City of Gatineau “Welcome” Brochure Insults Immigrants

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.

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Photo credit: Strange Ones on flickr


Gloria Morotti
Gloria Morotti6 years ago

I cook with garlic...does that mean I don't belong in this community??

Kari Knabe
Kari Knabe6 years ago


Geoffrey Y.
Geoffrey Y6 years ago

perhaps "Don’t cook smelly food" is strange to get listed but other are ok. Everyone is immigrant, you are not? It just means you need to fit the society you moved in. It is reasonable at human level of standard. We do this to other as other do the same. Canada's immigration policy is way to nice, it almost become unreachable by other nations. Is this something to praise or pride or let this um-practical standard goes until no one can afford? I urge you to think this again and again your own ability to put this polcy on tax payers.

Betsy M.
Betsy M6 years ago

I think we get that these rules describe unacceptable conduct. That's not the problem.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Have no problem with either of the rules except the one about smelly food. I love garlic and even grow my own, so that could be a problem. I also love to barbeque. As Pete A. wrote, it may be inconvenient to the neighbors, but otherwise stay out of my kitchen!

Joslynne Davidson

I have travelled extensively and I know I can be really helpful to know 'the rules'. And in many cases, you are told. When I worked on a reservation, I was told to be careful about offending anyone-If I offended someone, I ran the risk of having my house set on fire. I felt this was a good thing to know. I worked there for 4 years and saw 3 houses burned down for 'offenses'.

Joslynne Davidson

Thank you Pete. Your explanations are sensible. I do not find these 'rules' so offensive. If you take a look at some of the cultures these people come from, it is good that they are being told 'not here'. It is clear and simple-so if you torture and murder your child because she doesn't want to wear a burka or she wants to got to school, you know up front, it is wrong.

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

Myriam G.

or they are treating the case like putting a warning lable on something. the scary "no brainer" ones that mean someone did something stupid with the product, like "do not eat" on a pocket knife kind of thing.

Myriam G.
Myriam G6 years ago

I can understand how some people might get offended by that. These rules are a bit like being invited to a classy dinner party, and when you get there, the host says: ''welcome! Now, remember, you can't piss on the floor or have sex with my 3-year-old daughter. I just wanted to make that clear. Otherwise, we're happy to have you here as a guest and value your presence.''

I know the people who wrote these rules didn't think of it this way. They (probably) don't think they are perfect themselves. I guess they were shocked by the recent Shafia case, where the father and son alledgedly killed 4 women of their family, because they felt dishonoured by what they described as ''lewd conduct'' (conduct the likes of wearing T-shirts and skirts in the summer, holding hands with a boy, or planning to marry someone who was not originally from Afghanistan). The Shafia case shocked all of Québec, all of Canada. It got some people thinking: ''well, if that's the way immigrants are going to be, let's treat them like the potential criminals they are''.
I like the response from Pr Weinstock to some of the intolerant people in Gatineau that might consider visiting a foreing country ;
“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.”

John S.
Past Member 6 years ago