Citizenship Guide Delays are New Political Lightning Rod

New Canadian Citizenship Guide Stalled (Again) by Federal Government

The Federal Government has come under fire recently following the delay of the rewrite of a new Canadian Citizenship Guide. The Guide, which was intended to launch over year ago, has led to accusations from some critics over the government’s apparent heel-dragging as they prepare a more modern, inclusive version of the Guide.

Of course, this is simply the most recent delay in the introduction of the new Guide, which was announced in 2016. Back then, Ministry of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees officials had hoped to launch the new guide to coincide with Canada 150 celebrations in 2017. This would also have marked the 70th anniversary of Canada’s Citizenship Act.

However, in late 2017, a draft copy of the revised Guide was leaked to the press and politicians alike. This draft had removed the references to “barbaric cultural practices.” A Conservative law, called Bill S-7 when it went through Parliament, sought to address the issue of forced marriage in a few ways, including by adding polygamy as a reason to deny someone’s admission to Canada, by setting 16 as the minimum age for marriage and by creating new offences related to forced and underage marriage.

When the Harper government added these sections, some saw it as a backhanded insult to immigrants from the Middle East. Some people believed this was unfairly stereotyping Middle Easterners, creating a wedge issue and polarizing the public.

By comparison, the leaked draft copy from 2017 includes several new references to historical injustices against Canada’s Indigenous population, Japanese internment prisoners during World War 2, as well as references to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the history of residential schools in Canada.

All the same, there remains no new launch date for the release of the newly revised version.

“We have undertaken vast consultations with numerous stakeholders, a process that had not been undertaken under previous iterations of the citizenship guide,” said Mathieu Genest, press secretary for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, speaking to the Globe and Mail.

“We want to make sure that new Canadians learn about our laws and our history, including as it relates to groups that are not well represented in the current guide.”

Other changes deal more specifically with the rights of certain marginalized people in Canada, including historical references to injustices against Jews, LGBTQ individuals, and other groups.

Some opposition members believe the guide is being transformed into a mea culpa for Canadian sins, rather than a document meant to make newcomers excited to be part of Canada’s multicultural fold. The government has commented that delays are the result of consultations and discussions with experts and stakeholders, all in an attempt to “take the politics out of the guide.”

It remains to be seen when this revised guide will be released, and what its contents will include. Despite the furor caused by the apparent removal of the barbaric cultural practices section, the guide has expanded greatly on other topics, a fact apparently forgotten by some critics.