Are you one of us?

Michael Ignatieff reemerges with some thoughts on expatriation.

May 2 must have been the only Canadian election, and maybe one of the few elections anywhere, when expatriation became an issue that moved votes – in my case, the wrong way. I’d never say it was the decisive factor, but friends on the doorsteps kept reporting back: They all think you’re an American. To the degree that this issue mattered, the results of May 2 have a message: As far as expatriates are concerned, you can’t come home again if your destination is politics.

That’s how it is now, but pretty soon no one will remember what the fuss was about. The next generation is quietly redefining what it means to be a Canadian. They’re ignoring the attack ads and the chatter from the schoolyard of Ottawa politics. So many of the young Canadians I meet want to be global citizens. They want to be expatriates. They want a life that includes a couple of years in Mumbai or Shanghai, a summer teaching English in Tanzania, a year or longer working for some company in South Korea.




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Are you one of us?

  1. Why doesn’t Canada let ex-pats vote?

  2. Canadians are having trouble coping with globalization.

    It’s showing up in everything from education to foreign policy….but this particular manifestation of it ….the ‘real’ Canadian issue… was particularly stupid.

    3 million Canadians living abroad….the 11th province they’re called.

  3. There’s a difference between spending a couple years abroad and spending almost your entire adult life abroad.

    If someone lived in the States or Britain for a few years, came back and worked in Canada for a while, and went into politics, I doubt that the public would have any substantial objections.  In Ignatieff’s case, he completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Canada, lived outside the country for the next 20-some years, and then came back and immediately went into politics, aiming for leadership of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister-ship.  That seems to me a rather different thing.

    I don’t think it was pure personal ambition.  I think he had good ideas, needed a country to implement them in, and saw Canada as available.

    • Learned about the world and brought that knowledge home to Canada….a good thing.

    • As he explains in the Globe, he came back regularly, “writing for Canadian newspapers, broadcasting on the CBC, summers teaching at Banff, lectures everywhere…”  Michael Ignatieff did nothing wrong.  The problem lies with those living in Canada, those who don’t value the work done by Canadians outside of Canada.  If Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge had been in Canada it would have been different.  But they are not.   Marc Garneau has the same problem with Quebeckers who don’t accept he made his career abroad.

      But it is impossible to be an astronaut with NASA or a scholar at Oxford and Cambridge without leaving the country.  So for those who seek the highest positions abroad, they should be warned:  Canadians don’t accept success.  They prefer second-rate status, or if you wish, the Harper vision of Canada and Canadians.

      However, I think that the defeat of Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals had more to do with the lack of a interesting program than anything else.

      • So for those who seek the highest positions abroad, they should be warned:  Canadians don’t accept success.  They prefer second-rate status, or if you wish, the Harper vision of Canada and Canadians.

        I’d be very surprised if this conclusion is actually correct.

        • Canada has long been known for ‘tall poppy syndrome’

      • You seem to be drawing some unwarranted conclusions here. I don’t think even the most rabid Conservative supporters were claiming that Ignatieff had done anything wrong.  I also don’t think that passing on Ignatieff is evidence that Canadians don’t accept success or as Emily claims suffer from “tall poppy syndrome”.

        I’m an expatriate Briton and a Canadian citizen.  I’ve been living in Canada for about the same time that Ignatieff has been living away from Canada, and I go back to England every year to visit family and I make some effort to follow UK politics.  The idea of returning to the UK to seek election as an MP, let alone the PM seems completely inappropriate to me.

        Please note, I’m not claiming that anyone is likely to want to recruit me as a prospective leader of their party, I just find it amazing that you won’t admit that not having lived in Canada for twenty years isn’t important.Why couldn’t the Liberal party find someone just as bright and just as successful who had also chosen to live in Canada for the last twenty years?  I’m sure such people exist.  

        However, I do agree with you that I think the Liberals real problem wasn’t Ignatieff.

        • ‘ I just find it amazing that you won’t admit that not having lived in Canada for twenty years isn’t important.’

          Because it isn’t.  Simple as that.

          And here are the poppies

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_poppy_syndrome

    • The one thing to remember about Michael Ignatieff’s experience studying and then working abroad is that he might very well have had the intention of returning permanently but “life” got in the way.  As in he met his first wife and had a family as well as a growing career as a public intellectual and media commentator.

      Whatever desire he might have had to come back was weighed against what he had going on in his life at the time.

      Anybody who has lived abroad (whether a Canadian overseas or an immigrant coming here) would know what that is like unless of course you have never been anywhere except for a vacation in Mexico or done anything but be in politics before becoming Prme Minister.

    • There’s a difference between spending a couple years abroad and spending almost your entire adult life abroad.

      True, but what if you returned often during that time? Perhaps returned many times in the summer to say, teach? Maybe participated in some government consulting? Are we also going to put time limits on citizenship completely?

      Personally, I think Rick Mercer described my view of things pretty well in this rant. The salient point is this:

      Now
      don’t get me wrong, I don’t care if they go after Ignatieff over some
      policy that he might have. Have at him! I just can’t believe after all
      these years they’re still harping on the fact that he worked outside of
      the country. And I take this personally because I’m from Newfoundland.
      And like a lot of Newfoundlanders, when I became an adult, I went away
      to work. In fact I have worked away from Newfoundland for about as long
      as Michael Ignatieff worked outside the country. And if Stephen Harper
      ever looked me in the eyes and said you’re not a Newfoundlander I think
      my head would come off. Or better yet, I would love to see him say that
      to say, Gordon Pinsent, because who doesn’t like to sit back and watch
      an eighty year old man slap the hell out of someone half his age.

      • As an expat NLer myself, I was tempted to make that very point further up the thread. Glad I scrolled down first; Rick put it much better that I ever could! Thanks for both making my point and giving me a chuckle!

  4. There’s an interesting letter to the editor in Today’s Globe from a Canadian of Italian origin.  He explains how differently Italy treats its diaspora, including the right to vote in Italian election.  I think it has to do with the maturity of the culture, or in the case of Canada, the lack of one.  Except of course for the Canadiens who have a long history, a language, a folklore, a literary and musical culture, a culinary culture. I think Canadians have problems dealing with the fact that they don’t value a culture that differs from the US culture. Un sentiment d’infériorité? 

    • No Canadian literary culture? Do you live under a rock?

      • Canadians don’t value their literary culture.  I’m not saying they don’t have one.

      • By the way, how do you think this magazine you’re commenting at manages to survive?

    • I don’t really think we need to take political lessons from Italy. In its short history as a nation (shorter than Canada’s) it has wobbled between fascism and incompetent and chaotic democracy. Not copying them would appear to be a better idea.

      • I think you’re screaming ‘inferiority complex’.

        Italy has been around for thousands of years…it’s where your pope lives.

        • The Italian culture and people have been around for thousands of years, but strictly speaking, Canada as a country is older than Italy.

          • Well if you narrow the goalposts that much, yes.

            Which would mean BCers aren’t ‘real’ Canadians because they didn’t join until 1871.

            Albertans joined in 1905.

            And Newfs are complete newbies

            I’m sure we could narrow ‘real’ Canadians down even further if we tried.  LOL

          • Don’t give Harper any ideas, he’s already narrowed the definition too far IMHO

          • @leroy22:disqus 

            Quite true…this whole narrowing of the definition began with Harper, and who knows how far he intends to carry it.

          • Strictly speaking that is not true.  Italy as an independent state was formed in 1861.  Canada as a self-governing country only in 1867 when the BNA act was enacted

    • Quebec isn’t the only region with its own unique culture and history, Loraine. NL was its own country until 1949. I’m sure there are other regions that might also want to dispute your assertion.

      This cultural superiority thing really doesn’t endear Quebec to the rest of the country.

  5. My daughter, still in her twenties, has lived in UK and Australia, and travelled to more countries overseas than I could name, throughout Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Oz.  She is really a true citizen of the world — she has been home in between visas to work here for a year or two at a time, and then off she goes again.  I imagine she will eventually settle somewhere, but accept that it may not be here.

    But make no mistake about it: she is a proud Canadian, always forming special events for Canadians living wherever she is at the time and following our politics and news, cheering for fellow Canucks who do well in the world.  She has not rejected her homeland: she is simply experiencing all the big beautiful world may offer her.  I admire her sense of adventure and curiosity, and her work ethic.  I miss seeing her, but visiting her or travelling with her has made me a more worldly person.

    Why worldliness should make one a second-rate Canadian is beyond me.  Really it just sounds like petty envy — staying your whole life within a nation’s borders do not make for a better citizen.

  6. Steve Pinker ~ I think this confusion leads intellectuals and artists themselves to believe that the elite arts and humanities are a kind of higher, exalted form of human endeavor. 

    Ignatieff and some Liberals are witless. People expect their leaders to show appreciation of country, not live elsewhere for 30 years and then return and expect to be PM.

    Only in Canada would a party think it clever to have an expat lead their party to destruction. 

    And lets remember that Iggy did not become leader of his own party by election, Iggy used his backroom staff to anoint himself after being dragged back to Canada with promises of glory. 

    Liberals were just as parochial and skeptical as the rest of Canada. 

