by Myles Fish
For Ramesh Sivaenanam, Canadian citizenship is still one year away, at best.
But for Sivaenanam and the approximately 250,000 new immigrants who come to Canada eachyear, the process of becoming a citizen will look a little different from now on.
That does not bother Sivaenanam, a 22-year-old student who came to Canada two years ago from India.
“(Immigrants) are adopting a new country and a new culture, so in that case they need to understand the main parts of the country. Then they can adjust themselves and they can support the country. One of their duties as new citizens is to support the country,” said Sivaenanam
Earlier this month, citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney unveiled a new, larger Canadian citizenship study guide titled Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. The guide, which replaces a 14-year-old document introduced by a past Liberal government, places added emphasis on Canada’s military endeavours and our connection to the Crown.
In the past edition, Canadians were primarily portrayed as peacekeepers. The new guide features multiple pages on Canada’s most famous battles in the two world wars as well as a description of Remembrance Day and the poppy. Neither the Korean War nor the current Afghanistani conflict receives mention, however.
To Sivaenanam, the inclusion of military history was essential. “The main part has to be about the formation of peace in the country. Without peace, no scientists can do their research; no athletes can entertain. The main priority has to be about those who have fought for the country,” he said.
The guide also details some of the country’s darker periods, such as slavery, residential schools, and the internship of Japanese-Canadians in World War II.
Another prominent addition is a section on arts, culture and sport. Famous Canadians referenced include the Group of Seven, filmmaker Atom Egoyan, Terry Fox, and athletes Wayne Gretzky, Donovan Bailey, Mark Tewksbury, and Chantal Petitclerc. Curiously, no Canadian authors, musicians, or actors receive mention.
Karly Johnson has a few grievances with the above list. Not only does Johnson – who has represented Saskatchewan at softball nationals thrice – think it wrong that more male athletes than females are cited, but she thinks newcomers ought to know about another Canadian star.
“I think Clara Hughes should be on the page because she is not as well known and she should be. To be the first Canadian, and the second woman to stand on both podiums at the winter and summer Olympics is such an amazing accomplishment it should be commended,” she said.
And while University of Regina political science student Jessica Brown has some famous Canucks she would have liked seen mentioned as well, she has a bigger issue with the guide.
“I think the guide is useless because I think the test is useless. I don’t think it’s fair.
“If you’re going to accept someone only if they can prove that they’re Canadian enough by memorizing random, trivial facts that most Canadians don’t even know, what are you judging?” said Brown.
“I think (all Canadians) should (have to take the test.) But until we have to take it, I don’t think immigrants should have to take it,” she added.
But as long as the test exists, aspiring Canadians will be well-served by reading the new guide. And even though it is 20 pages longer than the previous one, Sivaenanam cannot wait to start studying.
“I’d like to become a Canadian citizen because this is the best country. You can live peacefully, make your own choices, and express yourself. Of course I’ll take the test as soon as I can.”