New ‘Welcome to Canada’ guide emphasizes monarchy, undervalues restaurant tipping

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

A new government document providing guidance to new immigrants to Canada could be fraught with political landmines, such as how it addresses the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or describes our connection to the monarchy.

Or the greatest controversy contained within could be that the Government of Canada undervalues the size of gratuity expected by restaurant wait staff.

The new "Welcome to Canada" guide for immigrants is 148 pages long and, frankly, quite boring. Not that you shouldn't expect that from a how-to document on living in Canada.

If you are looking for controversy, there isn’t much in there. Save for a couple notes on prohibiting female genital mutilation and the illegalities of marrying to obtain for citizenship, it is a pretty straightforward read.

These are the documents you will need. Those are the agencies you should contact.

On at least two separate occasions, the guide warns new Canadians to dress warmly.

“Depending on where you are immigrating from, you may be quite surprised by the cold and snow during your first Canadian winter,” the guide reads. “Be sure to buy a winter coat, boots, gloves and hat to keep you warm. With the right clothing, you will be prepared to enjoy the unique beauty of a Canadian winter.”

I'd accuse them of painting Canada as a frigid wasteland if, of course, that wasn't great advice. It’s the first thing I would tell a visitor to Canada.

(A recent tourist from Australia lost his luggage, which contained a thick winter jacket, and spent two miserable days shivering before relenting and buying another one. Imagine. There is now an Australian out there somewhere who owns two winter jackets.)

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The “Welcome to Canada” guide also has a 257-word section on where to find, and how to use, a phone book. I can summarize. Put it in the recycling bin; use the Internet.

The absolute dullness of the guide didn't stop some from seeking out and underlining the more salacious bits.

Postmedia News' Tobi Cohen notes the document goes to great lengths to emphasize our relationship with the monarchy, a section that even points out that Queen Elizabeth has "known all 11 prime ministers from Louis St-Laurent (1948-56) to Stephen Harper (2006-)."

Postmedia News also writes:

The booklet contains a single reference to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, compared to two in the previous booklet, and also makes reference to the Bill of Rights. The Conservatives have been criticized for downplaying the role of the Charter, which was entrenched in the Constitution by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau. It’s also not the first time the Conservatives have referenced the Bill of Rights, former Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker’s precursor to the Charter.

A cover up, to be sure.

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Jim Mahoney of the Globe and Mail also previewed the document and notes the detail with which it details Canada’s marriage customs. It notes that forced marriage is illegal, “marriages of convenience” can end it jail time, and also contains this chestnut:

In Canada, there are laws against being married to more than one person at a time. You cannot come to Canada with more than one spouse even if you were married to more than one person in the past.

Aside from that, the most controversial point of contention may be related to the social custom of tipping at restaurants, which the government believes to generally be about “10 to 15 percent of the bill.”

Not to be calling the federal government a cheapskate, but social etiquette dictates a tip of around 20 per cent for good service. In most urban centres, tipping 10 per cent sends a message, and it may not be the one a new immigrant may think they are sending.

So there it is. A document containing all the information a new person in Canada may need to know, and one surefire way to piss off people who handle your food.

Welcome to Canada.