The City of Gatineau released a “statement of values” to teach immigrants how to properly integrate into their new society. The problem: Instead of simply describing Canadian (or Gatinois) values, the document includes a list of rules that plays on stereotypes and insults immigrants.
The City of Gatineau is in the Province of Quebec, located just across the river from Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Gatineau has a population of around 261,000 as of 2010, of which close to 9% are immigrants. That is below the average for the province of Quebec overall.
The document (only available in French), explains some fairly basic values that are important to Quebec society, such as:
- Equality between men and women
- French is the shared language
- Children are to be respected
However, some of the language in the document is rubbing immigrants the wrong way. For example, some of the tips it gives include:
- Don’t willfully malnourish your children
- Don’t flaunt your religion
- Don’t cook smelly food
- Don’t offer bribes
- Don’t use violence to preserve honor
- Don’t use child labor or force your child to perform sexual acts
Overall, the document attempts to convince immigrants to learn about the way things are done in Gatineau in order to avoid negative perceptions or interpretations that could create conflicts in their new community. While some understand and accept the intent, others find the examples and tone used in the document to be offensive.
David Weinstock, a University of Montreal ethics professor was quoted in the Montreal Gazette as saying:
Imagine a Quebecer going abroad and being told, “By the way, you may not know this, but if your team loses a hockey game, it’s not OK to burn people’s cars.”
Essentially, the fact that some people in some countries commit atrocities, does not mean that everyone from those countries needs a lecture on them.
It could also be argued that the document puts too much onus on immigrants to ensure their successful integration into Gatineau. Where is the document for born-and-bred Gatinois encouraging them to be open-minded and respectful of other cultures? The city’s approach singles out immigrants as being offensive criminals in need of assimilation, all while talking about how much they enrich our society.
Interestingly, as a 13th generation Quebecer, I enjoy cooking food with strong smells, but am frequently appalled by the behavior of “traditional” loud-mouthed, beer-drinking, hockey-watching Quebecers. Respect is a two way street.
Photo credit: Strange Ones on flickr