Reflections on Citizenship and Treason: A Historical Perspective

By: on March 1, 2010 |

In the years between August 1947 when Kanao Inouye, a Japanese-Canadian also known as the Kamloops Kid, was hanged for war crimes and the conviction of Mohammed Momin Khawaja, a Pakistani-Canadian, in October 2008 under the Anti-Terrorism Act, Canada changed significantly. In the six decades between these two events, Canadian society evolved from one that was predominantly white and Caucasian to one that is increasingly ethnically mixed and multicultural. This came about primarily because of the open immigration policy that was adopted in the mid-1960s and which coincided with the passage by the U.S. Congress of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. This Act abolished quotas based on national (ethnic) origins and opened the door to immigration on the basis of family reunification. Partially because the open door immigration policy brought immigrants into Canada from previously non-traditional regions of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and South America, Ottawa enacted the Citizenship Act of 1977 and adopted a policy on multiculturalism in 1971 that would be formally institutionalized with the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of July 1988. The years following Canada’s centenary anniversary in 1967 were also a period of political unrest and transition as a new generation made its entrance into politics in the Western world.

The 1960s were marked with protests against the U.S.-led war in Vietnam and against ageing authority. Discontent with existing social arrangements was expressed through popular protests by workers and students as in Paris, by people wanting independence from the control of Moscow-based Soviet communism as in Prague, by civil rights supporters as in the United States and South Africa, and by supporters of separatism for Quebec among the French-speaking nationalists in Canada.

These were the years the generation of 1968 came of age. Man landed on the moon and the world seemed to be hurtling forward in a sea of change unprecedented in history. Sociologist Alvin Toffler’s hugely successful book Future Shock sought to make sense of the unsettling pace of change that nations and people, particularly in the West, had to experience since the unleashing of nuclear weapons by the great powers. For the 1968 generation, who are now past the middle years of life, rebellion against authority also meant renouncing the received wisdom of the past and imagining a world as described in the lyrics of John Lennon’s song Imagine – “Imagine there’s no Heaven…no countries…And no religion too.” This song was a sort of anthem for that generation.

Grant and Frye on the decline of loyalty

Change can be both exhilarating and discomforting. For the people caught in this accelerating transition from the old certainties of the past to the new uncertainties of the future there would also be alienation from society, and it was most acutely felt by the generation of 1968. Around this time two of Canada’s greatly respected academic scholars, one a philosopher and the other a literary critic, George Grant and Northrop Frye, drew attention to how their country was being affected by events and things in ways that meant for better or worse the demise of the old order.

In 1965 Grant published a little book, Lament for a Nation, in which he expressed himself somewhat “angrily” about the passing of English-Canadian nationalism as the country was drawn into a tighter embrace of American capitalism. He wrote, “Those who loved the older traditions of Canada may be allowed to lament what has been lost, even though they do not know whether or not that loss will lead to some greater political good.”[1] In 1967, Canada’s centennial year, Frye was invited to give the Whidden Lectures at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and he chose for his lectures the theme “The Modern Century” (later published as a book with the theme as title). Frye reflected upon the distance the world had travelled during Canada’s century from 1867 to 1967 in terms of discoveries made in sciences, advances in technology, and creativity in arts and literature with the cumulative unintended effect of these on the human condition breeding anxiety and alienation. He observed that this alienation rose from the “sense that man has lost control, if he ever had it, over his own destiny.”[2] Alienation from the existing order of things paradoxically also fuelled the desire for change as it was felt by the 1968 generation. And so the political realm in Canada as elsewhere in the West was primed for change. But as Frye looked around and took measure of his country, he commented, “The loss of faith in such a world is centrally a religious problem, but it has political dimension as well, and one which includes the question we have been revolving around all through: what is it, in society, to which we really owe loyalty?”[3]

