OTTAWA - A new version of the government's handbook for immigrants goes much farther than some simple tips for getting settled in Canada.
The guide, entitled, "Welcome to Canada: What you Should Know," incorporates new sections on the monarchy and military, as well as a lengthy discussion of Canadian laws.
The $400,000 project sought to apply a new immigrant's eye to what information they might need upon arrival in Canada, coupled with the government's desire to make sure certain issues were clearly communicated.
The monarchy and military have been key themes for the Conservative government, which sees them as central tenets of Canadian identity.
The law-and-order elements of the guide are another important aspect of integration to ensure people understand what's not acceptable, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told a news conference Tuesday.
"Ninety per cent of the guide is practical, about services and practical challenges," Kenney said. "But it is helpful for us to be transparent about some of those more difficult issues."
The topics covered in the legal section include prohibitions against genital mutilation, honour-based crimes, polygamy and marriage fraud.
The how-to tips in the book cover everything from how to open a bank account, deal with a Canadian winter, find a house or find child care.
"In Canada, most families do not leave children under the age of 12 at home alone," the guide notes.
The new guide clocks in at 148 pages, more than twice the size of its predecessor.
The original hadn't seen a significant revision since it was first published in 1997.
"Many things have changed since then, notably the fact that Internet is now commonly used by organizations to disseminate information, and by newcomers to access this information," said Danielle Vlemmiks, a spokeswoman for the Immigration Department.
"We felt it was time to bring it in line with the reality of newcomers today."
Of the $400,000 spent on the project, the lion's share went for printing costs. The books will be available in hard copy and online in English and French.
The time is also coming for the government to look beyond providing newcomers services in only two languages, Kenney mused.
Online videos in major non-official languages could be a next step, especially for those who lack proficiency in either English or French or who are illiterate, Kenney said.
"This is always a tricky issue because we don't want to go down the direction of producing every government product in non-official languages, for obvious reasons," he said.
"But I think some of the basic information could be helpfully provided in the future."
The guide is part of efforts by the Conservatives to improve economic outcomes for new immigrants by focusing on integration efforts.
Other changes in recent months have included the introduction of minimum language standards for would-be citizens. A new points-system will also be unveiled this spring will also judge education, work experience and age differently.
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