Last week I passed the Canadian Citizenship Test. It was a simple 20-question multiple-choice test, on facts about Canada’s history, values, make-up, culture, etc. I scored 19/20, but unfortunately my spouse Ducky scored 20/20. She gets the bragging rights. Thus I switch to focussing on the fact that we both passed, rather than the details of who got which score.

This  test, and the documents check and chat with the nice woman from Citizenship and Immigration Canada which accompanied it, represent the last substantive filter to eliminate candidates from citizenship. There will be 3-5 months of process, pro-forma hearings, but not anything that is likely to reject us. Then we get a letter inviting us to an oath-taking ceremony, and we become Canadian citizens. I’m really pleased about this. It is the culmination of over ten years happy settlement in Canada.

The citizenship test has an accompanying study guide, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. All the questions are based on material in this guide. So, study the guide, pass the test. This is fortunate, because our Canadian friends assure us that being born in Canada, getting a full education in Canadian schools, and participating in Canadian life isn’t nearly adequate to get these questions right.

But there is some odd stuff in Discover Canada. Ducky noticed the odd description of the Underground Railroad as a “Christian anti-slavery network.” Why highlight it as “Christian”? Sure, most of the Underground Railroad supporters identified as Christian, but so did most of the slaveholders. And such a label carries connotations in modern, secular and multicultural Canada, that it didn’t 150 years ago. Something was up.

Through the magic of the Internet Archive, I was able to find the previous edition of the citizenship study guide, in a CIC web page from 23. Feb 2010. The current Discover Canada guide was issued on 12. Nov 2009, and the previous guide was used for tests through March 2010. In just a quick read through, a number of changes in tone and emphasis were apparent.

  • The pre-2009 guide was called A Look at Canada. As in, here’s one view, others are possible. The new guide is called Discover Canada, as in, there is one objectively correct view of Canada, and we are going to show you what it is.
  • A Look at Canada puts the Oath of Citizenship at the end, after talking about Canada, and doesn’t talk about “constitutional monarchy”; the current Discover Canada puts it right up front, along with a blathering paragraph about how the Sovereign personifies Canada and Canada personifies the Sovereign.
  • The word “God” appears once in the old Look, as part of the national anthem, “O Canada”. The new Discover adds the words to “God Save the Queen”, and “God” in the opening of the Charter. (By the way, Discover describes “God Save the Queen” as the Royal Hymn, which is not a reference I’ve heard from any Canadian. It’s an oddly extensive focus on the Queen, as opposed to more characteristically Canadian topics.)
  • The new Discover  uses “Christian” or related terms  four times, including the Underground Railroad reference above. The old Look: nary a mention that I found.
  • The new Discover devotes most of a page to a gallery of Canadian military heroes, and describes the Victoria Cross as “the highest honour available to Canadians“. Implicit message: you have to be military to get the highest honour in this country.  The old Look skips the gallery, the militarism, and the focus on the Victoria Cross.
  • The old Look has a page on “Protecting the Environment—Sustainable Development“. The new Discover drops all this talk of sustainability, and mentions “environment” mostly as a reference to surroundings, not to a natural place deserving protection; or as the name of a government department.

There’s more, so have fun. Compare the current Discover Canada PDF file with the 2006 edition of the Look at Canada PDF file.

I’m off to learn the national anthem in French… and Cree.