Saturday, 14 November 2009

New Citizenship Guidebook And Test For The Likes Of Suaad Hagi Mohamud.

I'm sure you've already heard or read about the new citizenship guidebook the Conservative government developed for immigrants to acquaint themselves with the country they chose to move to and the history of its people they chose to live, well, amongst (I was going to say with but we know better). If not you can read the guidebook for yourself here.

To my understanding the guide book is to replace the water-downed version the previous Liberal government put together. Of course it should be of no surprise the Liberal party would lower the expectations of being a Canadian citizen. Immigration to them has more to do with importing votes, not "new Canadians". It is by no coincidence that an immigrant can become a citizen in as little as three years, the lowest amount of time in the world I believe, and Canadian elections are typically held every four to five years when the government is not a minority.

It seems the guidebook is for immigrants like Suaad Hagi Mohamud. She was the Somali woman with Canadian citizenship accused of being an impostor when she tried to return to Canada from Kenya. The Canadian representative in Kenya didn't believe her claimed identity due in large part to her incredible ignorance of the country and city she lived in for ten years. Assuming the woman really was Ms. Mohamud I find her almost complete ignorance of Canada unsurprising. And she is not alone.

Many immigrants are shamefully ignorant of Canada even though they may call this country home and call themselves Canadians. This is not wholly their fault. Canada has lowered its expectations of its immigrants thanks in part to a multicultural domestic policy that emphasizes and celebrates their "otherness" while at the same time saying they are as Canadian as maple syrup. Our sensibilities tells us otherwise. Of course they should bear some of the blame. Being a Canadian is a choice and many of them are choosing not to be Canadian thinking that their occasional trip to the shopping mall is what being Canadian is all about (and what Canada truly means to them). Sadly some of their Canadian born children are doing the same.

Will this guidebook really make any impression on the minds of immigrants and compel them to assimilate? I doubt it. Knowing a few historical facts about a nation's history doesn't make one a national. Anyways, many immigrants are not interested in being Canadians. They just want what Canadians have and citizenship is their ticket to ride. Being Canadian is more than citizenship and a shared set of values.

Yet for some it is still troublesome that immigrants should bear greater responsibility when immigrating to Canada. Here is a complaint from someone in the immigration industry.

A move by the federal government to have newcomers know more about Canada’s military and political history if they want to become Canadian citizens could be unfair, says a supervisor who works with local refugees.

“It’s too much to know,’’ said Mira Malidzanovic, program director of the Reception Centre in Kitchener. The centre currently has 15 government-sponsored refugees in its David Street house. In a year, the centre serves about 280 refugees, she said.

Malidzanovic said it’s important to know Canadian history, including the significance of Remembrance Day, as well as Canada’s political history and that of First Nations.

“But is it important to know this right away,’’ she asked. “Do we want to make life more difficult? We need to think about what is the priority when it comes to settlement and integration.’’

Malidzanovic said many of the government-sponsored refugees apply for citizenship after being in Canada for three years.
I guess Canadian citizenship is a right and anything that stand in the way of obtaining it is tantamount to a human rights violation.

Here is Colby Cosh writing about the vindication of Hérouxville, Quebec.

I have probably already written more than one piece with a phrase like “Hérouxville wins” in it, but word of a newer, thicker citizenship guide has my fingers wandering toward the same old keys. Hérouxville wins again. In 2007, when the Quebec town of about 1,300 entered the “reasonable accommodation” debate by adopting a code of “norms de vie” for new immigrants (even though it hadn’t seen hide nor hair of one in living memory), it was criticized for being backward, intolerant, xenophobic. Yet there was little or nothing specific to object to in Hérouxville’s definition of Canadian values; its insistence on gender equality, and the right of women and girls to an independent social and economic identity, was the opposite of “backward.”

It was the idea of stating “Canadian values” and insisting on their primacy that bothered people. And it still bothers some of them, as federal citizenship minister Jason Kenney rolls out a new guide which goes into some Hérouxille-esque detail left out of the minimalist prior versions of the document — which had been reduced to a recitation of economic and political factoids, containing nothing scarily normative that could provoke controversy or protest.


The main reason for requiring immigrants to pass a citizenship test at all is that there are indispensable facts of basic civics and the constitution of which immigrants must be apprised before they vote and pay taxes. The new test appears to be predicated on the view that there are also historical truths and social expectations worth spelling out to people from dramatically different cultures, and that this is probably more important to their well-being and ours, on the whole, than knowing which provinces produce uranium and what the capital of New Brunswick is called. A tougher test will also, other things being equal, do more to filter out education-resistant immigration candidates and ones with poor language skills. I hope I may be pardoned for thinking of this as a feature, not a bug.

You can join the discussion about this topic at by going here.

My prediction: too many immigrants for comfort will fail the test but they will be pardoned and get citizenship anyway leading to the tests eventual demise, replaced by one of lower expectations. This is Canada after all.

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