COLUMN: The test of citizenship can be testy

“What are you doing?” I asked a family member busy on the couch with his iPad.

“What are you doing?” I asked a family member busy on the couch with his iPad.

“I take the Canadian citizenship test in two weeks, and I’m preparing by doing a simulated test” was the response.

A couple of minutes later there was a loud Akkkkkkkk! “I failed, I only got 11 questions correct out of 20.”

Better let me try that, I offered. His chagrined reply: “No way, because you’ll probably pass with flying colours and then gloat all afternoon about your superior knowledge.”

I whined, he relented, and I took the test.

With only 12 of the 20 correct, I failed too. Crushed, and expecting if this became public knowledge, my citizenship might be revoked, I wondered how many other Canadians could actually achieve the required 75 per cent passing grade, given the obscure questions asked on the examination before citizenship is granted.

And if you don’t believe me in regard to the obscurity of things listed in the test, try it yourself.

A sample (and “free” it is noted on the site) simulation test is available at under the Training Program button.

To make it “easier,” the questions come with multiple-choice answers. All you have to do is pick one, but easy it ain’t.

For example, how about Question 4: “Who is Marjorie Turner-Bailey?” The answer choices are (1) An Olympian and descendant of black Loyalists (2) A famous Canadian settler (3) The first woman to become Prime Minister (4) The first Canadian female athlete.

Or Question 8: “Which Act granted to the Canadas, for the first time, legislative assemblies elected by the people?” (1) The Freedom Act (2) The Constitutional Act (3) The Legislative Act (4) The Confederation Act.

Now tell me in today’s Canada, other than playing Trivial Pursuit, do you really need to know whether or not John Buchan was a popular Governor General, or that the Brits abolished slavery in 1833?

Granted, it is good that wanna-be Canadians learn a little of the history that made our nation, but I’m curious to know if native-born Canadians are actually taught some of this information in school. It’s been a rather long time since I’ve read school textbooks relating to history, though I’d guess that many of the questions immigrants are expected to answer won’t be found in them.

Combine this with having to memorize all this information from an English-as-Second-Language (or third for matter) perspective, and it is tough to pass the Canadian competency test.

There is a book issued to those seeking citizenship which should have all the answers to expected questions, but I wonder how many people, once they have been granted their Canadian enfranchisement, remember any of it.

It’s difficult learning to speak English (along with learning a modicum of our own ‘second language’) without being required to know who represents the Queen in Nunavut.

And apparently, even though you can mess up that question, if you get even one wrong about how our voting system works, your application for citizenship goes back to square one.

So how many of you can answer correctly, and exactly, “Who has the right to vote in a federal election?” or exactly what you do with your ballot (despite having done it a great many times) at the polling station?

Guess it’s time to drop Monty Python’s song “I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK”, and check out the library’s Canadian history department.


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