Government unveils new citizenship guidebook

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has unveiled a new, larger version of the citizenship guidebook for prospective immigrants, one that emphasizes the importance of getting a job, obeying the law and the nobility of serving in the military.

Opposition parties give guide mixed reviews

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney unveiled a new and larger version of the citizenship guidebook for prospective immigrants on Thursday, one that emphasizes the importance of getting a job, obeying the law and the nobility of serving in the military.

The new 62-page guidebook, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, is what newcomers aged 18 to 54 will use to prepare for their citizenship test.

Kenney said when you become a citizen, you inherit certain obligations.

"And one of those responsibilities is to know who we are, from where we came, what values define us and to live in accordance with those values," he said in Ottawa on Thursday.

Under the subheading "citizenship responsibilities," prospective citizens are reminded that rights come with duties, including obeying the law, voting in elections, serving on a jury, taking responsibility for oneself and one's family by getting a job, and volunteering.

The guide says while military service isn't compulsory, serving in the armed forces is a "noble way to contribute to Canada and an excellent career choice."

Kenney said the guide also includes a more detailed history of Canada, something he said the previous booklet published in 1997 under the Liberals was lacking.

"It didn't explain what the poppy represents, didn't talk about the equality of men and women, didn't address the nationalist movement in Quebec. It was, I think, in a way, unintentionally promoting a certain degree of historical ignorance. And I think we've corrected that."

In discussing gender equality, the new guide says Canada's openness doesn’t include "barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, honour killings, female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence."

Opposition parties gave the guide mixed reviews.

"There's not a lot on Canada as a majestic land with boreal forests, Great Lakes. Not enough celebration of the UNESCO sites that we have," said NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow.

"Those are areas that I would love to see in this [guide] so new Canadians can explore this beautiful land of ours."

While Chow said she "appreciates seeing some of the darker side of history — whether it's the Japanese internment or the residential schools for aboriginal people [or the] Chinese head tax," she would have liked to have seen more discussion of shared common Canadian values.

Bloc Québécois citizenship and immigration critic Thierry St.-Cyr says the guide "minimizes the concept of the Quebec nation."

"What we see in this document is a way of saying, well, Quebec is just a province amongst others and it's no more [a] founding nation."

The booklet will also be made available to schools.

With files from The Canadian Press