basic laws set down in the constitution, courts have the authority to strike down the new laws for being unconstitutional. At the same time, citizenship involves reciprocal obligations to the state. For example, the official study guide for people applying to become Canadian citizens states, “in Canada, rights come with responsibilities. These include: obeying the law . . . taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family . . . serving on a jury . . . voting in elections . . . helping others in the community . . . [and] protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment” (Government of Canada 2011b: 9).The United Kingdom has no written constitution but has established citizenship rights through a history of case law, acts of parliament, and political conventions or traditions (Turpin and Tomkins 2007). Rights protected through common law, for example, rely on precedents set over centuries of legal decisions. Citizenship rights were not a part of Canada’s written constitution until the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enshrined in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982.Proponents of the Charter argued for its adoption by drawing attention to how easily rights had been stripped away from Japanese Canadians during World War II. In 1941, when Canada was at war with Japan, the Canadian government imprisoned more than 20,000 Japanese Canadians and took away their homes and businesses on the grounds of “military necessity” (JapaneseCanadianHistory.net 2011). They were considered enemies of the state, not because of any actions they had committed but because of their Japanese heritage. Civil-liberties advocates argued that such gross violations of citizenship rights would have been less likely if a constitutional bill of rights protecting against unreasonable search and seizure had existed at the time. From the perspective of official democracy, then, citizenship appears as a formal status—a relationship between citizens with equal rights and “their” state—embedded in a constitutional framework. It is acknowledged that there will be ongoing debate about the precise parameters of citizenship rights and the best method for protecting them, but, through the lens of official
The Democratic Imagination52democracy, the fundamental character of citizenship is constitutionally established. As noted in Chapter 1, constitutionally protected citizenship rights are in part about ensuring that the principle of majority rule cannot be used to override the basic political entitlements of people from a minority group.Citizenship is therefore highly valued in the official view of democracy, a great honour not to be taken lightly. It is the marker of membership in the nation, the basis of a whole set of rights and responsibilities. Although citizenship takes slightly different forms in different countries, it is generally portrayed by governments as a core institution for achieving equality, a key democratic principle. It is the institution that provides core democratic rights, including the franchise (right to vote) and freedom of speech or association.