Canadian citizenship study guide should tell the truth about racism

The unrealistic activist perspective. While there is a need to revise Discover Canada to address its weaknesses, one should recall that the previous guide, A Look at Canada had even more limited coverage of historic and more recent injustices.

Little excuse for the government in getting out its revised version given its commitment in 2016, the extensive consultations that have taken place and what press accounts indicate is a largely complete revision.

But the revision will hardly satisfy the authors as, like all government publications, needs to present a balanced perspective (with the balance, of course, changing over time):

At this crucial time of confronting systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, the Canadian government must take responsibility for its enduring role in propagating racism. This includes through its misleading self-portrayal in Discover Canada, the official study guide for the test taken by Canadian citizenship applicants.

Issued in 2011, the guide aims to teach prospective citizens about Canada’s history, geography, culture, and political and justice systems. Disgracefully, the document whitewashes colonialism, conceals genocide, minimizes systemic racism and its inhumane consequences, and portrays these as remnants of the past even as the guide itself engages in racist discourse.

We write as women faculty members at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. Our perspective on these issues is borne of our shared concerns yet differing relationships to “Canadian” nationality. One of us is Algonquin (Timiskaming First Nation); another is a woman of African ancestry, born in “Canada,” surviving transatlantic enslavement; two are new-ish Canadians (white European heritage, from the United States and South Africa); another is a permanent resident from the U.S. (from Venezuela).

Revising the guide

Recognizing Discover Canada’s flaws, the government set out in 2016 to remove certain offensive elements, including the portrayal of immigrants’ “barbaric cultural practices” and the glorification of military exploits.
A draft shared with The Canadian Press in 2017 incorporated coverage of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report, as well as discussion of discrimination against people of racialized backgrounds, people with disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ people and other marginalized communities.

Despite an expected 2017 release — during Canada’s sesquicentennial — the new version, inexplicably, never came to light.

Citizen shame

The cover page of the Canadian citizenship guide.
The guide was issued by the Government of Canada in 2011.
Outrageously, Discover Canada is still the welcome guide for new Canadians. Just a few of its shameful elements include:

1) It presents a sanitized account of Indigenous Peoples, before and under colonization. This erases the history and legacy of stolen lands and dispossession, the upheaval of nations, cultural genocide, broken treaties, assimilation policies such as residential schools, police and carceral racism, continued heinous living conditions on reserves and hugely inequitable health outcomes.

From the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which states Indigenous people are sovereign, to the British North America Act of 1867, there is no discussion of how the Doctrine of Discovery shaped the nation. Discover Canada also omits Indigenous people’s resistance movements, past and present, that contest historical and ongoing forms of colonialism and oppression.

2) The guide celebrates Upper Canada as “the first province in the Empire to move toward abolition” and as a “safe haven” for enslaved Black people escaping the United States, but there is no mention of Canada’s own history of slavery, nor of the pervasive racist violence and human rights violations faced by African and Black Canadians. The guide’s omission of the Code Noir (1685, revised in 1789) further erases the reality of policed and enslaved African lives, which included forced religious conversion, sanctioned punishment and other brutalities.

This legacy, combined with successor policies, has generated over-representation of Black and Indigenous children in foster care and Children’s Aid facilities and high rates of educational, food and housing insecurity, all generating worse health outcomes among Black Canadians.

Likewise, anti-Asian racism is covered only superficially. The horrendous Komagata Maru event is entirely overlooked. The internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War is discussed fleetingly, with no mention of numbers affected (over 22,000), uncompensated liquidation of property, family separation or forced postwar relocation.

The guide flags government apologies but not the racist ideologies and practices justifying such policies. This is the case with anti-Chinese discrimination, including the “Head Tax, a race-based entry fee,” and more recently witnessed in hateful attacks on Asian Canadians during both the SARS and COVID-19 pandemics.

