The new Liberal Party leader has found himself at the center of a new controversy that might impact his national standing. Stephane Dion has dual citizenship in Canada and France through his mother and refuses to renounce it. That will create the prospect of electing a Prime Minister with at least the appearance of divided loyalties in the next national elections:
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion says his loyalty to Canada is unquestioned, despite the fact he holds French citizenship.
“My loyalty is for Canada. Period,” Dion said yesterday.
The newly crowned opposition leader holds dual citizenship thanks to his mother, who was born in Paris. Faced with questions on whether he should relinquish his French citizenship because of his new position, Dion — who is one of Canada’s leading defenders of federalism — shrugged and asked why.
“If nobody is questioning my loyalty, what is the point?” he said, adding that anyone who doubts his commitment to Canada should keep their “opinions to themselves.”
When the Liberals selected Michaëlle Jean as the new governor general in 2005, she renounced her secondary citizenship in France as part of her acceptance of a leadership role in Canada. Dion does not appear to have the same impulse. His political opponents question his judgment on the issue; NDP leader Jack Layton responded that he would prefer party leaders that had only one citizenship.
The question of loyalty can be an issue in Canada, where their Quebec province has threatened to secede for decades. Ironically, Dion apparently does not support sovereigntists, even though he himself is a Quebecker. Still, with the question almost always at the forefront of Canadian politics, it will be an issue for the Liberals when they go to the polls next, probably in 2007.
Has there ever been a government leader with dual citizenship, either in Canada or anywhere else? Alberto Fujimori claimed not to have citizenship anywhere else but Peru, but later found that he had maintained the dual citizenship his parents established after his birth in Peru. In fact, he resigned from office by fax from Tokyo, surely a first in political history. That’s hardly a great precedent for Dion, and unless a number of other more stable examples appear, he might have some difficulty explaining why he’s refusing to go 100% Canadian.