New Citizenship Study Guide
Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship
By Tatsuo Kage
In November 2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) of the Federal Government introduced a new Citizenship Study Guide titled Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. Compared with the old guide, A Look at Canada, published over a decade ago, this new 63-page guide provides more details on topics such as the British Royal Family, Canada’s military services, Canada’s history and citizens’ responsibilities. Starting from March 2010, citizenship applicants will be tested on the knowledge presented in this new guide.
In order to come up with this new citizenship study guide, CIC (Jason Kenney, Minister) has consulted many experts including historians. There is a list of acknowledgement attached to the end of the guide which includes numerous organizations and individuals. However, as Japanese Canadians have noticed, the term used to describe the incarceration of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War remains inappropriately and erroneously “relocation”—an expression used by the government at that time. Furthermore, while it is natural to mention the capture and maltreatment of Canadian prisoners of war after the fall of Hong Kong, it is hard to understand the purpose of mentioning Japan’s paper balloon bombs and its attack on a lighthouse on Vancouver Island as neither event caused any real damage. I believe that these two events should belong to a more specialized history book of WWII.
Sometime ago, in 1999, I participated in producing a study guide in Japanese titled Kanada no Jyoshiki (A Guide to Canada) published by the former Greater Vancouver Japanese Immigrants’ Association. This study guide in Japanese provides readers with common knowledge that Canadians should know, as well as outlines of the history of Japanese-Canadians and sample citizenship interview questions. At this moment it is hard to access whether we will need an updated guide in Japanese based on the information presented in the new citizenship study guide, but I strongly feel that there is a need to examine the new citizenship study guide in details. The reasons are:
1. This new citizenship study guide is distributed to all applicants in preparation for their citizenship test. Therefore, it is essential that the information should be clear, simple and accurate;
2. I understand that the government may distribute this citizenship study guide to all high schools in Canada and it will be used as a course material for social studies. Therefore, it is crucial that the content be based on well-balanced judgment that is historically accurate.
Proposal: Discussion on the new study guide
Firstly, I urge you to get a copy of this Discover Canada and read it over. You can request for a hard copy which will be distributed in mid-December 2009.
You may also be able to read it online at
Secondly, I would like to propose a discussion on the contents of the new citizenship study guide. I encourage both immigrants and Canadian born people in the community to participate who are interested in Canada’s history, politics, concerns regarding rights of citizens including aboriginal groups, multiculturalism or education, and make their critical voices heard.
Thirdly, it would be a good idea to share our ideas and comments not only among Japanese-Canadians, but also with members of other ethnic communities. Then, our comments and critique should be presented to the government.
As a proposed process, I would like to urge the JCCA or the NAJC to take the initiative for an activity of reviewing the study guide.
It has often been pointed out that many Canadians lack common knowledge of their country, therefore, during the introduction of the new citizenship study guide, Jason Kenney implied that those citizenship applicants who have studied this citizenship guide might become more knowledgeable about Canada than those who were born and raised in Canada: “I’m frankly more concerned about historical amnesia and civic illiteracy amongst native-born young Canadians…”
All of us, including Japanese Canadians, are looking forward to having newcomers from various parts of the world who become active members of their own communities and contribute positively to Canadian society. Although this new study guide talks about multiculturalism, it hardly discusses how ethnic communities or immigrants have contributed to our society by helping shape our nation and culture. From this point of view we want to collect feedbacks from minority groups and immigrants on how they would like their ideas to be incorporated into the new study guide.
Our Image of Canada
It is natural that immigrants and new citizens are expected to abide by the law of Canada and fulfill their responsibilities as residents of Canada. But many of us have different opinions and some reservations on areas such as Canada’s political structure, human rights within the country and Canada’s role in international conflicts. For example, the role of the Queen as our head of state; Canada’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan, and Canada’s failure to support the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which is endorsed by the vast majority of the member states are issues which immediately come to mind. I believe it would be great if we could open up discussions including these issues and let the government know what the outcome of our discussions would be.
*This article was written originally in Japanese and submitted to the JCCA Bulletin, December 2009 issue. This is a translated version with some revisions.