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article imageCity of Gatineau publishes 'statement of values' for immigrants

By Arthur Weinreb     Dec 6, 2011 in World
Gatineau - Although the Quebec city published the guide in October, a controversy is now brewing over some of what newcomers to Quebec are being told. To some, it is reminiscent of what happened in Herouxville in 2007.
The guide lists 16 points that newly arrived immigrants to Canada who settle in Gatineau should adhere to. By following these guidelines, the city hopes the newcomers will be better able to adapt to their new home. The statement of values is supported by Quebec's Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities on the basis it is necessary for recent immigrants to understand Quebec's core values.
Gatineau, located just across the river from Ottawa, is the fourth largest city in Quebec. According to its website, the population in 2006 was 242,124. As a percentage of the population, immigrants comprised 8.7% of the population in 2006, compared to just 5.6% in 1991.
Some of the points are far from controversial. Immigrants are told they must learn French even though they live in close proximity to Ontario. The newcomers are also told that men and women have equal rights in La Belle Province.
Some points are less neutral. New immigrants are informed that bribing public officials is unacceptable. They are also told that punctuality is important and they should arrive at appointments a few minutes early. And as Quebec is a secular province, newcomers are told it is better not to display their religion in public.
Other points in the document have really raised the ire of critics. One of the points that is controversial is contained in the point that outlines how violence against women and children is unacceptable in the province. Besides indicating that physical and sexual violence is wrong, newcomers are also warned not to "willfully starve" their children.
Recent immigrants are also warned about using certain spices that cause body odour and strong cooking smells emanating from their homes. These smells, they are told, can prevent them from adapting to their new home. Statements such as these have been described as "infantile" and "paternalistic' by critics.
Regarding advising immigrants to feed their children and not starve them, Daniel Weinstock, a professor of ethics at the Universite de Montreal, was quoted as saying, Imagine a Quebecker going abroad and being told, 'By the way, you might not know this, but if your team loses a hockey game, it's not okay to burn peoples' cars.'
Comparisons are being made between Gatineau's statement of values and the code of conduct that was released by the Quebec village of Herouxville in 2007. Aimed primarily at Muslims, newcomers to the tiny village were told it was not acceptable to stone women in public, female circumcision was wrong, and that faces should not be covered in public, except on Halloween. Some of these statements were removed after complaints were received.
But the statement of values does have supporters in Quebec. Carmelo Marchese, who works with Quebec newcomers and is an immigrant himself, said that immigrants need to learn these values in order to adjust. If some paragraphs are seen as offensive it is because they are being taken out of context.
More about city of gatineau, guides for quebec immigrants, quebec ministry of immigration and cultural commun, professor daniel weinstock, herouxville quebec
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