Frye’s question was aptly phrased. It struck at the heart of the matter politically speaking for a generation caught in the crosscurrents of change. For the past few centuries in Europe, and her ideas transported across the ocean to North America, political loyalty was demanded by, and belonged to, the territorially demarcated nation-states that emerged in the seventeenth century. In the second half of the twentieth century a new idea, the “global village” found expression. The man credited with the coining of this phrase was a Canadian, Marshall McLuhan, professor of English literature and communication theorist at the University of Toronto. Though the expression at its origin had a negative connotation, by the end of the nineteen-sixties the idea of “global village” captured the mood of the time. The world was shrinking in terms of distance given the rapid developments in the means of transportation and communication, and in this shrunken world as the old arrangements of nation-states in Europe and North America were being sceptically re-examined Frye’s question of where, how and to whom people owed loyalty in a global village became moot.

Canada’s transformation:

Acquiring a multi-ethnic society in “a fit of absence of mind”

In discussing treason and citizenship, the subject of this essay, we need to keep in view how vastly changed the West is today socially and politically compared to its circumstances at the mid-point of the last century. Moreover, it is my contention here that an explanation of why and how the notion of treason has become more or less obsolescent in Canada, as in the West generally, requires an understanding of how the aforementioned changes have affected the meaning of citizenship, or the relationship between an individual and the state. Of all the changes that grew upon the West the one which is most significant in terms of individual-state relationship, hence citizenship, is change resulting from open immigration into the West from the “third world” non-European countries. As Christopher Caldwell has noted, the West in general during this period “became a multiethnic society in a fit of absence of mind.”[4]

Defining treason

Treason is generally defined as a breach of trust or betrayal of faith in what is held sacred collectively. Betrayal presupposes that there is a sense of belonging or attachment and loyalty to some organizing principle that lays down the norms in the making of family, caste, tribe, nation or state. Any social organization that is viable, persists over time, binds together generations of people and provides them with a commonly shared identity rests on the assumption, as Margret Boveri noted, of “the trustworthiness of the next man.”[5] There cannot be betrayal in the absence of belonging or in the absence of loyalty that is pledged to a social organization by an individual and reciprocated by other members on the basis of the relationships characteristic of the organization. Betrayal, then, is the breaking of a relationship, and the individual doing the betraying is aware of an injury done by his or her act to the other person or persons with whom he or she shared a trust.

The nature of betrayal varies, but the act of betrayal is not uncommon in history or literature. A sociological study of betrayal would seek to explore the entire nexus of relationships that connect people and the various aspects and forms of the act in which trust is broken and injury caused. Such a study would likely include all of the related questions of who, whom, why, what, and how that are involved when a violation of trust occurs. As one analyst writes, “We betray ourselves, our families, our friends, our lovers, our country. We betray out of ambition, for vengeance, through inconstancy, to assert our autonomy, and for a hundred passions and a hundred reasons.”[6] Not all betrayals are of the same order, nor are all judged for penalty similarly. And while all acts of betrayal ultimately involve an individual betraying his or her conscience by tearing away the moral bond that gave sanctity to his or her relationship with the other, the highest form of betrayal remains sedition against the sovereign authority of the state or of causing injury (fatal or not) to the person who embodies that authority as the sovereign or as the elected head of state.

Treason is an act by an individual or a group of individuals directed at undermining the political and moral order of the state, which is considered by the majority of its inhabitants, the citizens, as legitimate. In literature, Macbeth’s murder of Duncan, the King of Scotland, was treasonous, as was Brutus’s historical act of betrayal in the killing of Julius Caesar. In both instances, however, forces loyal to Duncan and Caesar eventually undid the respective treasons.

When treason succeeds, it brings about an overthrow and replacement of the existing political order by another, and successful revolutions often begin as treasonous acts. This makes for the paradox of treason as a cause for change in history. Treason is a capital crime, and the penalty is death, banishment or imprisonment for life; its success, paradoxically, makes the original act of treason praiseworthy in the making of the new state of law and order.

Treason or conscientious dissent?