    Prime Minister is one of few jobs in Canada where people will care a great deal where you have lived your entire adult life. Few people questioned whether Iggy is Canadian but Canadians did question his fitness to lead country. 

    “In the case of the Canadian flag, I cannot entirely forget that it is both my flag and a passing imitation of a beer label.”

    “Mr. Davey and Mr. Brock enticed Mr. Ignatieff to leave Harvard and move back to Canada in 2005 so he could enter politics.

    Michael Ignatieff has confirmed Ottawa’s worst-kept secret by announcing he will run again for the leadership of the federal Liberal party.

    “I’m running because I love my country, because I love my party, and because I believe I can offer the leadership this country needs in tough times,” he said at a low-key press conference.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/article722817.ece

    • I also care about what a potential PM  has done in his life.  The fact that Stephen Harper did not have the intellectual curiosity to travel outside of his homeland lead me to the conclusion he was not fit for office. 

      • Not so much the lack of travel as his wearing it as a badge of honour is what bothered me…

  7. Of course they want to be allowed to live in other countries……while scamming the Canadians and sucking what they can of their Benefits without having to pay for them.   Who are you kidding Iggy.??

    • If people aren’t physically living here, they aren’t getting any benefits here.

      • Disqus generic email template I
        ; It doesn’t mean they don’t hold an OHIP card and they can return and access the Health System without admitting they don’t live here.

        —– Original Message —–
        From: Disqus
        To: cstuart0414@rogers.com
        Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 11:31 AM
        Subject: [macleansca] Re: Are you one of us? – Beyond The Commons – Macleans.ca

        OriginalEmily1 wrote, in response to Joshua6:

        If people aren’t physically living here, they aren’t getting any benefits here.

        Link to comment

        • OHIP cards have expiry dates.

          • Disqus generic email templateYes they do have an expiry date……5 years after you apply for them. A lot can be done in 5 year period.
            —– Original Message —–
            From: Disqus
            To: cstuart0414@rogers.com
            Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 11:56 AM
            Subject: [macleansca] Re: Are you one of us? – Beyond The Commons – Macleans.ca

            OriginalEmily1 wrote, in response to Joshua6:

            OHIP cards have expiry dates.

            Link to comment

          • OMG…why they could run off with the national treasury in that time!

            Are you the Con summer-temp misanthrope?

            Or is it just Canadians you hate?

        • You lose your OHIP coverage if you have been living outside the province for more than 6 months regardless of the expriy date on your OHIP card. It would be fraud to lie about residency to get medical treatment.

          I don’t know why you think all Canadians living overseas are criminals… what a terrible world view.

          • Disqus generic email templateI didn’t say all Canadians were criminals……I am talking about the ones who “choose” to be Canadians and are here long enough to apply for their card and disappear back to their own Country for long periods of time. Of course your card expires if out of the country for more than 6 months……who checks this??? You have to let them know you have been out of the country and anyone looking to take advantage of the system would not admit to that.
            —– Original Message —–
            From: Disqus
            To: cstuart0414@rogers.com
            Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:10 PM
            Subject: [macleansca] Re: Are you one of us? – Beyond The Commons – Macleans.ca

            David_Nicholson wrote, in response to Joshua6:

            You lose your OHIP coverage if you have been living outside the province for more than 6 months regardless of the expriy date on your OHIP card. It would be fraud to lie about residency to get medical treatment. I don’t why you think all Canadians living overseas are criminals… what a terrible world view.

            Link to comment

          • Try to keep up.  David Nicholson said you accused all Canadians LIVING ABROAD of being criminals.  And while you rebut that you didn’t say all Canadians were criminals, you then go on to accuse all Canadians LIVING ABROAD of criminal behaviour a second time.

            This is similar to staunchly defending an accusation that was never made while ignoring and even confirming the accusation that was made.  And when I say “similar” I mean “exactly the same”.

          • Everyone’s a criminal except them.  That’s why they want unlimited surveillance capability.  They’re going to nab people sneaking back to Canada and waiting a year to get their hip replaced.

  8. It must have been the background music that convinced me.

  9. So many of the young Canadians I meet want to be global citizens.
    They want to be expatriates. They want a life that includes a couple of
    years in Mumbai or Shanghai, a summer teaching English in Tanzania, a
    year or longer working for some company in South Korea.

    You were gone for over 30 years, dude! You were a terrible leader. Get over yourself. Go back to Harvard or wherever. Man.

    • So…is Wayne Gretzky a Canadian?

      • Of course.

        Does Don Cherry wear awful jackets?

        Of course.

        The question has about as much relevance to what I said as yours. lol. Next.

