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Expert lauds proposal to remove ‘patronizing’ duty to ‘get a job’ from citizenship study guide

Immigration advocates are applauding the federal government’s potential move to remove “getting a job” as a responsibility for immigrants to Canada.

“It almost seems insulting to include that as a responsibility, when that’s exactly what most immigrants want,” said Amy Casipullai, a senior co-ordinator for policy and communications with the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

A working copy of a yet-to-be released study guide for citizenship hopefuls is a complete overhaul of the current version, The Canadian Press reported after obtaining a copy of a draft.

The current study guide, called Discover Canada, dates back to 2011 when the Stephen Harper Conservatives were in power. Some of the changes they made drew the ire of opposition parties, Canadians and immigration experts, including a warning that certain “barbaric cultural practices,” such as honour killings and female genital mutilation, are crimes in Canada.

Other Conservative insertions, such as the responsibility to “take responsibility for oneself and one’s family” by “getting a job” and “working hard in keeping with one’s abilities” received less attention.

The effect of those words, however, was not lost on the immigration community.

“The language is very patronizing,” said Casipullai, who worked as an employment counsellor for newcomers prior to joining the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“For years, finding employment has been a primary concern for immigrants.”

The council, which researches immigration issues and advises community agencies, conducted and released a survey in 2012 that showed employment was the top settlement and integration challenge among immigrants to Ontario.

“I don’t know of any other country that lists employment as a responsibility of citizenship,” Casipullai said.

According to Statistics Canada data, unemployment and employment rates between Canadians born in Canada and landed immigrants are fairly comparable.

In 2016, the unemployment rate of landed immigrants aged 15 years and older was 7.5 per cent, compared to 6.8 per cent for those born in the country.

Likewise, the employment rate among landed immigrants aged 15 years and older was 58.3 per cent, compared to 62.2 per cent of Canadians born within the country’s borders.

When asked for comment on this potential change to the citizenship test study guide, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office declined to comment, saying “any content shared during the consultation phase is not yet final material.

“The final guide will be available once fully completed,” the minister’s office wrote in an e-mail. “Until the revised guide is officially launched the current Discover Canadaremains the official study guide for the citizenship test.”

The e-mailed statement also stressed the fact the Department of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship is consulting with a range of organizations and experts in an attempt to ensure the updated guide is representative of Canada’s diversity and reflects the country’s indigenous history.

The draft study guide is reported to set two categories of citizenship responsibilities: voluntary and mandatory.

Voluntary responsibilities are listed as respecting the human rights of others, understanding official bilingualism and participating in the political process.

Obeying the law, serving on a jury, paying taxes, filling out the census and respecting treaties with Indigenous Peoples are mandatory.

Published by Global News