Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dueling over Dualing

There was a good bit of laughing and sneering in my newsroom at the American evacuation of its citizens from Lebanon when the war began, over the issue that the U.S. was making them pay up front for the trip home. Oh, how typically cold-hearted, capitalistic, and socially irresponsible of us to dun refugees! The same folks tend to hold Canada in high regard. So here's how it looked from the Canadian perspective:

Maybe it was the complaining that did it. Here was the Canadian government spending a yet-untold sum to evacuate Lebanese Canadians from a war zone, while most Canadians were coming to terms with the fact that there were enough dual citizens living in Lebanon -- around 40,000 -- to fill a small city. Then came the complaints of some evacuees about disorganization and nauseating conditions on the boat ride out. One evacuee said she would have preferred to stay under the bombs, another said she was ashamed to be Canadian. Although most evacuees said they were grateful, well, some Canadians finally snapped.

"If they don't live here and don't pay taxes, and may never be coming back, what is the responsibility of the government of Canada supported by the Canadian taxpayer?" asks Garth Turner, Tory MP for Halton, Ont. His website became one of numerous forums for the outpouring of passions around the country, where critics disparaged "Canadians of convenience" and "dualies" who use their passports as "insurance." The outraged calls streaming into his office "became an overwhelming chorus of concern," says Turner.