The new Canadian Citizenship Guide: Gender Equality Fail


The Globe and Mail had a piece on the new Canadian Citizenship Guide, including a quote by Historian Margaret Conrad, who had this to say a-boot it:

“It’s kind of like a throwback to the 1950s. It’s a tough, manly country with military and sports heroes that are all men.”

I thought to myself, that can’t be true, can it? So I went about trying to prove to myself that the new document couldn’t be all boys and no girls. Well, it’s a little shocking.

#1: The gender equality section

First, let me reproduce here the entire section on The Equality of Women and Men.

“In Canada, men and women are equal under the law. Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation, or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.”

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. 4 lines (in the original document) that basically amount to “don’t torture your wife.”

#2: Female and male pronouns

Let’s take a cursory look at the number of times female and male words are mentioned:

With Queen/King Without Queen/King
# female words
(she, her, hers, (*)woman, (*)women(‘s), female, mother, queen)
52 30
# male words
(he, his, him, (*)man, (*)men, male, father, king)
50 43

I found this incredibly surprising. Why? Because I was expecting that frequent mentions of the Queen, gender equality and votes for women would put them way ahead. And yet they only win by 2, mostly because the word “queen” is mentioned 22 times. If you remove “queen” (22) and “king” (7) from the lists, the numbers are 30 for women and 43 for men. And that number still includes the number of times “her” refers to the Queen.

#3: Great Canadians

We’ve come to the most disgusting part of it all. Here’s the proportion of men and women representing the best and brightest of modern Canada. It makes me sick.

(Numbers have been scaled to give an impression of proportional differences.)

Number of male artists mentioned
(3 individuals, plus 7 in the Group of Seven and 10 in Les Automatistes)
Number of female artists mentioned
(2 individuals, plus 6 in Les Automatistes)
Number of male athletes mentioned 6
Number of female athletes mentioned 1
Number of male scientists, thinkers and inventors mentioned 20
Number of female scientists, thinkers and inventors mentioned 0

That last one really turns my stomach. Zero. Goose egg. And yet, why am I not surprised?

Right after the list of great Canadian male discoveries is this paragraph:

“The prosperity and diversity of our country depend on all Canadians working together to face challenges of the future. In seeking to become a citizen, you are joining a country that, with your active participation, will continue to grow and thrive.”

Perhaps “diversity” is a word about which they should spend a bit more time thinking.


Comments 5

  1. Renee wrote:


    Posted 13 Nov 2009 at 4:58 pm
  2. jason wrote:

    Alright, I’m going to go out on a limb here.

    Preface: I consider myself about as egalitarian as a person could be. I know that dames are just as good as dudes.


    This citizenship booklet is based on Canada’s history. Like it or not (I’m guessing you’re in the “not” category), this society has been dominated by dudes. Only in the past few decades have women in Canada, in large numbers, branched out into all areas of industry, the arts, research, etc. — so, it stands to reason (to me, anyway) that most of our prominent public historical figures have been male.

    Again, I’m not saying it’s right. And, I’m all for having adequate representation of women in historical retrospectives such as this one. But, to be honest… I’m trying to think of a prominent Canadian scientist, inventor or thinker who also is/was a woman and, aside from women directly involved in the women’s movement for the past century (e.g. the “Persons” case; obviously this is important, and every Canadian should know that story inside and out) and “the first Canadian woman to do X” (e.g. Kim Campbell, Jeanne Sauve), only two come to mind: astronauts Roberta Bondar and Julie Payette.

    I’m not trying to be smarmy or glib here, honestly. Like I said, I’m egalitarian all the way — I’d never force the future Mrs. J (Halle Berry, mayhaps?) to change her name, and I have no idea what to do for our kids’ surnames — but I’m stumped.

    Wait, does Laura Secord count? Is she a thinker/inventor/scientist?

    Posted 13 Nov 2009 at 6:15 pm
  3. Eve wrote:

    It’s true that Canada does not have as long a history as the US in allowing women to go to university. But we do have some women who deserve mentioning.

    Less than 30km from you, Helen Sawyer Hogg did brilliant research in astronomy, which I believe is related to physics, which I believe is what you teach, J đŸ™‚

    Julie Payette is currently Canada’s top astronaut. They mentioned the CSA and they could have taken the opportunity to mention her. But they did not.

    It’s sort of sad that I couldn’t think of any women either, aside from Hogg and Payette and Bondar. So I looked some up:

    Julia Levy has helped far more people with the cancer treatments she co-invented than a guy who labeled the time zones.

    Leone N. Farrell helped to eradicate polio.

    A few other notable female Canadian scientists:

    Maude Abbott
    Carrie Derick
    Charlotte Fischer
    Marion Hilliard
    Eugenia Kumacheva
    Elsie MacGill
    Freda Miller
    Eva Turley

    If I can find these people, Jason Kenney can. And we’re not going to make too many more great scientific women if young Canadian girls don’t have anyone to look up to.

    Posted 13 Nov 2009 at 8:31 pm
  4. Renee wrote:

    Harold Innis but not Jane Jacobs? Fessenden but not Harriet Brooks?

    Posted 13 Nov 2009 at 9:34 pm
  5. Eve wrote:


    Posted 15 Nov 2009 at 12:53 pm