Ci­ti­zen­ship guide tells new­com­ers: Pay taxes

Draft ver­sion from feds also says fill­ing out cen­sus is an obli­ga­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHANIE LEVITZ

OT­TAWA — 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 more than 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 then­im­mi­gra­tion 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.

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