Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he wasn’t hiding the fact that he holds dual Canadian and American citizenship, but until now, no one asked the question.
“I was never asked about it from Canadians,” he told reporters in Bedford, N.S., on Thursday night. “I’ve actually been very honest about it.”
In a statement to media late that afternoon, a spokesperson for Scheer responded to a report by the Globe and Mail that said Scheer had obtained the American citizenship from his father as a child and was in the process of renouncing it.
“Like millions of Canadians, one of Mr. Scheer’s parents was born in another country and immigrated to Canada to start a family. He and his sisters received United States passports as children and Mr. Scheer has not renewed his as an adult,” said Simon Jeffries, a spokesperson for Scheer.
“He has not voted in any United States election. Once Mr. Scheer became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, he decided he would renounce his U.S. citizenship before the election.”
Jeffries added that Scheer filed paperwork with the U.S. government in August in order to renounce his citizenship and is “currently waiting for confirmation from the embassy that he is no longer a dual-citizen.”
Scheer said it amounted to a “personal decision.”
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“I was born in Canada,” he said. “I’ve lived here, I’ve moved to Saskatchewan, I’m raising my children here.”
He acknowledged that he’s filed U.S. tax returns, as legally required, but did not say how much tax he has paid in the U.S.
Scheer was also pressed about his past comments on former governor-general Michaëlle Jean, who holds Canadian and French citizenship.
An archived version of Scheer’s blog shows that in 2005, he asked those who supported Jean’s appointment if her dual citizenship bothered them and whether it would bother them if she had Canadian-U.S. citizenship instead.
Scheer said he was “just asking questions of my constituents what they thought of at the time.”
The issue of dual citizenship has proven a thorny one in the past for politicians vying for senior leadership roles.
Thomas Mulcair, the former NDP leader, was criticized by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper for holding dual citizenship.
Mulcair held both Canadian and French citizenship.
“In my case, as I say, I’m very clear,” Harper said at the time. “I’m a Canadian and only a Canadian.”
The comment was widely interpreted as casting doubt on whether Mulcair could hold conflicting loyalties.
The same thing happened with former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who the Conservatives also attacked for his dual Canada-French citizenship.
Dion ultimately gave up his French citizenship.
With files from Kerri Breen, Global News