Socrates, Jesus and Muhammad

There is also irony. In the history of the West, two public trials that stand out are of two men accused of treason, tried, convicted and condemned to death. The first trial was that of the philosopher Socrates who was indicted by Meletus, an Athenian citizen. The indictment was accepted, and Socrates was put on trial for the treachery of not recognizing the gods that the Athenian citizens worshipped and for introducing alien divinities. He was also accused of corrupting the youth. The penalty for such crimes was death. Socrates was tried sometime in 400 or early 399 BC by a jury of 500 citizens of Athens, found guilty and condemned. He was put to death by the administration of a drink of ground-up hemlock.

The second trial was that of Jesus, born in Galilee, around 4 BC and brought to trial in Jerusalem about 30 AD. According to the Gospels, the charge against Jesus was that he had made himself a king. This was treason against the Roman authority, for such a claim could incite rebellion among the Jewish inhabitants of ancient Palestine, where trouble brewed and fears of insurgency regularly worried the Jewish high priests. If civil disturbance broke out, or the feared rebellion materialized, responsible Jewish elders knew the Romans would respond brutally and that there would be reprisals. It was best, therefore, if the Jew suspected of inciting trouble was found and handed over to the authorities for, as the Gospel according to St. John narrates, “it was expedient that one man should die for the people.”[7] The stage was set for the most horrendous judgment in history. A recent biographer of Jesus writes, “The Gospels represent the priests and Jesus as being on opposite sides in this ‘trial’ tableau, but once Pilate has entered the scene this is not the case. It is the story of the Jews versus the Romans. In order to save their skin, the Jews found a scapegoat.”[8] Jesus was tried by Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judaea, declared guilty, condemned to crucifixion and death.

There is a third instance of irony surrounding the subject of treason, and it happens to be of historic consequence. Around 610 AD, Muhammad’s announcement in Mecca that he was chosen to be the messenger of God and to preach Islam as the monotheistic faith of Abraham and the prophets mentioned in the Torah was an assault on the idol-worshipping customs of the people among whom he was born. The repudiation by Muhammad of the Meccan idols that filled the Ka’aba, the holy house of worship reputedly built by Abraham and his son Ismail (or Ishmael in Hebrew) and which would become the destination for the annual Muslim pilgrimage, was a treasonous act to the overlords of the city. It was demanded of Muhammad that he stop preaching Islam or know that he lived on borrowed time, as he faced the certainty of execution. He lived precariously under the protection of his uncle Abu Talib, a member of one of the ruling families of Mecca and his wife Khadija, an independently wealthy businesswoman. On the death of his protectors, Muhammad fled from his native city during the night just ahead of the hired assassins sent to kill him for betraying the gods of his ancestors. Muhammad’s flight (hijra) to safety in Medina in 622 AD marks the year one in the Islamic calendar, and with it began the armed resistance he organized against his Meccan tormentors until the triumph eight years later with the capture of Mecca and the surrender of his enemies. Muhammad’s monotheistic faith was established as the political and moral order in all of Arabia, and after his death in 632 AD, Islam emerged from its desert confines as the ruling faith of an expansive world empire. In the new dispensation of Islam as faith and empire, it became treason punishable by death for any Muslim born into the faith or having converted to turn apostate by renouncing Islam or by insulting Muhammad.

In each of the three instances noted, what was deemed treasonous by the ruling authorities was also prized by the actors as an act of conscience, and each of the three men considered its betrayal unacceptable at any price. Since the horrendous judgments delivered against Socrates and Jesus, and the escape from similar judgment by Muhammad, there is the paradox to be noted in the notion of treason, since an act that is judged as treasonous can also be viewed as an act of remaining true to one’s conscience. In his 1911 novel Under Western Eyes, Joseph Conrad made the story’s protagonist Razumov contemplate, “Betray. A great word. What is betrayal? They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience.” And though conscience, as Shakespeare made Hamlet ponder in his soliloquy, “does make cowards of us all,” it can also make individuals such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Nathan Sharansky in the Russian gulag or Andrei Sakharov confined to internal Russian exile defy ruling authorities to gain freedom, human rights, democracy or some other compelling moral principle.

