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Canadians abroad draw mixed reaction

Douglas Todd's feature on return migration states the obvious - that people are attracted to where opportunities lie - but goes on to treat Hong Kong immigrants as a special problem for Canada, and in so doing, misses the opportunity to raise some important issues about Canadians living abroad.

To say "citizenship acquisition is key motivation" for immigrants from Asia, may have been intended to scandalize, but surely the whole point of immigration is to obtain legal status in a different country.

Why is it noteworthy that there are 350,000 residents of Hong Kong holding Canadian citizenship when about three times as many Canadians live in the United States on a long-term basis? Is one group less entitled than the other to pursue "high paying jobs, greater job security... and family reunification?" The article raises the spectre of mass evacuation of Canadian citizens from Hong Kong in an "emergency crunch," without providing any plausible scenario for such an eventuality.

It also fails to point out that the government of Canada
a) collects a consular
services fee for every passport issued that is, according to the auditor general, in excess of services provided, and
b) has the ability to charge for evacuation services and, in the case of Lebanon in 2006, chose not to do so.

The larger problem with the article is an assumption - widely held - that Canadian citizens living overseas are a liability for the country. It is the mark of a small-minded nation that disparages its citizens who go out into the world rather than celebrating their successes.

Perhaps we have grown so accustomed to the idea of Canada as a nation of immigrants that, for many, the very notion of out-migration smacks of disloyalty and failure.

Rather than cast aspersions on those who leave, we should figure out how to encourage the diaspora to stay connected with Canada. The more we treat overseas Canadians as liabilities, the greater the likelihood they will turn out that way.

YUEN PAU WOO President and CEO, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada