‘It’s about time’ to update citizenship guide, Assembly of First Nations Alberta chief says

Of note:

Assembly of First Nations Alberta regional chief Marlene Poitras hopes newcomers to Canada will learn more about Indigenous history and culture once the federal government updates its citizenship guide.

The 68-page document, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, prepares newcomers for the citizenship test. It has not been updated since 2012.

In its 93rd call to action, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for revising the guide and citizenship test to “reflect a more inclusive history,” including material about treaties and residential schools.

Residential schools are mentioned briefly in the current guide.

“The schools were poorly funded and inflicted hardship on the students; some were physically abused,” one sentence reads.

The Liberal government promised in 2016 that changes to the guide were coming but they have not yet materialized.

“It’s about time — it should have happened a long time ago,” Poitras said Wednesday in an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

Beyond consultations for the guide itself, Poitras said she has recommended that elders participate in the ceremonies for new citizens.

“We have been hard at work over the past few years crafting a new citizenship guide that reflects contemporary Canada,” said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Nancy Caron in an emailed statement.

Caron said the process has included “extensive collaboration ” with leaders of Indigenous organizations as well as historians, academics, parliamentarians and groups representing racialized communities, women, francophones, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.

The ministry hopes to share the new guide with Canadians later this year, Caron said.

“From what I understand, from talking to some people who know this better than I do, the new guide will have more extensive coverage of Indigenous history,” said Andrew Griffith, former director general of citizenship and multiculturalism for the IRCC.

On Thursday, the Senate passed Bill C-8, which would revise the citizenship oath newcomers take to include mention of treaties with Indigenous peoples.

“While getting the oath changed is really important, it will really be important to see how the next version of the guide — which apparently is fairly advanced — captures these issues,” Griffith said.

Source: ‘It’s about time’ to update citizenship guide, Assembly of First Nations Alberta chief says

Why Canada so urgently needs to update its citizenship materials

Kind of surprising that Postmedia has largely ignored these criticisms to date (unless I missed them) and that little effort appears to have to engage more than one advocate and one academic. And why pick a pharmacology professor rather than one with citizenship and immigration expertise (e.g., Ravi Pendakur, Elke Winter, Audrey Macklin to name but a few).

But at least we have a glimpse of the revised guide themes: relationships, opportunity and commitment.

No public date yet set for release, and unclear whether it will be released before an expected election later this year:

More than a decade after its publication and at least four years after it was promised, an update is coming this year to the Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship study guide.

The current guide, created in 2009 and lightly updated in 2012, is provided to newcomers to learn about the nation’s history, culture and ethics in advance of the citizenship test they must pass to become Canadians. The study guide is, in essence, a distillation of how the government wants the nation to be seen and of the foundational touchpoints it wants immigrants to understand.

The guide has been criticized for its many misrepresentations about Canada, either by omission or part-truth, because it contains highly controversial statements that, critics say, have continued to whitewash the country’s historical treatment of First Nations and other minorities.

Source: Why Canada so urgently needs to update its citizenship materials

Five years after call to add Indigenous rights to citizenship guide, no changes made

Valid critique. The government has prepared an advanced draft (Revamped citizenship guide still a work in progress as election nears.  and has tabled C-6 to change the oath), but whether the new guide will be issued or the bill receive Royal Assent before a likely election in the summer or fall remains to be seen:à

More than five years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the federal government to revise the Canadian citizenship oath and exam guide, newcomers still study a book that contains a single paragraph on residential schools and they take an oath that doesn’t refer to treaties with Indigenous Peoples.

Calls for action Nos. 93 and 94 in the commission’s final report in December 2015 called on the government to update the citizenship guide and oath to reflect a more inclusive history of Indigenous Peoples and a recognition of their treaties and rights.

The Liberal government introduced a new law in October to adopt a revised oath of citizenship that will have new Canadians swear to faithfully observe the country’s treaties with Indigenous Peoples. Two previous versions of the law died with the 2019 election.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told the House of Commons Indigenous and northern affairs committee last month that his department is consulting with national Indigenous organizations to revise the citizenship guide to include more information.

The five largest Indigenous organizations in the country told The Canadian Press that they have not been involved in any formal consultations recently with the government on the new guide. The organizations are the Assembly of First Nations, the Metis National Council, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

AFN Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras said Indigenous Peoples’ history and culture should be reflected in the materials that newcomers study to become citizens.

“Absolutely, (the citizenship guide) should be changed,” she said in an interview.

“Education is key — about who we are, how we existed here and welcomed the newcomers here, signed treaties, then had to deal with residential schools.”

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said his organization worked with the Immigration Department in 2017 and 2018 on a new guide, but work has stopped.

The AFN asked the department in 2018 to seek out First Nations historians to ensure inclusion of First Nations content in the guide.

“Officials from (the department) have been in touch with AFN recently to discuss next steps and to share a new version of the guide. A meeting has not yet been scheduled,” the AFN said in a statement.

The department said in a statement the new citizenship guide will be published “as soon as we can,” noting that a launch date for the new guide has not been set.

Clement Chartier, the president of the Metis National Council, said his organization received a draft of the revised guide on May 3, 2018.

“Since then, I’ve not seen anything,” Chartier said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said her party shares concerns about the slow progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action.

She said the government’s introduction of Bill C-8 to revise the oath of citizenship came too late.

“This is the third time in which this bill has come before Parliament, and each time prior to this the government’s chosen to introduce the bill so late in the day,” she said.

Kwan said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has talked recently about the possibility of having an early federal election.

“Will Bill C-8 once again be railroaded and not be completed?” she said.

Poitras is worried C-8 would die in Parliament if an election is called, since that wipes the legislative agenda clean.

“I’m hearing that there’s another election and they still kind of go back and forth about the semantics of it,” she said,

“It’s not going to go anywhere again.”

The department said Mendicino is grateful to the parliamentary committee members for voting to sending C-8 back to the House of Commons for third reading he looks forward to seeing it pass through the Senate and become law as soon as possible.

Conservative Indigenous services critic Gary Vidal said it’s unfortunate that the Liberals once again seem to be missing an opportunity to act.

“The Liberal government has been big on promises of reconciliation but slow on action,” he said.

Lorraine Whitman, the president of Native Women’s Association of Canada, said she was invited to testify on Bill C-8 last week, only two days before the committee meeting.

“It would have been nice to be able to be included prior to it,” she said.

National Chief Elmer St. Pierre of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples said his organization was not consulted on any of the new laws the government has put forward to advance the rights and the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples.

“I was able to speak for six minutes on the citizenship,” he said referring to his testimony at the committee meeting on Bill C-8.

“We weren’t really informed and it was kind of like the 11th hour when they gave us the opportunity to talk,” he said.

Poitras said all political parties should work together to pass Bill C-8 quickly.

“Make this a non-partisan issue,” she said.

“If Canada is really serious about addressing systemic racism and dealing with truth and reconciliation, they would honour those recommendations and move forward with this legislation to receive royal assent.”

Source: Five years after call to add Indigenous rights to citizenship guide, no changes made

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

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.

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

New Canadians to pledge honour for Indigenous treaties in revised citizenship oath – Politics – CBC News

The first change to the oath since 1977:

New Canadians will soon promise to honour treaties with Indigenous peoples as part of their oath of citizenship.

The mandate letter for new Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen lists making the change to the swearing-in ceremony as one of his key priorities, along with enhancing refugee resettlement services and cutting wait times for application processing.

According to the mandate letter, the proposed change is to reflect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

That reads: “We call upon the government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: 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.”The current oath does not include the words “including treaties with Indigenous peoples.”

The call for action was among 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in December 2015.

Call to revise citizenship test

Another recommendation called on the federal government, in collaboration with national Indigenous organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and the citizenship test to “reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada.”

That would include information about the treaties and the history of residential schools, according to the document.

Lorna Standingready - RTR4YPUL3

Residential school survivor Lorna Standingready, left, is comforted during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada closing ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

This past December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of an independent national council to help implement the recommendations.

Source: New Canadians to pledge honour for Indigenous treaties in revised citizenship oath – Politics – CBC News

The specific commitments of Minister Hussen’s mandate letter are (the emphasis on measuring outcomes for settlement services and “rigorous approach to data” is also of note):

In particular, I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities:

  • Ensure the effective implementation of Canada’s increased annual immigration levels.

  • Working with the provinces and territories, ensure a renewed focus on the delivery of high-quality settlement services to ensure the successful arrival of new Canadians.  This will require a rigorous approach to data in order to accurately measure outcomes.

  • Following our government-wide efforts to resettle more than 39,000 Syrian refugees as of January 2017, continue to welcome refugees from Syria and elsewhere, and work with provinces and territories, service provider organizations, and communities to ensure refugees are integrating successfully into Canada to become participating members of society.

  • Work on reducing application processing times, on improving the department’s service delivery and client services to make it timelier and less complicated, and on enhancing system efficiency including the asylum system.

  • Continue to work with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness towards the adoption of Bill C-6 which would repeal provisions in the Citizenship Act that give the government the right to strip citizenship from dual nationals.

  • Conduct a review of the visa policy framework, including its application to the transit of passengers through Canada, in a way that promotes economic growth while ensuring program integrity.

  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to make changes to the Oath of Canadian Citizenship to reflect the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action.

  • Work with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour to improve the temporary foreign worker program so it meets the needs of Canadian workers and employers.  This would include:

    • further developing a pathway to permanent residency so that eligible applicants are able to more fully contribute to Canadian society; and

    • working with stakeholders to act on the recommendations of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities’ study of the temporary foreign worker program.

These priorities draw heavily from our election platform commitments.