Today, the effects of the revolution in communication and transportation, the highly mobile populations, and the even higher mobility of capital and the deepening interdependence of states across cultures and civilizations have unsettled politics just about everywhere. Politics, most simply stated, and therefore with much unstated, is the organized response of people who are managing their affairs within the country they call their own. Globalization and interdependence mean no country can remain closed to the outside world or resist the pressures of change that are brought to bear on the established norms, rules, customs and traditions by which people have conducted their affairs. Ironically, the countries most pressed to accommodate demands for change are those that are also most open to the world, most respectful of individual rights in theory and practice, most evolved or mature in the rule of democracy or, in other words, Western liberal democracies such as Canada.

Renegotiating citizenship and belonging

One area in which pressure for change has been felt because of open door immigration is the meaning of citizenship. Invariably, open door immigration means the profile of the host country’s population is going to change over time, as is occurring in Canada, and with that change the inescapable question looming ever larger is how much of that change will affect politics. Globalization and immigration have placed the commonly shared values within liberal democracies under pressure to accommodate, as in Canada, the distinctly different sets of cultural norms and values of new immigrants. The result is the renegotiation of the meaning of citizenship, with far reaching consequences for politics in the Western liberal democracies.

Citizenship means membership and belonging. This is succinctly stated in a recent study: “Membership lies at the heart of citizenship. To be a citizen is to belong to a given political community.”[9] In almost every culture, individuals are nurtured by a sense of membership in and belonging to the community into which they are born, but not every culture, historically speaking, possessed the idea of citizenship as it has evolved since it was originally articulated in Athens in the fifth century BC. The idea of citizenship, though universally adopted, is a Western idea that was influenced by the conditions of political development in the West, first in ancient Greece and then following the two revolutions of the eighteenth century that were the making of republican democracies in the United States and France. In both instances, despite the twists and turns of history over two millennia, the common elements understood by citizenship meant that free individuals together constituted a political community that was a democracy.

In Book III of his Politics, Aristotle famously provided the definition of citizen and the classifications of governments by types: good types – monarchy, aristocracy and constitutional commonwealth and bad types – tyranny, oligarchy and extreme democracy. He wrote of a citizen as an individual who “shares in the administration of justice and in offices.” There were qualifications surrounding citizenship in Aristotle’s description, but the definition he provided was “best adapted to the citizens of a democracy.” While Aristotle considered democracy a perversion of constitutional commonwealth, government in such an arrangement belonged to the many in contrast to the few in an aristocracy and to one individual in a monarchy. The well-being of constitutional government rested, in his view, on the “virtues of a citizen,” which required a good citizen knowing “how to govern like a freeman, and how to obey like a freeman.” Aristotle summarized, “The conception of the citizen now begins to clear up. He who has the power to take part in the deliberative or judicial administration of any state is said by us to be a citizen of that state. And speaking generally, a state is a body of citizens sufficing for the purposes of life.

A state administered by the many for the common good of all of its inhabitants, as Aristotle discussed, was the celebrated Athens of Pericles that Thucydides (460-400 BC) described in his History of the Peloponessian War. Pericles’ eulogy of his native Athens was immortalized in Thucydides’ account, and it was that description of Athenian politics that Aristotle likely thought about in his discussion of constitutional government. Pericles noted, “Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people.” Many centuries later, Abraham Lincoln’s elegantly simple definition of “democracy” as “government of the people, by the people, for the people” given in his Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863, echoed the words of Pericles from around 430 BC. The sort of people who understood the principle and mechanics of such state and government and defended them tended to be, as Pericles praised the Athenians of his time, “free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law. This is because it commands our deep respect.” And again, in Pericles’ words, such people knew “happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”

