in a time of need.
Burnaby, BC (submitted)
I'd like to use the unlimited space, and guaranteed-publication, of my own blog (soapbox) to create a more detailed, point-by-point response to Mr. Malakhov.
"What are 40,000 Canadians doing in Lebanon in the first place?"
Where does this estimate come from? I think it's probably reasonably accurate, but no source is provided - typical of a very short piece such as a letter to the editor. I have a rant brewing about unreferenced arguments, but it's not Monday, today.
More importantly, what business of Mr. Malakhov's is it that some arbitrary number of Canadians are in some particular place? Would he provide the same outrage to learn the number of Canadians currently in, say, China, or Sweden?
"They are not domestic help or unskilled labour, like Sri Lankans and Filipinos."
Another non-sequitor. Why should anyone care what the occupations of the Canadians in Lebanon are? Should we be more hasty in rescuing domestic help than tourists, or people visiting relatives? This seems to be written by Mr. Malakhov as an exploration of the answer to his first question - which itself is only barely relevant. And why does he assume that any Sri Lankans or Filipinos in Lebanon must be unskilled?
"France has historic ties with Lebanon, yet only 20,000 of its citizens are listed there."
Where to begin with this statement? "Historic ties"? What do you mean, Mr. Malakhov? Lebanon is a (nominally) independent country, but historically, France interfered in Lebanon - so, any French citizens in Lebanon must therefore be there as a result of this historical condition, and not there because of relatives in Lebanon, or recent migration from Lebanon? Apparently, the goal is to contrast the number Canadians in Lebanon with the number of another group of foreign nationals. What purpose is served by this contrast? If no other country had any citizens in Lebanon, would that absolve Canada of its responsibilities to its citizens?
"I do not recall a long history between Canada and Lebanon."
Logical Fallacy: Argument from ignorance. The fact that many people from Lebanon have moved to Canada within the last 20 or 30 years is a good thing, since these are the people who have escaped the recent civil war and general insecurity of Lebanon of the last 20 or 30 years. The fact that these people felt that Lebanon was now safe enough to visit again should be celebrated, not lamented.
"The answer is that the vast majority of them are not Canadians. They are Lebanese who obtained their Canadian passports and then chose, for various reasons, to return to their home country."
Here we see the core of Mr. Malakhov's argument. Anyone who immigrated to Canada from another country, then subsequently returns to that country, even for a short visit, is no longer a Canadian.
Fuck you, Mr. Malakhov, you bigoted, intolerant ass.
I was born in Canada, so presumably his argument cannot be applied to me. But I have friends and colleagues born in other countries, diverse other countries - should I treat them now as second class since every one of them has, at some point, re-visited the "home country"?
"Many of these so-called Canadians in Lebanon have no ties to Canada except their passports."
I think a passport is sufficient to qualify a person as a Canadian citizen - recent residence in Canada is not required, nor are frequent expressions of longing to return to Canada. If you become a Canadian citizen - by being born here or by naturalization, or by some aspect of parental citizenship - you are a Canadian citizen forever until you decide to renounce your Canadian citizenship. There is no automatic time-out for Canadian citizenship.
And, how do you know what someone's "ties" are to Canada? By your own estimate, Mr. Malakhov, there are 40,000 Canadians in Lebanon - are all of them such fair-weather citizens?
"They deserve to be treated as refugees from a war-torn country, but please stop the travesty of calling them Canadian."
I will not "stop the travesty". Here we see Mr. Malakhov's attempt to appear generous and compassionate - how generous is it, to strip someone of their citizenship from afar, with an intolerant grunt and the flourish of a pen?
Also, what treatment should refugees from a war-torn country recieve? Will you lobby to turn the planes of "refugees" back from the airports of Montreal and Toronto? Will you ask them to be shipped to "camps" on the outskirts of some third-world city?
Fuck you, Mr. Malakhov, you bigoted, intolerant ass.
**EDIT AND UPDATE JULY 24**
The Globe and Mail published my letter on Saturday, July 22. Huzzah! They edited it slightly - replacing "bigots" with "Mr. Malakhov and people like him". Not surprising, really, or actually irritating to me. I thought quite a bit about including that word - but I don't mind that the editor decided to euphemise just a little. The editor also cleaned up the second sentence a little - I'm a little unclear about the proper use of quotes, so that's also fine.
There was also an editorial on the same page, that said many of the same things I was trying to get across. It's nice to see someone who can write more eloquently than I express a similar opinion.
Also, there were a couple of other responses in a similar vein to mine - but one, in which the writer expresses offence at Mr. Malakhov's letter, is from someone married to a Lebanese - this isn't a problem, but as I was writing my letter, I thought about mentioning my total lack of involvement. Angry letters from people personally involved in an event are to be expected; I thought my opinion might carry slightly more weight (maybe?) because I qualify as "disinterested". Or maybe not, I merely have noticed that most of the respondants on this issue have been either Lebanese-Canadians or recent immigrants from other countries. This is true of most issues, as far as I can tell - the respondants are generally not obviously disinterested.