Guide covers Canada 'eh' to 'zed'
NEW CITIZENSHIP STUDY MATERIALS INCLUDE IMPORTANT HISTORIC AND CULTURAL TOPICS PREVIOUSLY LEFT OUT
By ANDREW HANON
Last Updated: 15th November 2009, 12:59am
Welcome to Canada. Please make sure you brought your skates, hockey stick and great big foam “number one” hand.
One of the first things new immigrants will learn about their chosen home is Canadians love hockey. The fact it's by far our most popular sport is right there in the new citizenship guide, introduced last week by the federal government.
Hockey, the guide says, is an important part of our national identity. Aside from being our biggest spectator sport, “many young Canadians play hockey at school, in a hockey league, or on quiet streets — road hockey or street hockey — and are taken to the rink by parents. Canadian children have collected hockey cards for generations.”
Wayne Gretzky, pictured in an Edmonton Oilers jersey, is listed as one of our greatest heroes. Write down that name. It might be on the exam.
The Tory government has revamped the guide, which is given to immigrants applying for full citizenship in order to help them study for the written test.
A few months ago, Immigration Minister and Calgary MP Jason Kenney said the old guide, last revised in 1995, wasn't Canadian enough.
There was lots of information about public health care and the environment, he said, but precious little about our history, culture and institutions.
He intended to change that, prompting critics to worry the Harper Tories might use this to chip away at federal multiculturalism policy. Some feared the new guide would promote assimilation of new immigrants instead of celebrating our cultural mosaic.
Well, that is clearly not the case.
The new guide proudly celebrates our multicultural society, one of the most diverse on the planet.
“Canada is often referred to as a land of immigrants because, over the past 200 years, millions of newcomers have helped to build and defend our way of life,” the guide states. “Today, many ethnic and religious groups live and work in peace as proud Canadians.”
It also doesn't shy away from or sugarcoat racism in Canada's past, either.
Native residential schools and the denial of voting rights to Asian Canadians until the 1940s are both explained.
The overarching message is all Canadians have rights, but they also have responsibilities.
Cultural diversity and religious freedom are integral parts of who were are, however, so is equality and respect for others.
“In Canada, men and women are equal under the law. Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, 'honour killings,' female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence,” the guide states.
It's delicate balance between accepting diversity and holding all Canadians to a core set of principles, such as the rule of law and protection of human rights.
No doubt the new document,which will replace the old one early in the new year, will have critics, and there is room for minor adjustments.
But overall, it hits the target.