        • Oh…so it’s only Liberal politicians who’ve lived outside the country who aren’t ‘real’ Canadians

          Hockey players like Gretsky….who will live the rest of his life in the US…are of course ALWAYS Canadian…..why didn’t you just say so?

          It’s simply political, nothing more.  Now we know.

          • Wow, you’re either slower than usual today, or up to your usual agitations. Where did I say Iggy wasn’t a “real” Canadian? For that matter, when did Gretzky ever come back to run for prime minister? For what it’s worth, he’d probably be a better candidate than Iggy. lol

          • LOL anyone who believes a multi-millionaire dressed in a flaming pink jacket, while ranting about ‘pinko lefties’ is a ‘redneck’ like he claims….will believe anything, including your confused logic on hockey players vs politicians.

          • You are completely content to agitate in this thread rather than address even one point raised. Amazing. Next.

          • @Dennis_F:disqus 

            Amazing how you consider someone with an opinion that differs from your own is ‘agitating’. LOL

            Same old walking into doors you always do. Blam!

      • Excellent question.

        We want to latch on to any reflected glory we can from the likes of Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr or Steve Nash or Michael J. Fox but anybody coming here must prove they love us more than wherever they hail from.

        We want anybody coming here to choose us while anybody going abroad must remain loyal.

        • Next we’ll be requiring secret passwords and blood oaths!

        • Moreover, we don’t seem to believe Canadians have “made it” until they’ve made a name elsewhere, preferably in the US.  THEN we glom onto them as “Great Canadians.”  But the greatness was bestowed after they left…

          • Yes, it’s a Catch-22 isn’t it….

            They can’t be a ‘real success’ if they’re still here….but if they go away and make it….they can’t be ‘real Canadians’

            So you can be a real Canadian only if you’re a failure.

            Boy there’s a formula for disaster if there ever was one

      • Wayne Gretzsky is a Californian. I call him the Orange One.

        He looked thoroughly unimpressed the entire time he was in the opening and closing ceremonies in Vancouver.

    • Well, that’s wrong, but it was amusing.

  10. Ignatieff: To the degree that this issue mattered, the results of May 2 have a message: As far as expatriates are concerned, you can’t come home again if your destination is politics.

    I think the message is more like: You can’t expect to become Prime Minister of a country if you’ve spent the overwhelming majority of your life as an expatriate and you just came back to take a run at the top job. 

    If Ignatieff had set his sights a tad lower (i.e. if he wasn’t trying to become Canada’s Head of Government) then his 34 years abroad wouldn’t have even been an issue.

    Canadians are among the most open-minded and least xenophobic people on the planet. 

    • If Ignatieff had set his sights a tad lower (i.e. if he wasn’t trying to
      become Canada’s Head of Government) then his 34 years abroad wouldn’t
      have even been an issue
      .

      So the message is less “don’t come back if you want to go into politics” it’s more “if you want to come back to go into politics, realize that your status as an expatriate will limit how far you’ll be able to go”.  Still not the most inspiring message for a Canadian working overseas to hear.

      • Especially since PM Turner was a British citizen….

        • Did anyone know or care that Turner was born in the UK? I doubt it.

          • Turner was a British citizen…not just born in the UK

            Clement was born in the UK…he may well still be a citizen there too

            It only mattered when it was Ignatieff…born here…but somehow ‘abroad’ too long.

            And yes we knew that about Turner at the time, and no, nobody cared…..but then Harper wasn t around at that time

          • You’re making a false equivalency.  Nobody cares if an important politician was born elsewhere.  Canada is a nation of immigrants. 

            However, if you were born here but chose to live 90% of your adult life elsewhere, that’s a problem for at least some voters if you’re running for the highest office in the land.

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            LOL so nobody cares if our PM is another nationality altogether….but they do care about a born Canadian who’s lived and worked abroad.

            That makes no sense at all….which is probably why we’re rapidly becoming a nation of emigrants.

          • Don’t forget the character assasination attempt made on M. Dion when it came out that he had French citizenship because his Monther was from France.

            Canadians are open-minded but the Conservatives know how to push all the hot buttons and have the financial resources to get their message out, loud and often.

          • @Farandwide:disqus 

            Yup we can have an English queen, and British PMs, but not a Canadian/French dual citizen…or a leader who spent time outside Canada.

            Weird.

          • And let’s not forget that while he was prime minister he was not a member a member of the HoC

          • Nope, and nobody cared

            It’s only been an issue since Harper arrived

      • I think most expatriates wouldn’t have a problem with the fact that if they’ve lived abroad for most of their life, it might interfere with their prime ministerial ambitions, especially if that’s pretty much the only job where their time abroad would be seen as a hindrance.

