Immigrants who want to become citizens of Canada have to pass a test demonstrating a basic knowledge of this country. To prepare for the test, the federal government provides a study guide filled with facts, names, dates and – these days – subtle little plugs for the party in power.
It's sad, really. After reading the current version of the guide prepared by the Harper government and parts of a draft of the new one coming any minute now from the Trudeau government, one is left with the impression that the chief goal of the exercise isn't to help newcomers be better citizens but, rather, to tickle the biases of the governing party's supporters.
Take the Harper version. It tells newcomers that Canadian law prohibits "barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, 'honour killings,' female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence."
It also says that one of the chief responsibilities of citizenship, along with obeying the law and serving on juries, is "getting a job, taking care of one's family and working hard."
Conservative voters reading this are going, What's wrong with either of those things? Liberal voters, on the other hand, are going, Typical Conservative bashing of immigrants' culture and work ethic!
Which explains why, under the Liberals, the references to barbaric cultural practices and the responsibility of getting a job aren't in a draft of the new guide obtained by the Canadian Press.
Can you guess what Trudeau government canon will soon be included in the "mandatory" responsibilities of citizenship, along with obeying the law and doing jury duty?
Filling out the census and respecting treaties with Indigenous peoples, that's what.
If the NDP ever gets into power, we swear the guide will be re-written to say that supporting the right to collective bargaining is a responsibility of Canadian citizenship, and that the colour orange isn't just for Halloween anymore.
The guide has become a silly competition, with successive governing parties redefining the obligations of citizenship along ideological lines. Citizenship – this country's greatest gift – should be less fickle than that.
Ottawa should give the job of writing the guide to a neutral body, and leave the politicking to election campaigns.