Screening Tests for Canadian Values: A Good Call

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The British government’s recent report by Dame Louise Casey suggests “an oath of integration with British values and society" for new immigrants and that school children be taught British values.                                     

Casey accused public bodies of ignoring or promoting divisive and harmful religious practices for fear of being called racist. In fact, Casey's review into the integration of minorities was commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron as part of the government's efforts to handle and tackle extremism.

Responding to this report, British Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said, “Civil servants and other holders of public office should swear an oath to British values.”

When Canadian MP Kellie Leitch, a candidate for the Conservative Party Leadership, says she wants immigrants to be screened for “Canadian values,” does it sound odd to us?

It shouldn’t. What’s wrong with wanting new immigrants to integrate by having Canadian values?

First, the question arises: What are Canadian values? And next: What do we mean by integration?

We can certainly write a book on Canadian values such as politeness, being sorry for everything, being religious about hokey and soccer, etc. But our top core values are democracy, separation of religion and state, gender equality including for the LGBT communities, freedom of expression, individual freedom and zero acceptance of violence.

Actually, these core Canadian values are shared by many civilized countries. But if an individual or community doesn’t endorse any of these values, it’s absolutely a problem for Canada or for any true democratic society.

Accepting and living by these core values would be called “integration,” no matter to which cultural heritage one belongs. Any person, regardless of their faith and ethnicity, who adheres to these core values will be known as well integrated.

Honestly, it’s so simple.

Keep your religion; keep your cultural heritage, but also keep these core Canadian values on top of everything.

But unfortunately, we are making this simple task hard by playing political and religious cards, cards of “Islamophobia,” “niqab” and “community.”

The British report clearly states that "Misogyny and patriarchy has to come to an end, public institutions must not fear being branded racist or Islamophobic.”

Without such courage, modern societies don’t evolve.

British report talks about bringing all new communities at par. Yet, gaps can only be filled if we are courageous enough to call spade a spade.

Dame Louise Casey accepts she is putting Muslim areas under the spotlight in her report.

Bringing a community or an individual (that lags behind) closer to rest of the society is actually a great service to that community or individual.

If Kellie Leitch or the British government asks for such measures, we should go for it. We should not give our support to those who ask for gender segregation, mixing of religion with state affairs and curbs on freedom of speech.    


Tahir Gora is a Pakistani and the Director of the Canadian Thinkers’ Forum, a member of the Coalition of Progressive Muslim Canadian Organizations. He can be followed on Twitter at Twitter.com/TahirGora.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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