Saturday, November 14, 2009

Citizenship guide says no to 'barbaric' cultural practices

OTTAWA — A new citizenship guide for potential immigrants to Canada flatly declares that new Canadians cannot engage in "barbaric" cultural practices such as genital mutilation and "honour killings."

The new guide, released Thursday by Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, says in a section called "Equality of Women and Men" that such practices are illegal and severely punishable under Canada's criminal laws.

"Multiculturalism doesn't mean that anything goes. Multiculturalism means that we celebrate what's best about our backgrounds, but we do so on the basis of common Canadian values and respect for our laws," said Kenney.

"It's no secret that we've seen instances of culturally rooted abuse of women, so-called 'honour killings,' forced marriages, and spousal abuse, and even female genital mutilation. We want to make sure that people understand that multiculturalism doesn't create an excuse to engage in those barbaric cultural practices."

The updated guide, called Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, also puts greater emphasis on the obligations of citizenship, such as getting a job, as well as military history.

Kenney said it is a significant improvement from the 1997 Liberal version.

"When you become a citizen, you're not just getting a travel document into hotel Canada," said Kenney. "You are inheriting a set of responsibilities, of obligations, as a citizen. And we will expect you to fulfil certain responsibilities, as a citizen. And I think to a certain extent that wasn't sufficiently emphasized in the old guide."

Discover Canada also delves into Canada's historical — and sometimes controversial — past, through mention of the Hudson's Bay Company's trading rights, the War of 1812, the Rebellions of 1837-38, Confederation, Louis Riel's armed uprisings, the Quiet Revolution and Quebec sovereignty. The guide goes on to expound on the world wars, including an explanation of Remembrance Day and the poppy, all of which is prefaced at the beginning of the guide in a section called Defending Canada.

"There is no compulsory military service in Canada. However, serving in the regular Canadian Forces (navy, army, and air force) is a noble way to contribute to Canada and make an excellent career choice," reads the guide.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montreal-based think-tank Association for Canadian Studies, says the new citizenship document represents a clear victory for the "well intentioned" proponents of Canada's military history, who have long argued that the country's pivotal participation in the two world wars should occupy a more central place in our national identity.

But he says a recent Canada-wide survey by ACS highlights the limits of touting Canada's achievements in the First World War and Second World War as a way to strengthen citizens' sense of belonging in a country with such diverse experiences of those epic conflicts.

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Source: Canada.Com

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