New Canada citizenship guidebook released

Today’s release of a new citizenship guide marks a shift in what it means to become Canadian, emphasizing more than ever the responsibilities bestowed upon the quarter-million newcomers who migrate to Canada each year.

The 62-page document, of which the National Post obtained excerpts, is a significant departure from the version crafted by the Liberals in 1997, and explicitly asserts certain citizenshipobligations. According to a senior government official, responsibilities outlined in the guide include getting a job, obeying the law and serving on a jury when called.

Although the guide notes that military service is not compulsory, it advises that it is “a noble way to contribute to Canada and an excellent career choice” and points to the Forces website. “You can serve in your local part-time navy, militia or air reserves and gain valuable experience, skills and contacts.”

“Young people can learn discipline, responsibility and skills by getting involved in the cadets.”

The Defending Canada section invites newcomers to serve in the coast guard, police force, or fire department. “By helping to protect your community, you follow in the footsteps of Canadians before you who made sacrifices in the service of our country,” the guide says.

The revamped handbook, which moved the Oath of Citizenship from the back of the book to the second page, goes deeper into Canada’s military history, including information on the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, peacekeeping missions in Egypt, Haiti and Cyprus, and international security operations in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, the senior official said.

The guide looks back to the role of aboriginals, the Vikings and early explorers and the “struggle to build our country,” the senior official said. The document also discusses the rebellions of 1837-38 and the fight for responsible government, and offers an expanded section on Confederation.

The document also includes more controversial aspects of Canadian history, including the Quiet Revolution and Louis Riel. The reference to the polarizing figure of Riel is very specific in describing the rebellion that led to his trial and execution, and the conflicting characterizations of him.

Mr. Kenney had said in an interview that the old guide was “awfully thin” because it failed to include important aspects of Canada’s military and domestic history.

Meantime, the Citizenship Responsibilities section describes the rule of law, the importance of “taking care of one’s family and working hard in keeping with one’s abilities,” and the merit of “avoiding waste and pollution while protecting Canada’s natural, cultural and architectural heritage for future generations.”

Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, is expected to debut the guide at an event this morning in Ottawa.

For Rudyard Griffiths, cofounder of the Dominion Institute and among those consulted in the creation of the document, Discover Canada replaces the “anemic, slim, stripped-down” guide that preceded it.

“There’s some very explicit language vis-a-vis the openness of Canadian society, the belief in gender equality and the absolute prohibition against spousal abuse, honour killings, female genital mutilation and gender-based violence,” Mr. Griffiths said, referring to a draft of the document. “This is a guide to what Canada is.”

To be sure, a citizenship guide articulates a nation’s identity. And so, in Canada — a country that has long struggled with what, exactly, it means to be Canadian — the document is likely to spark controversy.

“The Canadian citizenship guide is as contested a political document as you can find,” said Peter MacLeod, fellow at Queen’s University Centre for the Study of Democracy. “It’s very tense stuff.”

Mr. MacLeod said the new version is consistent with Canada’s new-found confidence in asserting its militarism and influence abroad, pointing to the decision to feature a female peacekeeper on the 2001 edition of the $10 bill.

“Since the late 1990s, with a bit of distance from the 1995 referendum, there have been those who have encouraged a more muscular image of Canadian history,” he said.

Discover Canada’s “muscular” language is likely to ruffle the ranks of some onlookers in Quebec, where, just two months ago, a coalition was formed to edge Canadian Forces recruiters off the province’s campuses. “There’s probably some political risks here,” Mr. Griffiths said. “The Bloc Quebecois and sovereigntists aren’t going to like the focus on military history or Canada’s journey from colony to nation state.”

The Bloc immigration critic would not provide comment, as he had not yet seen the document. Mr. Griffiths said civic literacy, regardless of political nuance, is important to the success of Canada’s immigration system. “In a country as diverse as Canada, we need certain common touchstones.”

Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, said newcomers will be better served by a guide that captures the “true story” of what it means to be Canadian.

“Citizenship is a two-way street,” she said. “There are rights, but there are also responsibilities to know the country and help build it.”

Ms. Douglas said that while she welcomes the “upgrade,” she fears the challenges newcomers may face in terms of comprehension.

“Language barriers will certainly be an issue, especially if the guide is tougher in terms of content.”

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‘CITIZENSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES’

In Canada, rights come with responsibilities. These include the following:

DEFENDING CANADA

There is no compulsory military service in Canada. However, serving in the regular Canadian Forces (navy, army and air force) is a noble way to contribute to Canada and an excellent career choice (www.forces.ca).You can serve in your local part-time navy, militia or air reserves and gain valuable experience, skills and contacts.

TAKING CARE OF ONESELF

Getting a job, taking care of one’s family and working hard in keeping with one’s abilities, are important Canadian values. Work contributes to personal dignity and self-respect, and to Canada’s prosperity.

OBEYING THE LAW

One of Canada’s founding principles is the rule of law. Individuals and governments are regulated by laws and not by arbitrary actions. No person or group is above the law.

SERVING ON A JURY

When called to do so, you are legally required to serve. Serving on a jury is a privilege that makes the justice system work, as it depends on impartial juries made up of citizens.

VOTING IN ELECTIONS

The right to vote comes with a responsibility to vote in federal, provincial or territorial, and local elections.

HERITAGE & ENVIRONMENT

Every citizen has a role to play in avoiding waste and pollution while protecting Canada’s natural, cultural and architectural heritage for future generations.

HELPING OTHERS

Millions of volunteers freely donate their time to help others without pay — helping people in need, assisting at your child’s school, volunteering at a food bank or other charity, or encouraging newcomers to integrate. Volunteering is an excellent way to gain useful skills and develop friends and contacts.

 Original Article from National Post.

Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/nationalpost/story.html?id=2212201#ixzz0Wi2SybQS

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