Calgary-born Ted Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas with presidential aspirations, says he will renounce his Canadian citizenship. For him, it's probably the right thing to do, but other prominent U.S. politicians haven't found their Canadian roots to be a handicap.
Cruz was born to a Cuban father and an American mother who ran a seismology company in Calgary. The family returned to the U.S. when Cruz was four. In a bit of delicious irony, he has had to make public his Alberta birth certificate to prove his American credentials through his mother's citizenship. The Republican senator has the backing of the Tea Party, members of which helped foment the controversy over President Barack Obama's birth. In an attempt to quell the controversy, Obama made his Hawaiian birth certificate public.
Apparently unaware until recently that his birthplace automatically made him a Canadian citizen, Cruz says he will apply to have that citizenship cancelled.
So he should. The U.S. Constitution says a president must be a "natural-born" citizen. Cruz will have trouble enough with xenophobic right-wingers who might regard someone born outside of the country as something less than a full citizen. Holding citizenship in two countries would be a definite handicap politically.
Political considerations aside, Cruz has no reason to hang onto Canadian citizenship. His sojourn in this country was brief and beyond his control. His parents were not Canadians; he has no roots here.
The U.S. has had some notable Canadian-born politicians and, as far as we can tell, they didn't feel it necessary to renounce Canadian citizenship.
Like Cruz, Vancouver-born Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011, moved to the U.S. with her family when she was four. She became a U.S. citizen at the age of 21, at which time she abandoned plans for an acting career and went to university, eventually graduating with a doctorate in law from Harvard University.
Former Montana governor Stan Stephens left his native Calgary for Montana at the age of 19 and embarked on a radio career, during which he earned the Edward R. Murrow award for journalistic excellence in editorials. As a state senator, he was recognized
as one of the top 10 state lawmakers in the U.S. He cherished his Canadian connections.
S.I. Hayakawa, a former U.S. senator from California and a linguist, was born in Vancouver, completed high school in Winnipeg and earned degrees from the University of Manitoba and Montreal's McGill University. He achieved prominence in both his academic and political careers.
And let's not forget Marvin Nicholson, who calls Victoria home, but spends a lot of time in the White House as President Barack Obama's trip director.
Some people hold dual citizenship because of birth or because of a conscious decision to make a home in another country. In itself, that is not a problem. More troubling are citizens of convenience, those who live elsewhere, but retain their citizenship so they can partake of the social benefits and call on the Canadian government when things get hot in their home country.
A rising concern is "birth tourists," expectant mothers who arrive in Canada just in time to give birth so their children are citizens and can be the means of bringing family members into Canada if it becomes advantageous to do so.
Canada should rewrite its laws so that mere birth in this country does not grant automatic citizenship. Citizenship should be valued, not just for the benefits it brings, but for the contributions it requires.
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