On Saturday, Canada saw its quietest election ever. It was the don't ask, don't tell election.
Thousands of French citizens in Canada voted to choose a member of France's National Assembly representing North America, in the first round of legislative elections.
But Canada, alone among the world's nations, objected to the election in the first place and said it shouldn't be held on Canadian soil. Having someone represent Canada in another country's parliament infringes on our sovereignty, Ottawa has decided. They don't want rough foreign politics in our genteel streets.
The French went ahead and Canada couldn't stop it, so they made a deal with the French government: Have your election, but keep it quiet. The campaigning, heading to a second-round vote on June 16, is being done mostly through social media and in private places.
It was a trade-off, but a worthless one. It showed Canada can't stop foreign elections here. And it was yet more proof there really isn't much point in trying. Canada is the only country in the world that objects. It's time to get over it. Globalization is here.
The trend will grow as more people spend time outside their native lands and many countries seek to have their diasporas vote.
Ottawa's objection has always been a little technical. They're fine with absentee votes like those cast by French citizens in May's presidential election. What they don't like is when foreign countries put Canada in one of their electoral districts. In 2010, France decided citizens abroad would be divided into 11 constituencies; one is North America, and its 165,000 French citizens will elect one deputy.
Similar elections have been held here before. Italy twice elected Canadian dual citizens to represent North America in parliament, most recently in 2008. The Harper government set a policy last year against such elections, but after a diplomatic flap, made a last-minute exception to allow Tunisia to elect members of its constitutional assembly from a riding that included Canada.
This time, Ottawa said no. But France, under its own elections law, had to go ahead. So Canadian officials and French diplomats made a deal to do it quietly. The French embassy encouraged Internet voting, but ballots were also cast at consulates and a few polling stations like a Montreal private school. Campaigns were told to keep out of the public eye. They held "private" events in restaurants and used e-campaigns.
"French people were saturated with e-mails from 18 candidates," said Montrealer Cyrille Giraud, the Green alternate on a front-running joint ticket with New-York-based Socialist Party candidate Corinne Narassiguin. "I had a lot of friends who didn't even open them any more."
Born in Paris, Mr. Giraud, 37, remembers that when he took an exam to become a dual Canadian citizen in 2007, one question was about the duty to vote. He can't understand how having French citizens from North America represented in the National Assembly in Paris would be anything but good for Canada. "It wasn't a problem in the United States. No problem in China, in Iran, in Korea," he said.
Maybe the reason Ottawa is so persnickety is that Canadians are insecure about the depth of citizenship, believing people become less Canadian after time abroad. France thinks its citizens stay French. Unlike Canadians, they keep the right to vote no matter how long they are abroad. The big issue in the election in North America is whether children of French citizens abroad should still have their tuition fully subsidized for the last three grades at France's overseas schools, lycées.
At any rate, there's no keeping the foreign political debates out. There's really no concern foreign elections will make Canadian sovereignty slip away. There's no stopping the world, either. Italy will have a similar election next year. The Italians are waiting to see if Ottawa will stick to its unenforceable policy.
Canada should see dual citizens as an asset in a globalizing world. And it should stop tilting at windmills and let citizens of the world vote on Canadian soil, without hushing it up.