Posted on November 19, 2010

Lack of Historical Knowledge Threatens Canada’s Future: Minister

Brian Lilley, Toronto Sun, Nov. 18, 2010

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney warned a conference of historians and educators that unless we do a better job of teaching history and common values, we risk social unrest in the future.

Kenney said there is a need for both native-born Canadians and newcomers to have a solid understanding of Canada’s past including our political system, and how Canada’s culture of rights and responsibilities developed.

“Can we continue to swear in 180,000 citizens every year from over 180 countries of origin if we are not sure that they have a common understanding of the country of which they are becoming full members as citizens?” Kenney said.

Speaking with reporters after his event, Kenney acknowledged that part of the problem for immigrants trying to understand Canada is that so few native-born Canadians have a grasp on the country’s history.

“That’s why the government says that ‘Discover Canada’ and our efforts to promote civic literacy have to be focused on all Canadians and not just newcomers,” Kenney said.

Discover Canada is the government’s study guide issued to help immigrants prepare for their citizenship test. It was released last year and replaced an older guide that spent little time on Canadian history but did teach would-be citizens the importance of recycling.

Kenney also took a shot at how Canadian history is often taught, saying there is too much emphasis put on social history and some recounts of Canada’s story make it sound like the country was built of oppression and injustice.

“If that indeed is the way in which we seek to teach history, no wonder that young people aren’t particularly interested,” Kenney said.

Kenney called Quebec a model for teaching history to its young people, saying that while some may quibble about how that history is presented, there is no question that students in that province are taught history.