A new Canadian citizenship test was rolled out in March 2010 by the Canadian government. This new test is much harder than the old one, and has a much higher failure rate. This new test is based on a new study guide that is much bigger than the old one, and covers much more in-depth information about Canada, its culture, history, native population, government, election, symbols and so on. So it seems that the Federal government has put a bigger emphasis on this citizenship test, which brings us to the question: why do we need a citizenship test?
Many countries around the world still do not have such a test as a criterion to become citizen. On the other hand, citizenship tests seem to be trendy in Europe, with countries such as Germany, the UK or the Netherlands introducing a citizenship test over the last decade. Are countries tightening the citizenship process? Do they just want to make sure the citizenship candidates have sufficient knowledge of the country in which they wish to live and be a part of? Whatever the reasons are, the citizenship test is a good idea in principle. A newcomer might have an easier integration if he/she knows the cultural, historical and government background of his/her new country.
The Canadian citizenship test has to be taken in either official language, French or English, so it is also an assessment of the language ability of the candidate. A newcomer with a decent understanding of French or English should have an easier time landing a good job in the local economy, and interact with people outside his/her community.
The citizenship test seems to act as a screening process but could also be seen as an additional motivation for newcomers to improve their language (English or French) proficiency. Language classes for ESL individuals are available at no cost throughout Canada.
Of course one can thrive within his/her own community without ever having to communicate with the “outside”, but governments that impose a citizenship test seem to view this as an issue. The citizenship test is part of an integration plan that is expected to result in an accepting and harmonious multicultural society. Multiculturalism is one of Canada’s cornerstone. Canada is viewed around the world as one of the most successful pluralist countries. This fact has been made possible by encouraging communities to fully participate in society by increasing their level of cultural, economic and social integration. And the Canadian citizenship test is a part of this process.
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