3) Amid overwhelming, longstanding evidence of systemic police brutality targeting racialized communities, the guide’s use of the phrase, “Remember, the police are there to help you.” contradicts the everyday reality of policing for Black, brown and Indigenous peoples. This includes: repeated instances of violence, racial profiling and harassment against Black and Indigenous communities; the RCMP’s complicity in missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls; and grossly disproportional incarceration of Black and Indigenous populations.

4) In discussing the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the guide is highly selective regarding which rights are acknowledged and emphasized. While the guide repeatedly stresses the importance of religious freedom, it fails to mention equality and non-discrimination as fundamental rights. This selective presentation of key human rights protections gives prospective citizens a distorted picture of the rights afforded to Canadians.

The guide also misses the opportunity to endorse key human rights protections against racism, which are central to mitigating the effects of systemic discrimination on people’s well-being, financial security, education and work aspirations.

Additionally ignored are past and contemporary policies that undermine the rights of racialized migrant workers. Examples of these groups include Black migrants, who historically were only admitted as domestic workers or in other menial roles; Filipino workers recruited to be home care aides and personal support workers; and Latin American and Caribbean migrant farm workers today. Racialized migrants are frequently denied landed immigrant status, family reunification, provincial health coverage, unemployment benefits, workplace protections and other social entitlements and worker protections.

An honest guide?

In sum, a replacement citizenship guide is long overdue. A new guide should certainly further highlight working-class struggles pushing Canada’s efforts in realizing rights to health, education and social security, including the role of old age security pensions in reducing poverty among seniors.

Even so, these measures have been markedly scaled back in recent years, with resultant increases in poverty. They have never fully addressed racial, class and gender inequities.

On May 28, 2019, the Liberal government introduced a bill to update the citizenship oath with reference to Indigenous peoples.
A new citizenship guide must also acknowledge ongoing patterns of institutional oppression if we are to begin to address them. Building on resources such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s rulings, a revised citizenship guide should reaffirm the importance of respecting everyone’s human rights as outlined in the Charter.

We urge the federal government to issue a new citizenship guide that accurately reflects the past and recognizes current challenges of redressing systemic racism and pervasive social and economic inequalities. This is a pivotal first step in ensuring dignified futures for new Canadians, and building a society that truly fosters equity, human rights, and social, economic and cultural respect.

Source: https://theconversationcanada.cmail20.com/t/r-l-juzdkkl-kyldjlthkt-c/

Home Office urged to correct false slavery information in citizenship test

Citizenship guides are tricky matters to navigate.

Despite promising a revised guide in 2016, the Canadian government has yet to release what I understand to be a largely complete revision to Discover Canada (which despite some flaws, is a vast improvement of the fluffy A Look at Canada):

More than 175 historians have called on the Home Office to remove the history element of the UK citizenship test because of its “misleading and false” representation of slavery and empire.

The signatories say the official handbook, which the Life in the UK test is based on, creates a distorted version of history, which directly counters the values of tolerance and fairness it purports to promote.

In an open letter, the signatories, including 13 fellows of the British Academy, two past presidents of the Royal Historical Society and the director of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, write: “The official handbook published by the Home Office is fundamentally misleading and in places demonstrably false … People in the colonies and people of colour in the UK are nowhere actors in this official history. The handbook promotes the misleading view that the empire came to an end simply because the British decided it was the right thing to do. Similarly, the abolition of slavery is treated as a British achievement, in which enslaved people themselves played no part. The book is equally silent about colonial protests, uprisings and independence movements.”

Source: Home Office urged to correct false slavery information in citizenship test

Number of immigrants becoming Canadian citizens drops

CBC’s take on the StatsCan report, largely based on my interview (All in a Day):

Fewer Canadian immigrants became citizens in 2016 than 1996, according to a new study released by Statistics Canada this week, though more recent developments  may be addressing some of the issues at play.

The citizenship rate among recent immigrants was just over 75 per cent in 1996, but declined to 60 per cent in 2016.