From Aristotle, we know that democracy was not broadly favoured as the best or most desirable form of government. But in Pericles’ praise of Athenian society, as reported or constructed by Thucydides, the virtue of democracy and the requirements of its citizens as first principles were stated for the first time and have remained valid since then. A free people are politically equal irrespective of naturally born differences among them, and only a constitution deliberated and devised by representatives of free people can have their consent. In such a political community, the mechanics of government require of the free people participation in offices and representation through elections. A citizen in a democracy, as Pericles spoke about and Aristotle discussed in his Politics, is a free individual, and citizenship has meant the rights, duties and obligations of a citizen to his political community. Athenian democracy did not survive, but the ideas it gave birth to did through the Roman republic and then Empire into the making of the modern world.

Two millennia later, the subject of citizenship in practical terms re-emerged in the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789. In the years before these two revolutions ushered in the modern world of politics based on the idea of democracy, political philosophers struggled with the varying tensions between the notions of political and legal equality of people within a sovereign state. The English philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, in their own respective ways, reconciled the issue of political and legal equality through the doctrine of the consent of free individuals recognizing the rule of a just sovereign. The consent stood for a social contract entered into by free people to form a state and accept the rule of law of which they would be the authors. The political and legal thinking that went into the general idea of social contract was a theoretical construct, and yet it served a purpose. As Sir Ernest Barker explained,

it [social contract theory] was none the less a way of expressing two fundamental ideas or values to which the human mind will always cling – the value of Liberty, or the idea that will, not force, is the basis of government, and the value of Justice, or the idea that right, not might, is the basis of all political society and of every system of political order.[10]

Thomas Jefferson, as the author of the American Declaration of Independence, would point out that free people are obliged to withdraw their consent resulting in the annulment of the social contract when the sovereign is no longer just. This was the basis of the American Revolution, as it would be of the French Revolution. The idea of sovereignty embodied in a living monarch would be transferred to “We, the People of the United States” in the case of America, and “the source of all sovereignty lies essentially in the Nation” in the case of France. In this manner, the two revolutions merged the old tensions between political and legal equality that went all the way back to the Athenian democracy and the Roman Empire in the idea of citizenship of free and equal individuals of a constitutionally governed democracy.

The two eighteenth-century revolutions, American and French, prioritized freedom ahead of democracy or the nature of government. The logic was simple. Only free people could form and participate in governments that would be fair and equitable. Since then, citizenship in a modern liberal democracy has meant the freedom and equality inherent in individuals give them the right as well as the obligation to participate through elections in the affairs of the government and the state. Citizenship, moreover, has meant membership and belonging; membership in a state comes either through the natural right of birth or through naturalization, and belonging has meant exclusive attachment with and loyalty to one particular political community.

Some minimums on citizenship:

Belief in liberal democracy, for starters….

In recent years, this notion of membership and belonging that citizenship came to mean has been subjected to criticism and demands to make citizenship more inclusive and flexible. This would be achieved by making it open and available to people made stateless, to refugees fleeing wars, natural calamities and the recent phenomenon of failed states, and to migrants in search of economic opportunities. However the meaning of citizenship is advanced and adapted to contemporary demands in the Western liberal democracies, it needs to be noted that the concept of citizenship is a core component of modernity. Modernity has multiple meanings or dimensions: industrialization, urbanization, the spread of liberal values, the rights of women and minorities, and elected representative governments. And among these is citizenship. This advancement has meant that even though society is a collection of individuals, individual rights override any collective rights that are based on tribal or group identity, and individual rights distinguish modern society from mob rule. On this idea rests the modern liberal, democratic society in which political leaders are elected by the citizens to whom they are accountable. Politicians hold office with citizen approval; they make laws, but none might be passed that override the citizens’ inalienable rights that are written into the constitution. Politicians govern with the support of the citizens, and they are replaced when they fail to meet the goals for which they were elected.

