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New immigration guide issues stern warnings against ‘barbaric’ practices

Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 18, 2012.


Newcomers to Canada are being bluntly told in a revised federal guidebook for immigrants that polygamy and forced marriages are illegal in this country.

The 146-page document, which also addresses human trafficking and gender-based violence, takes pains to spell out the country's marriage customs.

"In Canada, there are laws against being married to more than one person at a time. You cannot come to Canada with more than one spouse even if you were married to more than one person in the past," says the passage in Welcome to Canada: What you should know.

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It says same-sex marriage is legal, but religious freedom is also protected.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney released the revamped guide, which is given to newcomers to help them navigate life in a new country, on Tuesday in Vancouver. The guide is distinct from the government's citizenship study document.

Mr. Kenney defended the blunt messaging.

"I think it is important for us to be clear with people about what cultural and legal limitations and expectations are in Canada," he said in a news conference at an immigrant-settlement service.

He referred to the guide's statements that female genital mutilation and "so-called honour-based crimes" are "barbaric" and will not be tolerated, and the sections condemning forced marriages and polygamy.

"We don't dwell on these things. Ninety per cent of the guide is practical about services and practical challenges, but I think it is helpful for us to be transparent about some of those more difficult issues."

The guidebook also hints at key Conservative messages in sections on the Queen and the military, although Mr. Kenney said the material was appropriate in explaining important Canadian institutions.

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Other sections include basic information ranging from tipping etiquette and advice for driving on snowy roads to suggestions for meeting neighbours and dealing with offensive content on the Internet.

The guide says that, if arrested, the reader should co-operate with police. "Be calm, speak as clearly as possible and look directly at the officer." Also, don't try to bribe the officer.

The guide also includes information on language classes, finding a job and the education system.

Mr. Kenney noted that the guide can be downloaded and read on iPads, so newcomers could, theoretically, see it en route to Canada.

Jinny Sims, the official opposition immigration critic, suggested references to barbaric practices might stigmatize some cultures. She also called for more information, even if online only, on services in specific communities.

Mr. Kenney said the next frontier in such material might be online video content in languages other than English and French.

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He defended the $400,000 cost to develop the guide, calling the project "absolutely central stuff to what we're trying to do in terms of integration."

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About the Authors
National news reporter


B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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