New Guide Shortchanges BC

Posted by Daniel on Nov 13, 2009 - 3 comments

Ottawa has released its new citizenship guide for prospective immigrants. It contains lots of information about the politics, geography and economy of the country but I am mainly interested in the historical section. In a sense this few-page summary is as close as we come to our "official" history, given that it is written and published under the authority of the federal government.

Two thoughts.

Firstly, isn't British Columbia a part of Canada? The historical guide says almost nothing about this province beyond the fact that it joined Confederation after the promise of a transcontinental railway. It is as if nothing else of any importance happened here. Perhaps this is explained by the fact that of the 26 advisors consulted for the guide, none come from BC.

Secondly, while the citizenship minister Jason Kenney contends that the guide is a "new and improved" version of Canadian history, it reads to me as if it was written in the 1950s (or the '40s, or the '30s...) The usual suspects all put in an appearance -- Wolfe, Montcalm, Durham, Riel, etc. -- and the familiar chronology of events is followed -- Plains of Abraham, rebellions of 1837, responsible government, Confederation, yadda, yadda. The only piece of modern art reproduced is Tom Thomson's Jack Pine, a visual cliche that seems to sum up the guide's approach.

A lot has happened in the writing of Canadian history during the past three decades but you would not know it by reading this document.