“There are a number of factors that created the decline,” said Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, on CBC Radio’s All in a Day Thursday.

Griffith said that part of the reason may be financial.

The processing fee for citizenship used to be $200, but the amount was increased to $630 under the previous Conservative government, Griffith said.

“If you look at a family of four, you’re talking about $1,500 or so,” he said. “That’s a significant burden.”

The Liberals were re-elected to a minority government last month with a platform that included eliminating this application fee.

There was a spike in citizenship applications late in 2017, after the period covered by the study, when the federal government relaxed some of the residency and language rules.

Complicated language

Another issue, according to Griffith, is that more complex language is used in the new citizenship study guide.

In order to obtain citizenship, people must take a written test on Canada and the government.

The guide was revised about a decade ago, and Griffith said it includes more sophisticated language.

As a result, people with lower levels of education can have a harder time.

“You’re creating an additional barrier that doesn’t need to be there,” he said.

He added that it’s possible to simplify the language in the study guide without simplifying the content.

Big decline in East Asian immigrants

The study also revealed the decline in citizenship rates was most pronounced among East Asian immigrants.

In 1996 the citizenship rate among East Asian immigrants was at 83 per cent, but that was down to 45 per cent by 2016.

Chinese immigrants drove the majority of this decline, according to Statistics Canada, which may demonstrate their changing preference for keeping Chinese citizenship while the country experiences significant economic growth.

In comparison, the rate among immigrants from western Europe, South America and the United States remained stable or slightly declined.

The percentage of recent immigrants obtaining Canadian citizenship is seeing a noticeable decline especially among those with lower family incomes, levels of education, and knowledge of English or French. In this hour…a former director with Citizenship and Immigration tells us why this is the case. 10:23

Being a citizen gives new Canadians the ability to enter or leave Canada freely, the right to a Canadian passport, as well as the right to vote in Canadian elections.

But Griffith also emphasized how the broader Canadian public benefits from having new citizens.

“Immigrants who choose to become Canadians tend to be more involved in Canadian society, more engaged in Canadian society, contribute more to Canadian society,” he said.

“So there’s a mix of that private benefit to the individual and public benefits to society.”

Source: Nov. 14, 2019: New study shows decline in percentage of recent immigrants obtaining Canadian citizenship10:24

Revamped citizenship guide still a work in progress as election nears

The government clearly dropped the ball on the revised citizenship guide as it is now too close to the election to be released without it being perceived as overtly political. The current guide, Discover Canada, also has a political aspect to some of its messaging.

The delay also means not fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation 93:

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including call upon the officials and host countries of information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.”

The other related TRC recommendation 94, calling for a change in the oath to add “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples” has also been missed by the government (while including the change in an omnibus budget bill would be highly inappropriate, hard to see how this would be anymore inappropriate to other measures included in the recent budget):

A promised overhaul of Canada’s citizenship guide remains a work in progress with just months left in the Liberal government’s mandate.

That leaves newcomers to the country with the existing guide — which is riddled with historical gaps and outdated information — as their primary document for preparing for the citizenship test.

The government is revamping the 68-page Discover Canada document, last updated in 2012, to better reflect diversity and to include more “meaningful content” about the history and rights of Indigenous people and the residential school experience.

With just five months to go before the federal election, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said a launch date still has not been set and offered no specific explanation for the delay.

“We are committed to getting the citizenship guide right, and that includes consulting with as many stakeholders [as possible] on the proposed changes. This work is ongoing,” said Mathieu Genest. “We are listening to experts, stakeholders and community representatives, because what we want to do is take the politics out of the guide.”

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said it’s “incomprehensible” that the guide is taking this long to roll out.

