I listened to comments this morning from journalists and the public about covering the cost of evacuating Canadians from Southern Lebanon as a consequence of Israel's disproportionate and crippling retaliation. Some reports describe these Canadians as 'Lebanese Canadians', as though the distinction is important.
Lebanese Canadians are grateful for the evacuation effort and for the unflinching official response of the government (see a letter of thanks to Stephen Harper from six organizations representing Lebanese Canadians).
Many Canadians resent being asked evacuate people who have placed themselves in harm's way by travelling to the Middle East. I wonder if they would feel similarly callous about rescuing hikers, mountaineers, fishermen, etc who have similarly placed themselves in harm's way. But who are almost all white Canadians.
I don't like having to pay for someone's passage from Lebanon when they have decided to live there instead of Canada, and have done so for years. My mother is a dual citizen of Canada and Egypt. She lived here for twenty-five years before returning to Egypt in 1994. I was thinking about what it would be reasonable for her to expect from Canada if she were in a similar predicament.
I think a distinction can be made between two classes of Canadian citizens, and there is a precedent for it under the law: Canadian tax law. If you are a Canadian citizen, you have a right to expect Canada's assistance to extract you from a region where war breaks out. If you claim Canada as your primary residence, spending at least six months plus one day in Canada per year, you can further expect that Canada will pay for your safe conduct out of harm's way. But if you claim another country as your primary residence, then you or your country of residence should bear the cost of your evacuation.
Someone who resides in Lebanon and has done so for years should conceivably be able to draw upon local resources—financial, means of transport, their friends and family, familiar local authorities, employers—that non-residents would have far more difficulty accessing. I think the distinction is intuitive, meaningful, justifiable.
I also expect that for the most part it will be difficult to recover the costs from evacuees. Nevertheless, Canadians should understand that there are limits to the privilege that citizenship confers.
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