Next Canadian citizenship guide to cover gay rights

Posted by admin on Oct 6th, 2010

By Norma Greenaway, Postmedia News October 6, 2010

OTTAWA — The next printing of a guide designed to educate immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship will contain references to gay rights — ones that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had vetoed for the current version. Conservative MP Rick Dykstra, parliamentary secretary to Kenney, said Wednesday the government will include references to the legality of gay marriage in Canada and prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the next version, due out within months. “As with everything else, the potential for evolution and improvement is there,” Dykstra said in an interview.

Gay rights were already included in the “Welcome to Canada” guide for newcomers published this summer, he said, paving the way for the Harper government to take a “very, very good step forward” with the next printing of the “Discover Canada” citizenship guide.

The current citizenship guide — released nearly a year ago, in November — had not been updated since 1995.

Critics slammed the government at the time for its selective telling of Canadian life, a chorus of complaints that got louder when access-to-information documents obtained by a news outlet revealed Kenney blocked references to the history of gay rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005.

The decision to reinsert elements of the history of gay and lesbian rights in Canada was welcomed by opposition politicians.

New Democrat MP Olivia Chow said the government was forced to concede defeat in the face of pressure from across the political spectrum, including a recommendation from the all-party immigration committee to update the guide with such references.

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau said the only reference to “gay” in the current guide is a picture of Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury, under which a cutline reads that he’s an activist for gay and lesbian rights. “It’s not good enough,” he said.

Dykstra said officials are still working on the wording, but it is expected to closely resemble the references in the Welcome to Canada guide.

The main section on sexual orientation is as follows:

“Our laws protect all Canadians, including gays and lesbians, from unjust discrimination. All Canadians enjoy the same access to education, health care, jobs, housing, social services, and pensions, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“In 2005, Parliament passed a law extending the right to civil marriage to same-sex couples. At the same time, the law respects religious freedom, so no church, synagogue, mosque or temple can be forced to perform a marriage that goes against the religious beliefs of its members.”

It also says Canada’s labour laws prohibit unfair treatment on the basis of sexual orientation.
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