“Our major concern is that newcomers be presented with a fair and balanced picture of Canada that acknowledges the problems in Canadian and current reality, and how that affects Indigenous people and racialized people. When we fail to provide an accurate picture of our country, it’s a disservice to the country as a whole as well as to the newcomers,” she said.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had recommended revising information materials for newcomers and the citizenship test to reflect “a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the treaties and the history of residential schools.”

Historical gaps, outdated information

Until the new guide is released, newcomers will have to use the existing guide to study for the citizenship test. It contains limited information on the legacy of residential schools, outdated information on things like population numbers and lyrics to the national anthem that have since been changed by Parliament to make them more gender-neutral.

Calling the delay “astounding,” NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said it’s unacceptable that there’s still incorrect, outdated information in the guide.

“You want our newcomers to know the wording to our national anthem. It’s embarrassing to have in our citizenship guide this kind of misinformation,” she said.

Kwan said she is puzzled by the delay, given that MPs were consulted on it two years ago and an early draft was leaked last year to The Canadian Press.

“I certainly think that with the citizenship guide, we can take the opportunity to ensure that new Canadians, newcomers understand our history, the good, bad and the ugly, and … fully appreciate the history of Canada, most certainly around the issue of Indigenous people,” she said. “To give full recognition to that, I think, is very important.”

Plan was to release guide in 2017

A draft copy of the revised guide obtained by The Canadian Press showed a reference to the illegal practice of female genital mutilation had been dropped. CP also reported that the Liberals hoped to have the new guide in place for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

Last fall, CBC News reported that the updated citizenship guide would, in fact, include a warning to newcomers about female genital mutilation.

The issue had become politically charged, with Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel repeatedly pressing Hussen on the topic. She also sponsored an e-petition in the House of Commons on the matter.

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Zool Suleman said the government likely thought the updating exercise would be easier than it turned out to be. He said the citizenship guide reflects the priorities and values of the government that writes it, and helps to define how people see the country.

Political tilt on focus

The previous Conservative government tilted the guide’s wording toward military history and rights and the responsibilities of citizenship, while the Liberal government appears to be inclined to explain Indigenous reconciliation and multiculturalism, Suleman said.

“Given that we have an election coming up, there’s probably a calculus about whether it’s worth releasing a new guide, which inevitably will make some people happy and other people unhappy,” he said.

Dory Jade, chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, said he believes it’s better to take the time to get it right instead of rushing it for political reasons.

“I personally believe the bureaucratic machine requires more time to do such a job and the government did not foresee that in their promise,” he said, noting that the Conservative government also took a long time to finish its update.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the revamp is focused on several key areas:

  • Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for language that better reflects the perspectives and history of Indigenous peoples of Canada.
  • Showcasing Canada’s cultural diversity and commitment to official languages.
  • Presenting the social evolution of civic rights and freedoms for LGBT, women and people with disabilities.
  • Using language that is more accessible for second-language learners and structuring the document so the newcomer can more easily identify the main points of each chapter.

The government has also pledged to update materials for newcomers and to amend the oath of citizenship to reflect respect for Indigenous rights. That change to the citizenship oath was also recommended by the TRC and included in Hussen’s Feb. 1, 2017 mandate letter.

Those initiatives are also still ongoing, according to Hussen’s office.

Source: Revamped citizenship guide still a work in progress as election nears

New citizenship guide to warn against ‘abhorrent’ practice of female genital mutilation

Good. Now the question remains how this will be presented and what language will be used.

Hopefully, the guide will place this in the context of spousal and child abuse, sexual assault, and a short summary of the evolution of women’s rights in Canada, without the identify politics label of “barbaric cultural practices.”

While one would have hoped that the government would have done this in any case, one has to give credit to Conservative Immigration Critic Michelle Rempel for pressing the issue:

Canada’s updated citizenship guide will include a warning to newcomers about the illegal practice of female genital mutilation.

In a statement provided to CBC News, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen called it an “abhorrent practice” that is against the law in Canada.

“While the content for the new guide is still being developed, Canadians can be assured that the new document will include information on Canada’s laws against gender-based violence, including FGM,” he said.