        • Oh well, as long as you think they ‘like it’….I suppose it’s alright

      • Hell I guess I’m screwed.

      • Obviously CR can defend himself…however, I believe you are partially mischaracterizing his comment….

        The message (as I understand it) to someone who has basically been away for 3 decades, give or take, even allowing that they maintained close tabs on their native land for that whole time is “if you want to come back to go into politics, realize that your status as an expatriate is very likely to have at least a short term impact on how far you’ll be able to go”.

        So, had Ignatieff skipped that first leadership opportunity, promising instead to spend some years reacquainting himself with the country, he would have significantly dulled those “Just Visiting” attacks.  The CPC might still have run with the “Just Visiting” line regardless, and some voters would have “bought in”, but it would not have been anywhere near as effective.

        OTOH, I’m not going to claim that had Ignatieff delayed his ascendancy to the LPC leadership, he would have “guaranteed” himself enough support to ever become PM – I’ll say that in addition to the expatriate “problem” there were at least a few other shortcomings that the voters just couldn’t get past.

        Also, I’ll suggest that some other expat, with exactly the same timelines but a better platform, with a better feel for what constitutes an outrage, with more “charisma” could have overcome the expatriate “problem”.

    • Then explain Dion and GG Jean.

      Canadians are apparently far more close-minded and xenophobic than you realize

  11. I have spent more than 25 years living outside of Canada and yet I consider myself 100 percent Canadian. Michael Ignatieff lost the election for many reasons, but being an expatriate was not one of them.

    The reason the tag line about “he didn’t come back for you” stuck was that he never adequately explained what his vision for Canada was. He may have an excellent vision (that’s beside the point), but he wasn’t very good at communicating it. The average person just saw someone who had the leadership of a party handed to him on a platter and expected others to immediately think he deserved it.

    • The ‘average person’  thought he wasn’t a Canadian….all the ads said so you know

      • The ads didn’t say he wasn’t Canadian. The ads said his connections to Canada were weak.

        • Most people aren’t ‘Philidelphia lawyers’ and they don’t parse every word of an ad to see if a word was left out. Mostly they rush to shut them off.

          And the ads were wrong either way

          • They may have been ‘attack ads’, and you may not have liked them, but they had a good point.
            I posted at the time, about a story written for Macleans by Peter C Newman, that detailed how Ignatieff got involved with the LPC. It was initiated by the LPC, and the intent was for him to become PM. I didn’t need any attack ads, that article said it all for me.

          • Then you should read more

            Iggy was a Liberal as a young man here, conventions and all.

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus
            Find and read the article, and then comment.

      • I thought the ads said that ‘he didn’t come back for you’? That would mean that his citizenship wasn’t the issue – it was his motivation. He never answered the ads adequately was the problem. If he had an acceptable “I came back because . . . and I plan to . . .”, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

        • As I replied upthread, the implication in all the ads was that Iggy wasn’t a Canadian…people don’t parse the words you know, they just get the gist

          Cons attributed a motivation to him.

          • I read that – I am contesting it.
            Yes they were attack ads, but they were not attacking his citizenship, they were attacking his motives. That is what stuck.

          • Maybe with you, but most people ended up thinking he was American.

  12. Canadian expats should be able to vote if they are willing to pay Canadian income tax while abroad like US citizens do..

    • Canadian expats should be able to vote…period.

      • Actually, Emily, I do not disagree with you. In a perfect world all Canadian citizens should have the right to vote.
        My proposal was a compromise in order to respond to those who claim that Canadian citizens living abroad do not contribute to the social safety net through their taxes. The way the Americans address this issue is by having all US citizens pay income taxes. If we did the same, the argument would go away.

        • A great many Americans pay no tax at all…at home or abroad.  Technically speaking an American isn’t supposed to be a dual citizen at all….but many are…even triple and quadruple citizens.

          Canadians abroad are abroad…they aren’t using any social safety net here, and I doubt you’d get much tax from a nurse in Somalia anyway.

          This is just the temporary turmoil of a world changing into global citizens.

          • Emily, I assume that when you say that many Americans pay no tax at all, I assume you mean people with very low income?

          • No, I mean Americans who bank elsewhere, and companies like GE…and people who get tax cuts for things like yachts, or who talk dumbarses like Bush into lowering taxes for the rich

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus
            Companies are not Americans.
            People who bank elsewhere still pay tax, unless they are breaking the law.
            The AMT prevents anyone, regardless of how many deductions they have, from paying no tax.

  13. Why won’t Iggy just leave us alone for a while?  The whining and crybabying is getting old.

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