I have been thinking about the unique role of Citizenship and Immigration Canada in educating newcomers about our Canadian parliamentary democracy. The CIC is the first, and the most significant, agency of the Canadian government with which immigrants interact. To its clients, the CIC represents the values and norms of the government and the nation. Is the CIC representing Canada well and living up to the opportunity inherent in its unique position?
While immigrants will memorize current and historical Canadian names, events and dates by studying the CIC booklets defining “equality under the law” and telling us that the Constitution Act of 1791 allowed legislative assemblies elected by citizens for the first time in Canada, what do we experience firsthand? Do we see Canadian good governance in action? Do we see transparency and accountability? Or do we experience an opaque process rife with indefinite delays and arbitrary, unexplained actions? Do we experience suspicion based on our nation of origin? Are women, racial, religious and linguistic minorities and the poor viewed as less worthy of citizenship?
What do the unexplained suspicions, the record wait times, the ballooning backlogs and the lack of accountability say about Canadian government to an immigrant?
The future citizens of Canada have a responsibility to learn about their adopted home. The CIC has the opportunity to teach them what it means to be treated respectfully and fairly by their government. This is not an opportunity to squander.