Thursday, July 12, 2012

Canada Compare and Contrast: Duelling Citizenship Guides

In 2009 the federal government issued Discover Canada, a new study guide for immigrants preparing for their citizenship test. We covered it here. As we said at the time, the new guide, available here, generated some controversy over the extent of ministerial influence on the text -- and more from criticism that it represented an ideologically Conservative image of Canada. 
The new version contained a lot more military history and plenty of information about the monarchy, but little about public programs such as medicare or education, or our rich history of social justice movements. Ignoring the work and democratic struggles of generations of newcomers, it presumes that new immigrants need to be taught how to “take responsibility” for their families. In short, the official guide outlines an exceptionally narrow, conservative view of Canadian politics and society. 
Well, there’s an alternative. Last year Arbeiter Ring Publishers (that’s their description of Discover Canada above) brought out A People’s Citizenship Guide: A Response to Conservative Canada by Esylitt Jones and Adele Perry.   
In A People’s Citizenship Guide, a group of progressive scholars offer an alternative citizenship guide: a lively, political, humane—and more honest—alternative to Stephen Harper’s version of the story.
Jones and Perry call the Discover Canada vision of Canada “nationalistic, militaristic, and racist,” and ARP is proud to say someone in the minister’s office called the Peoples’ Guide “a catalogue of mouldy leftist myths.” Back in February, Mia Robson of the Winnipeg Free Press offered a more nuanced comparison of the two.
Arbeiter Ring Publishing? Is this a German e-publisher or something?  No. ARP is a Winnipeg publishing house that takes its name (“Workers’ Circle’) from a radical Jewish organization active in the ‘Peg around 1919.

Update, July 15:  Here's a sceptical British view of what various other countries try to teach immigrants.
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