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Immigration department looking at incorporating 'values' into citizenship program

CALGARY - The federal immigration minister says his department is reviewing the country's citizenship program to improve the focus on "Canada's values."

CALGARY - The federal immigration minister says his department is reviewing the country's citizenship program to improve the focus on "Canada's values."

Jason Kenney told a Calgary Chamber of Commerce lunch that he has ordered a complete review of the program to "make sure that the people who are joining our political community as Canadian citizens have a full appreciation for the values, symbols and institutions that define Canada and which are rooted in our history."

There needs to be a stronger focus on helping people integrate into their new lives in Canada, Kenney said Tuesday.

Rather than spending multiculturalism funds on festivals to help promote individual communities - an idea he said comes from the 1970s - the government needs to deal with the "concrete challenges of integration."

Information for new Canadians should focus more on teaching about the history of the country, including how the country's laws and principles such as equality between men and women evolved, he said.

"We want to make sure that when people become Canadians they totally understand that Canadian history becomes their history, Canadian values become their values."

A small group of people protested outside Kenney's speech, holding placards demanding the government give protection to veterans of the U.S. war in Iraq who have fled to Canada.

Organizer Collette Lemieux said they wanted to send the message that even in Kenney's hometown of Calgary, people are upset about the issue.

She said they're angry the government is ignoring a non-binding motion adopted in the summer by all federal parties except the Conservatives that U.S. military deserters be allowed to stay in Canada. It was passed again earlier this month.

"We want them to respect that, and so far they have been stepping up their deportations against war resisters."

An estimated 250 U.S. war resisters have fled to Canada since the war began.

The first U.S. deserter to be ordered to leave the country, Robin Long, is now serving a 15-month sentence in a San Diego military prison.

Kenney said he's not going to "contort" refugee laws for political gain by wading into the issue.

"My obligation as a minister isn't to pick and choose based on a political fashion of the day how we apply the law, but it's to apply the law consistently and fairly, and that's exactly what our courts have done in this instance."

 
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