190,000 Canadians in Hong Kong just lost voting rights – if treated as second-class citizens, will they act like them?

What social contract exists between Canadians living in Hong Kong, and the faraway nation which provides them a passport? Is geographical proximity an essential component of that contract, if the passport holder wants to enjoy the full privileges of Canadian citizenship – say, by voting in the upcoming federal election?

It’s no abstract debate. Last month, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued a ruling that eliminates federal voting rights for long-term expats, including an estimated 190,000 of the almost 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong. The basis of the ruling, which upholds a voting ban on those who have lived outside Canada for more than five years,  was  summarised by Chief Justice George Strathy, who described Canada’s political system as based on “geographically defined districts”.

Allowing all non-resident citizens to vote “would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis, but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives”, Strathy said in the July 20 ruling. “This would erode the social contract and undermine the legitimacy of the laws. The legislation [prohibiting voting by five-year non-residents] is aimed at strengthening Canada’s system of government and is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

That political rights should hinge on geographical presence grates with Yuen Pau Woo, the former president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation, now a distinguished East Asia fellow with the think tank. Read more

City For Sale: Vancouver, Foreign Money, And The Demise Of Home Affordability

There is Canada, and there is Vancouver. For people unfamiliar with Western Canada’s largest city, it may appear Vancouver is indeed one of our country’s major urban centres— a vital, integral component of our overall nationhood. They couldn’t be more misinformed. Yes, geographically-speaking, Vancouver is part of Canada. Beyond this, however, lies a truth seldom recognized—namely, that our fair city is an aberration within Canadian society.

Nowhere is this more apparent than upon investigation of the number one vehicle of the local economy— real estate, and the foreign money fuelling its engine.Truly, Vancouver is the “wild, wild west” of Canadian business culture. It appears anything goes in this lotus-land of the west, and the way things have gone for the past thirty years is in the direction of Asia, and in particular, the nation of China. Read more

Charter Challenge: Civil Liberties And The Erosion Of Canadian Culture

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, founded by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, is the most transformative piece of legislation in modern Canadian history.

Entrenched into our constitution in 1982, the Charter’s transformative nature is found not in its declaration of personal liberty and equality, but rather in how the legislation is utilized, and by whom. Surely, few Canadians oppose laws which guarantee individual rights such as freedom of speech, or freedom of assembly. The extension of these rights to all Canadians, regardless of race or religion, is very likely acceptable to the average Canadian— whether a recent arrival to our shores, or a descendent of those who farmed our prairie lands at the turn of the 20th century.

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