The new document, which will be the citizenship study guide for the 250,000 immigrants who arrive in Canada each year, thus instantly becomes one of the country’s most widely read and potentially influential pieces of writing.
Canada’s revamped citizenship guide warns newcomers that “barbaric cultural practices” such as honor killings will not be tolerated, marking a stronger tone against importing beliefs that clash with Canadian values. “In Canada, men and women are equal under the law,” the document says. “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honor killings,’ female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.” No longer will new Canadians be told that Canada is strictly a nation of peacekeepers, for example. The new guide places a much greater emphasis on Canada’s military history, from the Great War to the present day. It also tackles other issues of historical significance, from Confederation to Quebec’s separatist movement.
The guide, released yesterday and called “Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Canadian Citizenship”, is the first of its kind to explicitly denounce violence in the name of family honor — a crime in the headlines just this week after an Ottawa man was sentenced to a year in jail for threatening violence against his daughter. While honor killings remain relatively rare in Canada, several high-profile cases have drawn attention to the issue. Even the use of the term “honor killings” has stirred debate, as critics of the wording say it implies the practice is accepted by certain religions when, in fact, it is not.
The inclusion of honor killings and spousal abuse in the guide reminded some onlookers of the tension over reasonable accommodation, a concept that came to a boiling point in Herouxville, QC. Farzana Hassan, spokeswoman for the Muslim Canadian Congress, said there is nothing controversial about the statement in the new guide, adding that it is a long-overdue step toward tackling a cultural practice that does not jibe with Canadian values. Antonia Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said the new guide fits with a Conservative strategy to redefine itself with regard to immigration, an issue that historically has been closely linked with the Liberal Party.