I’ve had these three articles filed away in my Google reader for a couple weeks, so apologies if it’s old news, but here they are in the order I found them…
Jason Kenney, the Citizenship and Immigration minister, told National Post columnist Father Raymond de Souza that one of the factors that encouraged him to rewrite the citizenship guide was a column, titled Immigration and Values, that Fr. De Souza wrote in 2006.
Here is that full column:
Originally published 9 March 2006
Skipping to a meaty middle section…
The question though is not whether new Canadians are taught more seriously about Canadian values, but which values they are taught. Our immigration bureaucracy already produces a “values” document, A Look at Canada. The short booklet is aimed at helping would-be citizens bone up for their citizenship exams.
It must be a maddening task to capture the spirit of a country and its identity in a thin booklet – a task usually entrusted in Canada to royal commissions. But the booklet remains pretty thin gruel. We can hardly expect our immigrants to know Canadian values if we don’t present them.
Would you be surprised to know that they are advised to join an environmental group? Indeed, the first section after “Introducing Canada” is entitled “Protecting the Environment”. A prospective citizen would be forgiven for thinking that a country that advises him to “throw waste paper or other garbage in designated public garbage containers” and to “join a car pool” doesn’t have very much to say about itself.
The principal Canadian values are enumerated thus: equality, respect for cultural differences, freedom, peace, law and order.
Peacekeeping is mentioned, but the sacrifice of Canadian forces in both World Wars is not. The aboriginal origin of the word “Canada” is explained, but not that the usage “Dominion of Canada” deliberately echoed Psalm 72, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea” – echoed again in Canada’s official motto: “a mari usque ad mare”.
And so it goes, presenting a country in which no great principles were ever fought for, but providing pictograms on how to mark a ballot.
And so it goes, indeed. So, onto the next one:
I’m sure many Canadians rubbed their eyes in disbelief when they saw the news that Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had launched a new guide for immigrants wishing to become Canadian citizens, a guide informing new arrivals that “barbaric” cultural practices which physically harm women are not tolerated here. The guidebook, called Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, will be required reading for newcomers, and contains a special section on “The Equality of Women and Men” (note the word order). It says: “…Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’…or other gender-based violence.”
Barbaric? Barbaric? But, but, but that means our government is making, you know, a judgment on the cultural practices of other people, some of them people of colour! I think we have arrived at a watershed moment in the history of multiculturalism.
Emphasis hers. And third:
Kenney’s version of the guide, prepared with the help of a panel of historians, teaches an outline of the history of responsible government and Confederation, includes carefully balanced material about figures like Louis Riel, instructs newcomers in Canada’s history of military glory (inviting young people to contribute to it) and warns that “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. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.”
For some reason, many people find themselves bothered by the idea of such a guide, even before reading it. Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis had a brief girlish meltdown in an interview with Canwest News Service, whining that “he doubts the guide will discuss any history that reflects negatively on Canada’s treatment of minorities.” He is free to doubt it, but as our rivals in The Globe and Mail pointed out the next morning, “There are sections [in the new guide] on Canada’s dark periods, including the Chinese head tax and Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese and Eastern European immigrants in the world wars, and on aboriginal residential schools.”