Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Citizenship Revocation in the Mainstream Press: A Case of Re-Ethnicization?

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Citizenship Revocation in the Mainstream Press: A Case of Re-Ethnicization?

Article excerpt


By and large, citizenship rules in Western immigrant-receiving states have been liberalized. Both citizenship acquisition and citizenship loss have become increasingly "de-ethnicized", i.e. decoupled from ethnocultural ascriptions. One astute observer (Joppke 2003) defines de-ethnicization as "the process of facilitating the access to citizenship, either [...] in terms of liberalized naturalization procedures, or through adding jus soli elements to [...] birth-attributed citizenship" (436). "A third element of de-ethnicized citizenship is an increasing toleration of dual citizenship" (441). De-ethnicization requires the decoupling of the state from illiberal forms of nation-building.

Nevertheless, instances of "re-ethnicization" still exist. Some are explicit, deliberate and inscribed in citizenship rules (e.g. Dumbrava 2014). The majority, however, are implicit and often occur by means of discourse and an increasing culturalization of national boundaries in religious terms (Bilge 2010; Korteweg and Yurdakul 2014; Triadafilopoulos 2011). The potential of re-ethnicization is grounded in the fact that "a state qua membership unit is a fundamentally ethnic institution because membership is usually ascribed at birth" (Joppke 2003: 435). Joppke (443) identifies two moments when the descent-based, ethnic quality of the state becomes visible: when non-members enter and are required to "naturalize"; and when members leave, even for extended periods of time, but do not thereby lose their membership. Furthermore, citizenship rules become re-ethnicized when citizenship loss (also denationalization) is based on ascribed ethnic attributes, such as skin colour, religion, place of birth, language, culture or dress.

The mainstream media have often been accused of being complicit in the (implicit) re-ethnicization of citizenship. Specifically, Muslims tend to be cast as outsiders and associated with terrorism, violence and security threats (e.g. Alsultany 2012; Bail 2012; Bleich et al 2015; Meer 2012; Petley and Richardson 2011). According to recent scholarship, the Canadian mainstream media do not seem to differ in this regard (Antonius 2013; Flatt 2013; Jasmine 2015; Kowalski 2013; Perigoe and Eid 2014). In this paper, we examine the way the media covered the new citizenship revocation rules for dual nationals. We are specifically interested in how the citizenship revocation clause was discussed in the mainstream press, and to what extent the latter contributed to the re-ethnicization of Canadian citizenship rules.

Over the past years, Canada has seen two attempts to facilitate the revocation of citizenship. First, in 2012, a private member's bill proposed that dual Canadian citizens are "deemed to have made an application for renunciation of their Canadian citizenship if they engage in an act of war against the Canadian Armed Forces" (Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces) 2012). This bill died on the order in the summer of 2013. A year later, the same content in slightly revised form was made law (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2014). It allowed the Conservative government (2006-2015) to revoke the Canadian citizenship of dual citizens who have engaged in actions contrary to the national interests of Canada, such as high treason, terrorism, espionage (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2015). Ultimately, the only person to be stripped off Canadian citizenship was Zakaria Amara, imprisoned for his role in the plot to bomb Toronto's downtown in 2006 (CBC 2015a) (1).

In February 2016, four months after being elected to power, the new Liberal government started the process of repealing the legislation (CBC 2016). Nevertheless, at the time of writing, the 2014 Strengthening Citizenship Act remains the law of the land. Despite the fact that only one person has lost (and later regained, see below) Canadian citizenship, research shows that many Canadian Muslims have felt threatened, stigmatized and alienated by the legislation (Lenard and Nagra 2016). …

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