The Conservative government has re-written the book on what it means to be Canadian.
No longer will prospective immigrants learn that Canada is a strictly peaceful nation. Instead there will be a greater emphasis on Canada's military history and on the poppy as a symbol of remembrance and of Canada’s sacrifice in the First World War.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will reveal a major overhaul Thursday of the booklet given to all citizenship applicants. The current booklet, "A Look at Canada", was written under a Liberal government in 1997. In the past Mr. Kenney has said he can't believe the booklet, intended to help applicants study for their citizenship tests, includes a lengthy section on protection of the environment but barely makes mention of the Canadian Forces.
The 45-page booklet also includes a two-page discussion of Canada's aboriginal peoples and fails to discuss the history of tensions between Quebec and the rest of Canada.
“Since becoming Minister, I have often remarked on how the citizenship education materials the Government of Canada provides to newcomers are inadequate. They fail to provide newcomers with a solid grasp of our country's history, symbols, values and institutions,” Mr. Kenney says in a statement set to be released Tuesday afternoon.
“More than 150,000 immigrants take the citizenship test each year after studying our citizenship guide, A Look at Canada . Unfortunately, A Look at Canada lacks meaningful information about Canada's history, symbolism, values, and institutions.”
Mr. Kenney said officials in his department had consulted with experts in Canadian history, civics education and citizenship promotion in order to produce the new document. The new booklet will be called Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship , which is in keeping with many public statements by Mr. Kenney in which he emphasized the responsibilities of citizenship.
It is sure to spark debate when it's released publicly on Thursday. Many groups may be uncomfortable with the minister's reframing of Canadian history. One of the offending passages that's likely to have been excised reads: “Canadian values include freedom, respect for cultural differences and a commitment to social justice. We are proud of the fact that we are a peaceful nation. In fact, Canadians act as peacekeepers in many countries around the world.”
This isn't the first time Jason Kenney has rewritten Canadian history. You may recall that I reported on a significant change to the CIC website: references to Canada's history of offering refuge to war resisters was removed.
We should not be complacent about these changes. If you disagree, make your voice heard. Call, write, email, both the CIC and all media outlets.