“We would normally not comment on a product still under development, but given the interest in this specific issue, I felt it was important to update Canadians on where we stand.”

The issue has become politically charged, with the Conservatives suggesting the revamped guide would drop a reference to the practice.

Immigration critic Michelle Rempel has repeatedly pressed Hussen on the topic, and sponsored an e-petition in the House of Commons that calls on the government to ensure the new guide condemns the practice.
Petition E-1310, which is open until Feb, 3, now has nearly 25,000 signatures.

On Nov. 28, 2017, Rempel urged people to sign the petition in a tweet that said: “Trudeau is removing references to female genital mutilation as being a harmful practice from Canada’s citizenship guide.”

Rempel was citing a report from The Canadian Press, which said a draft copy of the revised citizenship guide removed the reference to FGM. The current guide, brought in by the Conservatives in 2011, stresses that men and women are equal under the law in Canada.

“Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence,” it reads. “Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.”

via New citizenship guide to warn against ‘abhorrent’ practice of female genital mutilation | CBC News

Petition calling for more representation of Indigenous people in citizenship guide headed to House of Commons

Pretty clear that there will be from public comments at both the political and official levels (see Pathways to Prosperity 2017: Building Bridges between Indigenous and Immigrant Communities):

….Indigenous people from B.C. say changes critical

For Wet’suwet’en and African-American youth Taleetha Tait, changes to the guide are critical.

“It allows our experiences to be acknowledged and not to be judged,” Tait said.

“I feel better about new people coming to Canada and learning the truth and not hiding the wrongs, so there is less ignorance,” she added.

Information about Indigenous people in the citizenship guide is placed in the “Canada’s History” and the “Who We Are” sections.

The first describes the hunting and gathering practices and traditional diets of Indigenous people. For example, it says “West Coast natives preserved fish by drying and smoking.” It also adds “warfare was common among Aboriginal groups as they competed for land, resources and prestige.”

The Indigenous section under “Who We Are”  starts with “the ancestors of Aboriginal peoples are believed to have migrated from Asia many thousands of years ago.” It uses the word “Indian” and “Aboriginal” to describe Indigenous people and says residential school ended in the 1980s.

Ry Moran, the director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, says the guide is not giving newcomers the tools needed to participate in important conversations Canadians are currently having.

“It’s a very good example of a document that presents very poor information on Indigenous people and absolutely needs to be rewritten,” Moran said.

“It repeats the general narrative that there were Indigenous Peoples, there was a brief period of relationship and then goes into the predominant settler narrative. It doesn’t talk about the difficult relationship or serve newcomers well,” he added.

Changes a long time coming says new Canadian

There are two Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action pushing the federal government to revise the information kit for newcomers, the citizenship test and the oath to reflect an accurate portrayal of Indigenous people.

They call on the Government of Canada to change the Oath of Citizenship to observe treaties with Indigenous Peoples.

The guide currently says Aboriginal and treaty rights are in the Canadian Constitution, but there is nothing about treaties in the oath.

Kue K’nyawmupoe came to Canada as a Burmese refugee and is now a Canadian citizen. She says she is relieved the new citizenship guide and exam will be updated and wished she had learned more about Indigenous people when she first arrived.

“That is a very good change that has needed to happen for a very long time, and it would be very useful for Canadians  to recognize the first people of Canada, to be more inclusive,” K’nyawmupoe said.

The cynical roots of Rempel’s female genital mutilation crusade – iPolitics

Martin Patriquin on Michelle Rempel’s raising the issue of FGM and its inclusion or not in the revision of the Discover Canada citizenship guide:

The procedure by which a woman’s clitoris is surgically removed is usually performed without anesthesia and in unsanitary conditions. Unnecessary, retrograde and associated with a host of physical ailments, the surgery also can saddle a woman with a lifetime of psychological issues.