The workings of a modern liberal, democratic society, its stability and its prosperity require a citizenry educated in the ideals of democracy and joined together in defending the ideals expressed through its institutions. A citizenry divided over the nature and ideals of liberal democracy would imperil it from within. A successful liberal democracy is the working together of its citizenry spanning across generations, and in their daily lives, the citizens reflect the culture of democracy, which is markedly different from those cultures that have not been shaped from within by political ideas that are based on the principle of individual liberty. Alexis de Tocqueville discovered in his journey through the United States that democracy is a culture that embraces politics, religion, history and society in a certain arrangement that happens to be significantly different from other systems, such as aristocracy. George Kateb, a modern philosopher of the subject, indicated that the cluster of values that distinguish democratic culture from non-democratic culture is qualitative. “In its distinctive way of forming political authority,” Kateb observed, “representative democracy cultivates distinctive ways of acting in non-political life – of seeking and giving, of making claims for oneself and one’s group and acknowledging the claims of others.”[11] The challenge for a liberal democracy such as Canada, therefore, is less in co-existing with other political systems in an increasingly interdependent world of different cultures than in conceding within its own domain that other cultures, irrespective of whether they are compatible with liberal democracy, be given equal recognition without considering the inevitable divisive effect on its citizenry.

Lessons from Bloom: How the open mind closed in on itself

In 1987, Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind, and it quickly became a best-seller. More than 20 years later, Bloom’s meditation on the state of higher education in the United States provides a compelling insight into how the generation of 1968, with its rebellion against authority and its openness to everything, its eagerness to trash everything of value from the past and to embrace any seemingly new idea as a revolutionary act, shaped the world that they stepped into as teachers, administrators, political operators and parents of a new generation for whom the war in Vietnam is as much past history as any of the previous wars of the twentieth century. Bloom opened his book with the observation, “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.”[12] The generation of 1968 came of age dripping with the pap of relativism, and Bloom’s central concern as a political philosopher was how relativism undermines the main goal of education: the search for the good or virtuous life.

The twentieth century began in political terms with a war that wrecked the precariously arranged balance of power negotiated in Europe a century earlier. But an event of even greater consequence that marked the beginning of the century, as the historian Paul Johnson described, was the publication in 1905 of Albert Einstein’s paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” or more famously known as the special theory of relativity. Once the word spread about Einstein’s theory, later confirmed by empirical observations, there was unease with what this meant. As Johnson wrote, “the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism.”[13] And none “was more distressed than Einstein by this public misapprehension.”[14]

According to William Gairdner, relativism as a concept in its more radical form means “there is no ultimate truth possible because there is no fixed, or permanent, or privileged foundation outside our own perceptions or beliefs or culture from which to judge anything as more ‘true’ than anything else.”[15] The erosion of standards meant for Bloom that America and the West were faced with an intellectual crisis. If relativism means all ideas, ideals and cultures are equal, then any quest by discriminating through reason and experience among these for that which is best is futile. “Cultural relativism,” Bloom despaired, “destroys both one’s own and the good.”[16] In these circumstances, defending the West and its institutions that were shaped by the values inherited from the Age of Enlightenment appeared increasingly bleak. The Zeitgeist of the 1960s in retrospect was bourgeois nihilism. Bloom wrote, “As Hegel was said to have died in Germany in 1933, Enlightenment in America came close to breathing its last during the sixties.”[17]

John Lennon’s song Imagine, as I noted previously, became the anthem for the generation of 1968, since it expressed the spirit of the times most movingly. This generation took to the post-structuralism ideas of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, the semiotics of Umberto Eco, the deconstructionism of Paul de Man, the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre and the political philosophy of Herbert Marcuse. These intellectuals were of the left or the New Left, as it became known, and were Marxists or influenced by Marx and other Marxists such as Antonio Gramsci and Georg Lukacs. They intellectually armed the generation of 1968, and its opposition to the Vietnam War turned into opposing and undermining the institutional values of liberal democracies in the West.

