Friday, July 21, 2006

Letter to the Editor: Globe and Mail

There was a letter to the editor in today's Globe and Mail, that I decided to respond to. Under the heading "Canadians in Lebanon":

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.

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?

To re-iterate:
Fuck you, Mr. Malakhov, you bigoted, intolerant ass.


Typo fixed.

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.


Carlo said...

Way to go on this post man. I don't know, maybe it's because I've been reading a lot of fundamentalist literature lately, but I'm starting to think that ignorance is on the rise again (perhaps solely due to Southern U.S. birth-rates in the 80's...). You should read "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris: ignorance is scary...

P. Malakhov said...

Mr. Brummel:
It is only recently that I became aware of your blog post. Usually, I would not stoop to the level of argument that you are presenting here. Name-calling and profanity do not show the strength of your position.

I am no bigot, Mr. Brummell. I have nothing against Lebanese people, or any other people, for that matter. I welcome immigrants and refugees who come to this country in good faith, with the goal of becoming Canadian. I support Canadian immigration policy as long as it is not being abused. In fact, I am an immigrant myself, having landed in this country just over 10 years ago.

I do not, however, accept the institution of dual (or multiple) citizenship, and I do not like people who take advantage of the system. And evacuation of so-called Canadians from Lebanon was a prime example of the latter.

Citizenship, in my opinion, is not a right – It is a privilege that comes with certain obligations. Citizens are expected to have ties to their home country, which commonly includes maintaining residence, paying taxes, participating in the civic process, and sharing their country’s culture. It is safe to assume that large majority of Lebanese-Canadians residing in Lebanon failed to demonstrate any of these commitments.

These people, Mr. Brummell, are Canadian in name only, and only when it is convenient for them. They have lost ties to Canada when they elected to return to their home country (Lebanon) for permanent residence. They used their Canadian passports as means of transportation, a free pass out of a conflict zone. It is only fair, then, that Canadian taxpayers should not be responsible for the cost of their evacuation. That was the point of my letter.

TheBrummell said...

Mr. Malakhov,

Thank you for your reply. I maintain my earlier point, though I would be willing to revisit my insults against you.

We may just have to disagree, as I still feel that citizenship, dual or otherwise, is not something that can be revoked except under the most extreme of circumstances. Returning to the country of one's birth to live, after having lived in Canada for sufficient time and satisfying the other conditions to acheive Canadian citizenship, does in no way qualify as extreme circumstances.

The passage of time has cooled my ardour, Mr. Malakhov, so I no longer wish to shout obscenities at you. But I continue to disagree wholehartedly with your argument regarding the rights and priviledges of Canadian citizenship.

P.Malakhov said...

We have to agree to disagree on this topic, and I certainly prefer it done in a civilized manner.

You choose not to see any difference between born and naturalized citizens; to me, the difference is clear. In my opinion, a person who obtains Canadian passport without renouncing their original citizenship does not qualify as a bona fide Canadian citizen.

Which, by the way, is by no means limited to Lebanese-Canadians. I would have even sympathized with their plight, if only they did not accuse Canadian government of abandoning them, while they were the ones who abandoned Canada in the first place by resettling in Lebanon.

This is what prompted me to write my letter, which, I agree, was too emotional and not well thought through.

Peter M said...

Still defending Lebanese immigrants, huh? It may be time to delete your blog post.

"Ottawa to strip fraudsters of citizenship

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is preparing to crack down on thousands of people who obtained their Canadian citizenship or permanent resident’s status illegally.

Postmedia’s Tobi Cohen reports the government is planning to go after 4,700 people who improperly obtained their citizenship or access to the country.

Ms. Cohen says the bulk of the citizenship fraud cases are said to be linked to immigration consultant Nizar Zakka as well as Halifax immigration consultant Hassan Al-Awaid, who was charged in March with more than 50 citizenship fraud-related offences.

Mr. Zakka, she says, is suspected of providing would-be Lebanese immigrants with false evidence – indicating that they were living in Quebec when they were not – to support their applications for permanent residency. "

TheBrummell said...

Peter, your comment is confusing.

Why would I want to delete a blog post? The reasons to do so are a very short list, and a government decision is not on it.

At no point did I defend illegal actions - in fact, I was defending government actions (spending taxpayer money, basically) against the apparent complaints of Mr. Malakhov.

Peter, your comments suggest a certain level of prejudice against Lebanese and against Lebanese-Canadians. Please take your implied bigotry and your stupidity elsewhere.

PM said...

The reasons for my post are clear. It is an established fact that a large number of Lebanese-Canadians have committed immigration fraud by resettling in Lebanon while awaiting the decision on their permanent residency or immigration status.

It would be natural to conclude that a large number of these fraudulent immigrants were the ones who had to be rescued by the Canadian government during the war.

I have no bias against any specific group of immigrants to Canada as long as they play by the rules. It is obvious from the above article that a large number of Lebanese immigrants to Canada did not play by the rules; in fact, they actively violated the rules and gained their Canadian citizenship by way of fraud.

I must only add that personal insults will get you nowhere, and do not speak to your maturity or intelligence.

TheBrummell said...

PM, you are (in a respectful and polite way, at least towards me) using population-level statistics to make inferences about individuals. I'd like to see some references for those stats - "a large number" - and some perspective on what "a large number" really means. 1%? 10%? 99%?

Regardless, I fail to see the direct link between a fraction of a group and a group in another country at another time. Yes, I agree it is likely that Lebanese-Canadians can be found in Lebanon, but I need to see much stronger evidence, at the level of specific individuals, before I'm willing to agree that a person who committed immigration fraud is the same person who was rescued from a country during a time of strife and turmoil.

My name calling, insults, and other forms of general rudeness neither add nor subtract from my position.

Ruth said...

Hi Martin, Very interesting points made by all. Perhaps you could wait 12 or even 24 hours before responding to people who write to you. Although your rudeness on your own blog is (of course) completely up to you, it is not necessary and perhaps a more creative way to express your anger would be more...polite, entertaining, interesting, engaging...
Oh and please write again to the G&M. Love to hear your well thought out arguments (minus the expletives).

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth said...

ps: Mr. M, Brummell, 2 'M's and 2 'L's