The very purpose of the surgery — to deprive a woman of sexual pleasure — is religiosity at its worst. Only a monster would support such a thing.

A monster — or the Liberal government, according to the blinkered thinking of Conservative MP Michelle Rempel. She seems to believe that the 23rd prime minister of Canada, along with its 20th immigration minister, are in favour of the practice.

Why? Because the Liberal government (she suggests) plans to remove from the pending new citizenship guide a reference to female genital mutilation, which is listed among other “barbaric cultural practices,” including honour killings and forced marriage.

“Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws,” the current guide helpfully points out.

In fact, ‘plans to remove’ is too strong a statement, as the Liberals have yet to release the new citizenship guide, which newcomers use to study for the citizenship test. Nor have the Liberals said that the reference would be excised from the guide, despite the leak of a draft copy this summer that didn’t include it. Whenever he is asked about it, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen typically spouts the words “consultation” and “stakeholders” ad absurdum.

Rempel, who serves as the party’s shadow minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, sees something altogether nefarious in all this bureaucratese. And should the Liberals indeed remove the mention of female genital mutilation, it will be a “tacit message to people that perhaps the Canadian government is OK with it,” Rempel recently said during a radio interview.

open quote 761b1bRempel’s line of questioning strongly suggested Hussen was a cypher, using his position to foist the practice of ritual mutilation on an unsuspecting Canadian public.

So, there you have it. Canada’s current government is in favour of the forced, ritual removal of a part of a woman’s anatomy, according to the Official Opposition. To be clear, Rempel says she doesn’t know why the Liberal government would be gung ho on such a thing. But that hasn’t stopped her from speculating — on the record.

During a recent parliamentary committee hearing, Rempel lobbed loaded questions at Hussen, the apparent goal of which was to suggest the Prime Minister’s Office had asked for the reference to be removed. After Hussen said the PMO hadn’t instructed him to do anything, Rempel aimed for the jugular — or rather, below the belt. “What is your personal view?” Rempel asked Hussen, before the committee chair mercifully cut her off.

Hussen hails from Somalia, where the rate of female genital mutilation is the highest in the world, according to UNICEF. He is a refugee who fled war and strife to become a Canadian citizen and eventually a federal cabinet minister. Rempel’s line of questioning strongly suggested he was a cypher, using his position to foist the practice of ritual mutilation on an unsuspecting Canadian public.

The reference to female genital mutilation in the citizenship guide is similarly loaded. Telling potential citizens that cutting off another person’s body parts is illegal and will be punished is … redundant. Worse still, the inference is clear, and is aimed squarely at a certain subset of would-be Canadian citizens: Muslims.

Not coincidentally, female genital mutilation is carried out in roughly 30 countries, nearly all of them in Africa and nearly all predominantly Muslim. The inclusion of the phrase in the 2011 citizenship guide, much like the Conservative’s “barbaric cultural practices hotline” gambit during the 2015 election, is the stuff of cynical wedge politics meant to leverage revulsion against an identifiable religious group.

It conveniently ignores the fact that immigrants and refugees often flee their countries of origin specifically because of such practices. And it vastly overstates the scope of the problem in Canada.

As in Europe, instances of genital mutilation in this country remain isolated tragedies, and often come to light as a result of arrests. Moreover, the rate of female genital mutilation among those 30 countries has decreased by 30 per cent since 1985, according to UNICEF.

Meanwhile, other types of crimes in Canada are far more common. There were 1,409 police reported hate crimes in 2016 — an increase of 20 per cent since 2013. The homicide rate has also increased by 20 per cent in that time period. There were over 220,000 assaults across the country in 2016, and roughly 159,000 instances of breaking and entering.

