Same-sex marriage in Canada
2 min

Kenney doesn’t commit to changing citizenship guide

As queer lobby group Egale comes under fire for its response to the citizenship guide issue, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney did not commit to adding gay rights to the document during Question Period on Mar 4.

When NDP MP Olivia Chow asked Kenney if he would “immediately restore” references to gay rights in the guide, Kenney dodged the question and suggested he is “proud” of the guide as it is.

Kenney said he takes “full responsibility” for the content of the guide, but he did not apologize for the removal of gay rights from an early draft in 2009. It’s still unclear who ordered the removal of gay rights from the document, whether it was Kenney himself or an aide.

Read more about the citizenship guide issue on Xtra.ca:

 

Read the transcript of today’s Question Period debate: 

Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP):

Mr.
Speaker, memos show that references to gay rights were shamefully
deleted from the citizenship guide at the behest of the immigration
minister.

Half a million copies have been printed with gay history censored.

The minister will not take responsibility and instead leaves his staff to take the blame. That simply is not acceptable.

Will the minister do the right thing, admit his mistakes, stop laughing about this and immediately apologize to Canadians?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I take full responsibility for Discover Canada.

About that, the Montreal Gazette wrote that the “62-page guide is a solid step toward a healthy, self-respecting Canadian nationalism we can all share."

Maclean’s
said, “The remedy of the historical oversights of the previous versions,
the new citizenship guide also provides clear-eyed and forceful
statements of the expectations of current Canadian values."

The
old study guide, the one that is replaced, had zero mention of gays and
lesbians in Canada. We corrected that in the new guide.

However
it is true, there is no section on marriage, there never was, and we
are proud of this guide. We believe it does reflect the diversity of
Canada.

 

 

Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP):

Mr.
Speaker, newcomers need to know that gay-bashing is illegal. They need
to know that gay marriage is to be celebrated. Is the minister saying
that those important elements of Canadian law should not be made known
to new Canadians? Why is it missing? Why is it censored away from the
new citizenship guide?

Canadians are tolerant, peace-loving, and we value our freedom. Let us make sure that newcomers are welcomed in this spirit. 

Will the minister immediately restore this reference to gay rights and gay history to the citizenship guide right now?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):

Mr.
Speaker, perhaps I have a higher estimation than the member does about
new Canadians. I do not believe that new Canadians are potential
gay-bashers. I believe that new Canadians come here to respect our laws
and the dignity of other Canadians.

We
make very clear in this document that was well accepted right across, I
believe, the political spectrum, right across the country, that there
are rights and responsibilities, and among those responsibilities are
following the laws and respecting the dignity of all Canadians.

I
am proud that this is the first citizenship guide that does mention gay
and lesbian Canadians, unlike the one that it replaces. 

** 

(Note: The “mention” that Kenney refers to is a tiny caption on a photo of gay Olympian Mark Tewksbury. See for yourself here.)

 

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