Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer holds dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship but says he is in the process of renouncing his status as an American.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in Bedford, N.S., after a campaign rally at a Chinese restaurant, Mr. Scheer said he made the decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship after he became leader of the party in May, 2017.
A campaign spokesman said earlier in the day that Mr. Scheer’s father, who was born in the United States and holds joint citizenship, obtained U.S. citizenship and passports for his son and two daughters when they were born in Canada. He said Mr. Scheer submitted paperwork in August to renounce his citizenship and is waiting for confirmation that he is no longer an American citizen.
Mr. Scheer, 40, has let his U.S. passport lapse, the spokesman said, has never voted in U.S. elections but has regularly filed taxes as required of American citizens no matter where they live.
When asked why he waited until August to inform the U.S. government he was renouncing his citizenship, Mr. Scheer said he was focused on other things – such as rebuilding the party and getting ready for the election, but added that it had always been his intention.
Mr. Scheer said he’s been transparent on the issue. “I was never asked about it from Canadians. I’ve actually been very honest about it. My father’s always been very open about where he’s come from and I haven’t been asked the question.”
The Liberal Party released a statement late Thursday night criticizing Mr. Scheer for failing to proactively disclose his second citizenship.
“Over a million Canadians hold dual citizenship – it’s part of what makes Canada great. But none have hidden that fact when running to be Prime Minister,” party spokesperson Zita Astravas said.
“Scheer’s hidden his core personal positions, he hid facts about his career and education, and now he’s been caught hiding his American citizenship even while ridiculing others for holding dual citizenship.”
Mr. Scheer had raised concerns about the dual allegiance of former governor-general Michaëlle Jean before she gave up her French citizenship to assume the country’s highest post.
In a 2005 blog, he asked his constituents whether it was appropriate for Ms. Jean to hold dual Canadian-France citizenship and asked: “Would it bother you if instead of French citizenship, she held U.S. citizenship?”
On Thursday, Mr. Scheer rejected the idea that he has been hypocritical on this issue. When faced with questions about his past criticism of Ms. Jean, he said, “I asked a question at the time about the fact that she held it, I asked my constituents what they felt about that.”
“I was just asking questions of my constituents, what they thought of that, at the time. I was born in Canada. My mom was born in Mississauga, my dad was born in the United States. I grew up my whole life in Canada,” he said.
Canadians with dual U.S. citizenship can sit in Parliament as MPs and the U.S. embassy in Ottawa said that there is no requirement for any American to give up their citizenship if they lead or serve in a foreign government.
In the past, the Conservatives were critical of former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion during the 2008 election over his dual Canadian-French citizenship. In 2015, the Tories also attacked NDP Leader Tom Mulcair for holding French citizenship.
Then-prime minister Stephen Harper expressed disdain for political leaders holding allegiance to another flag during the 2015 election. “I’m very clear. I’m a Canadian and only a Canadian,” he said.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who was born in Connecticut, also held dual citizenship. Her U.S. citizenship was revoked in 1978 when she became a Canadian, as the law required at that time.
Ms. May has said that she would have renounced her U.S. citizenship anyway after she became Green Leader in 2006, saying that a political leader has no other allegiances.
“So I think it’s important when you are committed to your country, to be fully committed to your country,” she told reporters in Victoria on Thursday.
Mr. Scheer has faced questions this week about his university degree and whether he had actually obtained his insurance licence to work as an agent or broker before entering public life.
The Globe and Mail reported on Saturday that he had never received the licence required by law to work as a broker in Saskatchewan, even though Mr. Scheer’s official bios, on Facebook and on the Conservative Party website, say that he was an insurance broker.
Elections Canada filings also show that Mr. Scheer has consistently listed his occupation as either insurance broker or agent.
Mr. Scheer told reporters Monday that he worked in an insurance office for “six or seven months” when he was 24 and received accreditation under the Canadian Professional Insurance Broker Program for general insurance. Mr. Scheer said he left before he obtained his licence, but received accreditation for general insurance and worked in the office.
Mr. Scheer said his tasks included “supporting the whole team … answering questions from customers and clients and doing preparatory work.” When asked again whether he ever worked as a broker, Mr. Scheer said “the licensed brokers finalized all the transactions.”
The Liberals have also pointed to newspaper articles in which Mr. Scheer left the impression that he got his Bachelor of Arts degree in Regina. In 2018, his LinkedIn page and Wikipedia page both highlighted the University of Regina as his primary education.
On Thursday, Mr. Scheer clarified that while he attended some classes at the University of Regina, he took more of his history classes at the University of Ottawa, which granted him a Bachelor of Arts degree.
“So my degree is granted from the University of Ottawa. I finished it while I was in Regina, the combination of courses from the University of Regina and correspondence courses, I then had those credits transferred back to the University of Ottawa to obtain my degree,” he told reporters at a campaign stop in Upper Kingsclear, N.B.
With reports from Justine Hunter in Victoria and Marieke Walsh in Montreal.
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