3 min

Discover a Canada where queers are invisible

As expected, the government released the new “Discover Canada” guide to new immigrants yesterday (available in PDF here), and as expected, it’s full of all kinds of things like an expanded focus on our military history and even some warts-and-all history, with the abolition of slavery, the Chinese Head Tax, and so on. And yes, much of it is very well done. Really! But…

There is still some very questionable material in it – aside from the use of Conservative blue in prominent places. For example, when talking about equality between men and women, they actually say, “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation, or other gender-based violence.” The phrase “barbaric cultural practices” may be accurate, but using it in an official document is pretty questionable, if not inflamatory.

I’m also a little troubled by the way the “Citizens Responsibilities” section is laid out. Alongside with things like obeying the law, voting and jury duty, there’s also sections on “taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family,” which reads like a fairly neo-liberal ideological statement, “helping others in the community,” about volunteering, and “protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment,” which doesn’t exactly seem to be a government priority. But it’s interesting that these are “responsibilities” on par with voting and jury duty.

Also, almost entirely absent, are the queer community. There is a tiny little mention next to a photo of Mark Tewksbury – on a page about sports in Canada – that he’s a gold medal winner and “prominent activist for gay and lesbian Canadians.” And yet nowhere in the document is there any mention that gays and lesbians are equal in Canada. Many queer immigrants come to Canada because they can be free here, yet they get no assurance that they will have full legal equality. They make a great show about talking about how diverse a country we are, and yet queers are not mentioned as part of that diversity – even after atheists get a shout out. Gender discrimination is mentioned, saying that  “barbaric cultural practices” won't be acceptable is in there, but discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is absent. And once again we are made invisible, because it serves this government’s attempts to tap into a supposed natural social conservatism in immigrant communities to help them gain support for measures that would discriminate against the queer communities. And that’s not cool. At all.

(There are other critiques, but one of the best ones is the map that apparently shows our country without the States bordering us at all. Heh.)

And while the Conservatives use documents like these to drape themselves in the flag of the Canadian military, the CBC’s Kady O’Malley notices that the way the photo on the website is cropped suggests that it’s Harper who presented the new Canadian Forces Sacrifice medals earlier this week – when it’s actually the Commander in Chief (ie – Her Excellency) who does it. Not cool. So not cool. Harper’s presidential envy may have been kept in check on Remembrance Day because of Prince Charles’ presence, but this latest attempt at painting himself in a role that is not his is worrying.

Elsewhere, Martha Hall Findlay complains that the government spent $3 million on ads to say that they were creating jobs – but couldn’t say where those jobs were. Huh. Bill Siksay, meanwhile, has tabled a motion that would stop the HST from being implanted in BC by cancelling the federal compensation payment. Even though it’s actually a provincial decision.

While the Liberals clean house in their backrooms, Frank McKenna says that it’ll take them time to rebuild their organisation, and there will never be a Messianic leader who will make everything magically go right for them. Probably a good lesson to learn.

And Prince Charles and Camilla are back in England after their visit to Canada, and their final act in Canada was to help plant a tree at Rideau Hall. It was nice to have him, but hopefully now that he’s out of sight, we can stop these silly pseudo-discussions about dumping the monarchy.

Up today: the Supreme Court begins its look at the case of Omar Khadr. Oh boy.
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