One wonders why Rempel isn’t pushing the federal government to remind potential citizens that murder, assault, thievery and race-based aggression are illegal in this country and will be punished. Because it’s obvious, perhaps?

via The cynical roots of Rempel’s female genital mutilation crusade – iPolitics

Proposed citizenship oath change prompts some to call for more education about Indigenous people: Consultations

Good account of the results of the consultations:

A revised oath of citizenship that will require new Canadians to faithfully observe the country’s treaties with Indigenous people is nearly complete.

The proposed new text was put to focus groups held by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in March, following months of consultation by departmental officials.

The language comes from the 94th and final recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined the legacy of Canada’s residential schools.

Implementing that recommendation was one of the tasks given to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen when he was sworn into his portfolio in January 2017, but work on it began soon after the commission delivered its recommendations in late 2015, briefing notes for the minister suggest.

Focus groups mixed on proposed changes

The notes, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, show the government also wants to modify the script delivered by those who preside over citizenship ceremonies. The proposed notes say the script should refer to ceremonies on traditional territories, and include remarks on the history of Indigenous people.

When it comes to the oath, the inclusion of a reference to treaties is the only proposed change.

Changing the wording requires a legislative amendment to the Citizenship Act. The Liberals are in the process of overhauling the act in a bid to make citizenship easier to obtain.

When the proposed text was put to focus groups composed of both recent immigrants and longtime Canadian residents, reaction was generally positive, according to a report posted online by the Immigration Department this week.

But there was a caveat: “Participants only agreed with the modifications insofar as newcomers are adequately educated about Indigenous Peoples and the treaties,” the report said.

“Many felt that they themselves would struggle with this new formulation, given their own limited knowledge of the treaties.”

Some wondered about the need for changes at all.

“A few participants took it upon themselves to question the need to modify the oath and that it might represent a precedent whereby other groups in Canada will want to be represented in the oath,” the report said.

The new oath comes along with a major overhaul of the study guide used for the citizenship exam. A draft copy obtained by The Canadian Press earlier this year revealed it, too, will include extensive references to Indigenous history and culture.

The Liberals had originally been aiming to unveil both the new guide and oath around Canada Day, but work is ongoing.

It reads: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

Source: Proposed citizenship oath change prompts some to call for more education about Indigenous people – Politics – CBC News

Globe editorial: Ottawa should stop politicizing the citizenship guide

If only …

But even a neutral body would have a challenge drafting a text that would be viewed as neutral by all:

Immigrants who want to become citizens of Canada have to pass a test demonstrating a basic knowledge of this country. To prepare for the test, the federal government provides a study guide filled with facts, names, dates and – these days – subtle little plugs for the party in power.

It’s sad, really. After reading the current version of the guide prepared by the Harper government and parts of a draft of the new one coming any minute now from the Trudeau government, one is left with the impression that the chief goal of the exercise isn’t to help newcomers be better citizens but, rather, to tickle the biases of the governing party’s supporters.

Take the Harper version. It tells newcomers that Canadian law prohibits “barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.”

It also says that one of the chief responsibilities of citizenship, along with obeying the law and serving on juries, is “getting a job, taking care of one’s family and working hard.”

Conservative voters reading this are going, What’s wrong with either of those things? Liberal voters, on the other hand, are going, Typical Conservative bashing of immigrants’ culture and work ethic!

Which explains why, under the Liberals, the references to barbaric cultural practices and the responsibility of getting a job aren’t in a draft of the new guide obtained by the Canadian Press.

Can you guess what Trudeau government canon will soon be included in the “mandatory” responsibilities of citizenship, along with obeying the law and doing jury duty?

Filling out the census and respecting treaties with Indigenous peoples, that’s what.

If the NDP ever gets into power, we swear the guide will be re-written to say that supporting the right to collective bargaining is a responsibility of Canadian citizenship, and that the colour orange isn’t just for Halloween anymore.

The guide has become a silly competition, with successive governing parties redefining the obligations of citizenship along ideological lines. Citizenship – this country’s greatest gift – should be less fickle than that.

Ottawa should give the job of writing the guide to a neutral body, and leave the politicking to election campaigns.