Cultural relativism prepared the ground for multiculturalism in the West. Open immigration posed the challenge to liberal democracies of how to make new immigrants from much different cultures adopt the values of host countries. Multiculturalism offered an easy solution by encouraging new immigrants to maintain their native cultures with the tacit understanding that there would be no recrimination over the West’s history of colonialism, imperialism and racial discrimination.

Problems for a robust national loyalty:

Mobility and dual passports

Open immigration would also become open to abuse. Then the revolution in transportation by wide-body jetliners blurred the distinction between immigrants and migrant workers. Dual or multiple citizenships as a result of much greater mobility in the world of globalization considerably weakened the notion of belonging and loyalty to one country. As Western liberal democracies, such as Canada became ethnically diverse, as multiculturalism insisted all cultures are equal and thereby denied any privileged position to liberalism supportive of individual rights and freedoms, the relationship between citizenship and treason was loosened.

“Treason” meaning “sedition against and betrayal of one’s country” presupposed a relationship between an individual and the state that was relatively unambiguous, and that there existed a moral bond based on shared values that was not merely constitutional and statutory but based on history and tradition. When citizenship is cheapened, when it can be bought and when the sense of membership and belonging citizenship represents is diluted due to the increasing prevalence of dual and multiple citizenships that an individual can maintain, then under these conditions, the relationship between an individual and the state is increasingly utilitarian.

The social environment in Canada and the Western world when Kanao Inouye was indicted, tried, condemned and hanged was more or less uncluttered by the political and cultural sensibilities that have evolved since then. By the time Mohammed Momin Khawaja was brought to trial, the social changes from the 1960s had rendered the meaning of treason as sedition against the state increasingly redundant. When those individuals in Canada belonging to a political party that is committed to the breaking up of the federation are treated with respect and permitted to sit in the parliament, then the notion of treason has become highly slippery in a culture that prizes relativism.

Khawaja was indicted and found guilty under the Anti-Terrorism Act for his role in giving material support as a financier, engineer and technical advisor to Muslim terrorists in Britain. An indictment of this nature is quite different from a charge of treason. And a charge of treason, unless a capital crime was committed, would be hard to establish given the extent to which the relationship between an individual and state in Canada, as in other Western liberal democracies, has become attenuated due to the social changes already discussed.

In conclusion, it might be said that the generation of 1968 was a pioneer generation in the making of a new political agenda that goes beyond the attachment to the state of which a citizen is a member. Canada has contributed to this agenda, internationalist and multicultural, through the social changes that have occurred in the years since its centenary anniversary. As a result, Canadians are in the midst of emerging new sensibilities that are more open to the world, more receptive of other cultures, more inclined to accepting international law and adjusting domestic statutes to that requirement. These changes render older political arrangements less meaningful in the twenty-first century.


[1] George P. Grant, Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1982), p. 96.

[2] Northrop Frye, The Modern Century: The Whidden Lectures 1967 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 24.

[3] Frye, p. 121.

[4] Christopher Caldwell, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p. 1.

[5] Margret Boveri, Treason in the Twentieth Century (London: Macdonald & Co., 1961), p. 13.

[6] Gabriella Turnaturi, Betrayals: The Unpredictability of Human Relations (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 1-2.

[7] The Gospel According to St. John, 18:14.

[8] A.N. Wilson, Jesus (London: HarperCollins, 1993), p. 219.

[9] Richard Bellamy, Citizenship: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 52.

[10] Ernest Barker, Social Contract: Essays by Locke, Hume, and Rousseau (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960), p. viii.

[11] George Kateb, The Inner Ocean Individualism and Democratic Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), p. 43.

[12] Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), p. 25.

[13] Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 4.

[14] Johnson, p. 4.

[15] William Gairdner, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008), p. 5; italics given.

[16] Bloom, p. 38.

[17] Bloom, p. 314.


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About Salim Mansur

Salim Mansur is Associate professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario and a columnist for the Sun Media, and on the board of directors for the Centre for Islamic Pluralism based in Washington, D.C.