A textbook for Canada

The new citizenship guide better conveys what it means to be Canadian


A textbook for CanadaIf you want to pass the test, study the textbook. Any teacher or student will tell you that. So it is with becoming a Canadian citizen.

Yet the booklet given to potential new Canadians to study for their citizenship test has always been a dreary and incomplete affair. Last revised in 1995, “A Look at Canada” takes an antiseptic approach to Canadian life, ignores most of our past and is lacking in passion for this great country. If we want to provide immigrants with a full appreciation of Canadian rights and responsibilities, we ought to start by fixing the textbook.

This week Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney unveiled a brand-new citizenship guide, called “Discover Canada.” This new textbook for new Canadians is a timely improvement that will better convey to immigrants our shared history, as well as the expectations of life in Canada.

The teaching of Canadian history has long suffered from terminal dullness. The old citizenship booklet, for instance, starts in 1867 and suggests Canada began as a series of constitutional discussions. The new version provides ample detail on the backstory to Confederation. There is even mention of the fact the British won the Battle of Quebec in 1759, which has become anathema for some governments lately.

Dashing historical figures such as Sir Sam Steele of the Northwest Mounted Police share the page with the Cirque du Soleil, Terry Fox, Emily Carr and the Montreal Canadiens. Little-known historical highlights, such as Canada’s curtailment of slavery in 1793, are included alongside less glorious moments from the past, including the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Written with input from many notable Canadian historians, this new citizenship booklet is much more entertaining and comprehensive than the old one, and succeeds in making Canada’s history seem both relevant and necessary. As such, it should be recommended reading for any current Canadian who has forgotten the facts on Vimy Ridge, the suffragette movement or the Riel Rebellion.

Beyond remedying the historical oversights of previous versions, the new citizenship study guide also provides a clear-eyed and forceful statement of the expectations of current Canadian values. Not to put too fine a point on it, but page nine of the 62-page booklet states: “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.” It also reinforces the responsibilities of all Canadian adult citizens: including jury duty, getting a job and obeying the law. This was inexplicably missing from the old booklet.

At a time when many foreign cultures are viewed with some suspicion, it makes good sense to lay out the meaning and significance of the Canadian values we all must share. Ottawa’s new citizenship guide properly ensures every new immigrant will know what it really means to be a Canadian. But understanding our history and way of life is not something only new arrivals need to learn. Ottawa ought to give every Canadian a copy of its new citizenship booklet.


A textbook for Canada

  1. The guide doesn't go far enough in its efforts to enlighten the savages of the world. Where for instance, is the passage alerting new immigrants to the fact that in Canada we do not simply squat in the middle of the street and take a dump.

  2. I read the headline quickly, and thought it said "The guide better convey what it means to be Canadian" — as in "when they write it, it must do a good job of defining what it means to be a Canadian."

  3. Canada is correct to oppose "female genital mutilation" ("A Textbook for Canada", Editorial, Nov. 23). But why, one wonders, does "Discover Canada", the booklet given to aspiring Canadians, stop there? Why, as a civilized country does Canada continue to allow male genital mutilation, in government-run hospitals, in the form of circumcision of male children?

  4. It's going to take more than the distribution of a book to get our culture back.

  5. What does it mean to be Canadian if we have pictures of a British Queen on the first few pages? We are one of only three major countries of the world that has a non-resident as head of state.Grow up Canada ,and allow a Canadian to be head of state. Some 60% of Canadians want to do away with the British Monarchy in Canada once the Queen dies. Start the process now or we will wake up some morning and Charles and Camilla will be our new head of state. Now, that's something to look forward too!!

  6. …ummm, and while you're recommending this so highly, wouldn't it be nice to give us infidels information on how to get a copy easily?
    We need to sutdy up!

  7. ..or even STUDY up, and learn to type too!

  8. Teach them how to use the internet. It's also a great idea. Information is all around and teaching them to keep up is great and helpful to them.