Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Citizenship Rant

Conservatives order rewrite of 'insipid' citizenship guidebook

Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney, sounds like a bit of an ass in this article.

The current guidebook for Canadian newcomers includes two pages on environmental stewardship and barely a mention of the Canadian military - and that has Jason Kenney hopping mad [...] As Kenney acerbically characterizes it, the booklet includes two pages "on recycling" - but "not one single sentence on Canadian military history."

I've been a Canadian citizen since 1993, and while I agree that the citizenship stuff I read at the time and in the years since could be described as somewhat "insipid," I take offense at the idea that focusing on things like the environment is "ridiculous," while lecturing about past wars is supposed to be a better way to introduce people to their new country.

It isn't that 1990's Liberal Canadian values are more "insipid" than 2000's Conservative Canadian values. It just that Canadian attempts to describe Canada are pretty much always gag-worthy in some way. The government, no matter who is in control, is always the most clich├ęd in this endeavour (except perhaps the CBC).* Insulting environmental stewardship in order to celebrate soldiers isn't going to change that. It's just exchanging one ideological emphasis for another, and if you ask me, the one that boasts of environmental responsibility and peacefulness is more valuable than the one that salutes military achievement.

I'm not saying that knowledge of military history isn't important, it's just not as important for the future of Canada as the topic the Minister singles out for derision. I believe that Canadians should know about Canadian history, including the good and the bad. I doubt, however, that along with the story of Vimy Ridge immigrants will learn about Japanese internment camps. I doubt that in addition to the importance of the poppy as a symbol, the new booklet will mention much about the residential school system. Unless I'm proven wrong and they somehow don't pick and choose the version of Canada they want to convey, I say give me a break, Minister! The changes you are planning are almost certainly going to be "a small-c conservative, partisan [and] ideological project." Don't pretend otherwise. Your version of Canada will be just as "insipid" as the old one, just in a conservative way.

And I don't see how this will "foster greater integration of immigrants" and improve "social cohesion."

In fact, I can feel my immigrant self dis-integrating as I write this! Thanks a bunch, Conservatives! You are ruining my cohesion, socially speaking.

*Don't get me wrong, I really like the CBC. I just can't stand to hear them talk about 'what it means to be Canadian' and stuff like that. It is just too self-congratulatory for me to stomach.

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