Many Of The Changes to the Official Citizenship Test Guide Pull Back Controversial Changes Introduced By The Harper Conservatives
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals majority government has unveiled a new draft of the Canadian citizenship guide. It is a significant overhaul of the book used by prospective Canadians to prepare for the test. The existing “Discover Canada” guide dates back to 2011 when the previous Conservative government conducted a significant overhaul of the previous guide A Look at Canada, authorized in the 1980s and in use for over 25 years. Those changes were considered controversial by some as they included an increased amount of 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. Liberal Immigration Minister John McCallum had cited those specific passages as items he wanted to see changed when he initially touched on the subject back in 2016.
“If you ask an average Canadian what Canada means, maybe they’ll say hockey, maybe they’ll say something else, they’re not likely to say the War of 1812. I’m not anti-military, but I do think it was a little heavy on the military.”
Minister McCallum suggest that there was an idealogical element to the last Conservative changes to the guide that occurred in 2008, but there’s been some opposition to that opinion – namely from C.P. Champion. He wrote a piece for the National Post where he questioned the intentions of Trudeau’s Liberals in revising it in the first place. He’s qualified for the critique. He was former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s Citizenship policy Director and was heavily involved in the rewrite of the former guide. He suggests the Liberal initiative is politically oriented.
“It is no surprise that the Trudeau Liberals intend to replace the Conservatives’ citizenship test study guide this year for Canada’s 150th, or more likely sometime next year, or whenever it’s ready. The only surprise is that it’s taking them so long. After all, there’s very little about it that needs to change. Indeed, the whole idea of changing it, and the ideas they’re including in it, are borrowed from more original thinkers.”- C.P. Champion
The draft outlines responsibilities of citizenship that are both voluntary and mandatory. “Voluntary” responsibilities are listed as respecting the human rights of others, understanding official bilingualism and participating in the political process. Mandatory responsibilities include obeying the law, serving on a jury, paying taxes, filling out the census and respecting treaties with Indigenous Peoples.
The draft guide expands heavily on the experience and history of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, including multiple references to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on residential schools and a section on what happened at those schools. The current guide contains a single paragraph. It also touches on other darker chapters of Canadian history when the Chinese, South Asians, Jews and disabled Canadians suffered prejudice and discrimination.
It is important to emphasize that this is a “draft”. It hasn’t been changed yet. What do you think? Thoughts? Comments?