Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he did register for the U.S. draft as required by law.
At the same time, he continues to face questions about his tax filings to that country.
Scheer admitted on Thursday that he is a dual Canada-U.S. citizen and received his American citizenship as a child through his father, and has been under pressure to clarify to what extent he has fulfilled the draft registration and tax filing requirements placed on dual citizens by the American government.
Under U.S. federal law, all male U.S. citizens must register for the draft with the Selective Service System within 30 days of reaching the age of 18.
“This includes dual citizens,” Jacob Daniels, an attorney advisor with the U.S. Selective Service System, said in an email to Global News.
Scheer initially did not say on Friday whether he had complied with the rule when questioned on the requirement.
“I would have to check and get back to you on that,” Scheer said when asked by reporters.
Global News had asked the same question to Scheer’s campaign team earlier in the day and received a response following publication of this story.
“Mr. Scheer registered as required by law,” campaign spokesperson Simon Jeffries said.
The Selective Service System confirmed that registration to Global News, noting it took place on July 28, 1997, two months after Scheer turned 18.
Draft registration is not the same as draft induction, a process of forced service in the military, which has not been used since the Vietnam War.
Failure to register for the draft is a felony offence, which is the most serious category of crimes in the United States.
It carries a prison term of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
Prosecutions have been very rare since the Vietnam era.
However, a person who does not register within the grace period offered up until the age of 26 can be denied benefits like student loans or being able to register at a state university, and can potentially be denied U.S. citizenship. Non-American men of draft age in the U.S. are also required to register.
Scheer, as a U.S. citizen, would have been required to register within 30 days of his 18th birthday, in May of 1997, but would have had a grace period to register until his 26th birthday, in May of 2005.
The Selective Service System says the goal of the registration requirement is to make sure any future draft is as fair as it can be.
“Selective Service wants young men to register. It does not want them to be prosecuted or denied benefits. If a draft is ever needed, it must be as fair as possible, and that fairness depends on having as many eligible men as possible registered,” the service states on its website.
“In the event of a draft, for every man who fails to register, another man would be required to take his place in service to his country.”
The controversy around Scheer’s dual citizenship centres around the fact he and his party have openly blasted other top Canadian political and government leaders for having dual citizenship.
In a 2005 blog post, Scheer questioned the appointment of Michaëlle Jean to the role of governor general.
“Does it bother you that she is a dual citizen (France and Canada)? Would it bother you if instead of French citizenship, she held U.S. citizenship?”
He then stayed silent on the matter of his own dual citizenship repeatedly as his party and former prime minister Stephen Harper attacked both former Liberal leader Stephane Dion and former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair for holding dual Canada-French citizenship.
But Scheer insisted when questioned about his silence that he was not trying to hide the matter.
“I was never asked about it from Canadians,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Many of the questions have also focused on the issue of tax returns, which most dual U.S. citizens living abroad are required to file to the Internal Revenue Service in addition to any domestic tax reporting requirements in their country of residence.
Canada and the U.S. have a treaty to ensure dual citizens do not pay tax on the same income twice. But dual citizens are still required to file income returns in both Canada and the U.S. on any worldwide income.
Scheer said on Thursday that he has filed U.S. tax returns, as legally required.
On Friday though, Scheer was asked how many times he has filed taxes in the U.S. and would not specify.
“I’ve always been tax compliant and I’ve always followed the laws,” he said.
“I’ve only ever earned income in Canada so I filed those taxes. My salary is publicly available on the House of Commons website.”
Scheer also says he has not voted in any U.S. election and has never been a member of the National Rifle Association.
His campaign says he has not renewed his U.S. passport and is in the process of renouncing his U.S. citizenship.
Yet the question of why Scheer only began the process of renouncing his U.S. citizenship in August 2019 – just two months before the election – has remained unanswered.
He won the Conservative leadership in 2017.