When we recently learned that 30 percent of immigrants are failing the Canadian citizenship test, we wondered how many Canadian-born citizens know enough about this country to qualify for citizenship.
All five of us were born in Canada. How would we rate as potential citizens?
We effortlessly figured out that “the right to ski anywhere in Canada” is not covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We were absolutely confident that “mow your lawn” is not one of the six principal responsibilities of citizenship. For the record, the six principal responsibilities of Canadian citizenship are: Obeying the law; taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family; serving on a jury; voting in elections; helping others in the community; and protecting our heritage and environment. The bit concerning the protection of Canadian heritage especially caught our attention, not to mention “helping others in the community.”
In the spirit of “protecting” Canada’s heritage and “helping others,” here are a few snippets from our country’s legacy we think all citizens should know:
The first federal anti-Chinese bill was passed in 1885. It took the form of a Head tax of $50 imposed, with few exceptions, upon every person of Chinese origin entering the country. No other group was targeted in this way.
In 1928, a government official envisaged Canada would end its “Indian problem” within two generations. Church-run, government-funded residential schools for Native children were supposed to prepare them for life in white society. The aims of assimilation actually meant destruction and desolation for those who were subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Decades later, Aboriginal people began to share their stories and demand acknowledgement of — and compensation for — their stolen childhoods.
Twelve weeks after 7 December 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and later Hong Kong, the federal government, at the instigation of racist British Columbia politicians, used the War Measures Actto order the removal of all Japanese Canadians residing within 160 kilometres of the Pacific coast. The Canadian government claimed that Japanese Canadians were being removed for reasons of “national security,” despite the fact that the removal order was opposed by Canada’s senior military and despite the fact that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officially stated that Japanese Canadians posed no threat to Canada’s security.
Canada likes to think of itself as a sanctuary for the oppressed. However, the Canadian government did everything in its power to bar the door to European Jews trying to flee Nazi persecution.
In 1996, the last federally-operated residential school in Canada closed (Akaitcho Hall in Yellowknife). It is estimated that more than 100,000 Native children aged six and up attended the national network of residential schools from 1930 until 1990.
In Canada, we have “starlight tours,” an euphemism for the “non-sanctioned” police practice of taking Aboriginals to the edge of a town and abandoning them in freezing weather. In 2001, Amnesty International included freezing deaths resulting from these notorious tours in their report of international human rights abuses, marking the first time Canada joined the list. In fact, this list could probably go on forever. If we let it.
Welcome to Canada, the “great” white North (and we don’t mean “white” as in snow).
Tessa M. Blaikie, Kyla E. Doll, Crystal S. Van Den Bussche, and Natalia T. Ilyniak are undergraduates at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. Kimberley A. Ducey is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, University of Winnipeg.