Schrödinger’s Canadians

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
5 October, 2018

Erwin Schrödinger never actually put cats into boxes that might or might not kill them, depending on a radioactive isotope’s random decay. It was only a thought experiment designed to show that the unseen cat could simultaneously be considered both dead and alive, until the box was opened.

But what should we make of the interesting box the Canadian government has built for the children of Canadians living abroad? Whether inspired by Kafka, Joseph Heller, or Erwin Schrödinger,  Canada’s bureaucracy makes children simultaneously Canadian and not-Canadian, depending on whether they’re at the border or at the High Commission.

In 2016, the Canadian government decided that any Canadian travelling to Canada must enter Canada on a Canadian passport. Dual citizens who had let their Canadian passports lapse would need to undertake the painful process of applying for a Canadian passport from abroad.

Fair enough, you might say, even if some Canadians living in New Zealand must get a copy of their birth certificate from Manitoba to do it. That requires faxing a printed PDF form to Manitoba unless you want to mail it there. We continue to forget how lucky we are in New Zealand.

Canada is a backward, backward country.

But here’s the tricky Canadian box in which my Kiwi kids find themselves.

The Canadian government’s “Am I Canadian?” quiz says my kids are Canadian because I was born in Canada. If we ever want to visit family in the old country, the kids will have to travel on Canadian passports – or they might not even be allowed onto the plane.

They are too Canadian to enter Canada without a Canadian passport.

But those same kids are not Canadian enough to be issued passports by the Canadian High Commission.

They first must apply for, and be awarded, certificates of Canadian citizenship. That five-month-long process seems designed to weed out weirdos who want to be Canadian but are not eligible for it. It is not designed to help out younglings forced to be Canadian by accident of their father’s birth.

As far as the Canadian government is concerned, my kids are simultaneously too Canadian to enter Canada without a Canadian passport but not Canadian enough to have any simple way of acquiring one.

They’re Schrödinger’s Canadians, except the bureaucratic box is real.

You can check out of the Canadian asylum any time you like, but you can never really leave.

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