Source: Globe editorial: Ottawa should stop politicizing the citizenship guide – The Globe and Mail

Respecting Indigenous treaties is mandatory in draft rewrite of citizenship guide

Look forward to seeing the final version and doing a detailed comparison with previous study guides. Clear shift, as expected, from the current Discover Canada:

Respecting treaties with Indigenous Peoples, paying taxes and filling out the census are listed as mandatory obligations of Canadian citizenship in a draft version of a new study guide for the citizenship exam.

The working copy obtained by The Canadian Press suggests the federal government has completely overhauled the book used by prospective Canadians to prepare for the test.

The current “Discover Canada” guide dates back to 2011 when the previous Conservative government did its own overhaul designed to provide more information on Canadian values and history.

Some of the Conservatives’ insertions attracted controversy, including increased detail about the War of 1812 and a warning that certain “barbaric cultural practices,” such as honour killings and female genital mutilation, are crimes in Canada.

Getting rid of both those elements was what former Liberal Immigration Minister John McCallum had in mind when he said early in 2016 that the book was up for a rewrite. But although work has been underway for over a year, there’s no date set for publication of a final version.

In the draft version, the reference to barbaric cultural practices is gone, as is the inclusion of getting a job as one of the responsibilities of citizenship.

Instead, the proposed new guide breaks down the responsibilities of citizenship into two categories: voluntary and mandatory.

Voluntary responsibilities are listed as respecting the human rights of others, understanding official bilingualism and participating in the political process.

Obeying the law, serving on a jury, paying taxes, filling out the census and respecting treaties with Indigenous Peoples are mandatory.

“Today, Canadians, for example, can own their own homes and buy land thanks to treaties that the government negotiated,” the draft version says. “Every Canadian has responsibilities under those treaties as well. They are agreements of honour.”

The draft guide delves extensively into the history and present-day lives of Indigenous Peoples, including multiple references to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on residential schools and a lengthy section on what happened at those schools. The current guide contains a single paragraph.

The draft also devotes substantive sections to sad chapters of Canadian history when the Chinese, South Asians, Jews and disabled Canadians were discriminated against, references that were absent or exceptionally limited previously.

The new version also documents the evolution of the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups, as well as other sexual minorities. Bureaucrats had sought to include similar themes in the 2011 book but were overruled by then-immigration minister Jason Kenney, with their efforts reduced to a single line on gay marriage.

There’s also an entirely new section called “Quality of Life in Canada” that delves into the education system — including a pitch for people to save money for their children’s schooling — the history of medicare, descriptions of family life, leisure time, effects of the environment on Canadian arts and culture and even a paragraph seeking to explain Canadian humour.

Canadians like to make fun of themselves, the book notes.

“Humour and satire about the experience of Indigenous, racialized, refugee and immigration peoples and their experiences is growing in popularity,” the section says.

The rewrite is part of a much broader renewal of citizenship laws and process that is underway. In June, legislation passed that changed the age for those who need to pass the knowledge test for citizenship, among other things.

Briefing notes obtained separately from the draft copy show nearly every government department is being consulted for input into the guide. But the team inside the Immigration Department didn’t just look there.

They were also taking cues from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sharing copies of his remarks for themes to incorporate.

One of Trudeau’s often repeated mantras — “Canada has learned how to be strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them” — appears to be paraphrased directly in the opening section of the book: “Canadians have learned how to be strong because of our differences.”

The briefing notes say the guide is to be released to mark Canada’s 150th birthday but elsewhere note that production time is at least four months once a final version has been approved.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Department stressed the importance of the consultations that have gone into the new guide.

“While this may take more time, this broader approach will result in a final product that better reflects Canada’s diversity and Indigenous history, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Lindsay Wemp said in an email.

Source: Respecting Indigenous treaties is mandatory in draft rewrite of citizenship guide – The Globe and Mail