Canadians seem pleased with additions to immigrants' handbook: poll
By John Ward (CP)
November 20, 2009
OTTAWA—-A new immigration handbook that adds sections on military history, legendary inventors and some of the darker aspects of Canada's past seems to be a hit with the public, a poll suggests.
Survey respondents warmly welcomed several of the new additions to the handbook, which is used to prepare for citizenship tests.
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests that 58 per cent of people feel that immigrants have a poor, or very poor understanding of Canadian history. Only 31 per cent said newcomers have a good, or very good understanding.
Introducing the new handbook “Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship” last week, Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney said the document is an attempt to modernize and broaden the information newcomers need to know.
Kenney said those who want to become Canadians should be expected to understand their rights and responsibilities, and “the values and institutions that are rooted in Canada's history.”
The poll suggests people like much of the new material, said Doug Anderson, Harris-Decima senior vice-president.
“For the most part, the majorities are saying this is a good or excellent addition,” he said.
The survey described five additions to the handbook and asked people whether they thought they were excellent, good, OK or poor additions.
Roughly 80 per cent said the section on Canadian military history is at the least an OK addition, with 58 per cent saying it was a good or even excellent move.
Another new segment deals with Canadian innovators, such as Sir Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin. That was called excellent or good by 62 per cent of respondents.
Anderson said he sees a reason for this support.
“I certainly think that stuff like Banting and the invention of insulin and the focus on military tradition, they are things that are a source of pride and therefore positives that they do seem to endorse having included in something like a citizenship handbook.”
An exploration of the darker points of Canada's history, including the internment of people during the Second World War and the treatment of aboriginals, was also called good or excellent by 62 per cent.
“I was a little surprised at the level of support.” Anderson said. “I think it shows that Canadians are willing to be introspective and willing for others to be aware of the whole picture of Canada, warts and all.”
People were more lukewarm, however, over the addition of Quebec separatism and sports heroes.
About 46 per cent said the Quebec material was a good, or excellent improvement, but 27 per cent said it was a poor addition, the highest resistance to any of the new sections.
That breakdown held right across the country, said Anderson.
“The element of Quebec separatism is the one of the five we tested where the figures stay almost identical across region, by gender, by age, by language. It was unique in that opinions didn't vary by any of those demographic sub groups.
“I frankly expected a regional divide and didn't find it.”
About one in five thought the sports segment was a poor move, although 48 per cent thought it was good or excellent and support was especially strong in Quebec.
The new handbook is about 20 pages longer than its 47-page predecessor, but the citizenship test will still contain about 24 of what Kenney called “straightforward” multiple-choice questions.
The addition of the new material is the first major change to the citizenship guide since it was created in 1995.
The poll, part of an omnibus telephone survey conducted Nov. 12-15, questioned 2,014 people. It is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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