Some Canadians have commented on the federal government's new citizenship guide, issued under the auspices of Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, as part of his commitment to promote and strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship.
For Canadian citizenship to be meaningful, new Canadians and Canadians whose ancestors came here long ago must all share a common understanding of our rights, our responsibilities, our common institutions, and our history. Such a convergent understanding, or "common conscience," develops a common sense of Canadian identity and pride in our people.
Our common conscience took a major step forward last fall with the launch of Discover Canada, a new study guide to prepare applicants for Canadian citizenship. Discover Canada emphasizes our history, geography, values and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
The preceding guide had not been significantly revised since its creation in 1995. Even before work was done on revising the guide, Minister Kenney consulted people across the country for ideas on building newcomers' allegiance to Canada.
The old guide, created by the previous Liberal government, lacked information on Canada's history, on its military contributions, its symbols, its values and institutions, things that newcomers need to know to develop their attachment to our country. The old guide failed to mention the equality of men and women, residential schools, responsible government and the 110,000 Canadians who gave their lives in the World Wars.
Ironically, some have criticized the new guide for failing to mention gay marriage. The irony lies in the fact that the old Liberal guide failed to mention gays or lesbians at all. The new guide, for the first time, mentions gays and lesbians and their rights enshrined under the Charter.
The new guide took more than nine months to prepare and is more comprehensive than before, with a distinct message that citizenship is a two-way street - rights mirrored by responsibilities.
Canadians have received it enthusiastically. The new guide should make us proud - and as Maclean's magazine stated on Nov. 23, 2009:
"Ottawa's new citizenship guide properly ensures every new immigrant will know what it really means to be a Canadian."
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation news release, via Canada NewsWire, stated:
"It is not enough to memorize Canadian history, but rather to understand its context and meaning. This guide is a step in the right direction."
As long-time Canadians celebrate our citizenship in this Olympic and Paralympic year, new Canadians now have a new tool to sharpen their appreciation of the priceless legacy we know as Canadian citizenship.
Member of Parliament,
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country