ON BEHALF OF of the Government/Gouvernement of Canada/la grand pink bit sur le map and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau/le ministre de selfie smokin’ chaud, I would like to congratulate the 43 lucky Victorians who, having passed the citizenship test, will get to become Canadians at a ceremony at Government House/Maison de Teacups on July 1.
I would also like to congratulate the 350,000 even luckier Victorians who, having not passed the test, get to be Canadian anyway.
It works like this: Pass the test and you get to remain in Canada, but fail and you’ll be expelled, pushed across the border into the tiny, child-caging clutches of Donald Trump. Anything under 50 per cent is a fail. Less than 60 and you can stay in the country, but only in one of those places infested with blackflies and block heaters (or, worse, Maple Leafs). Score over 90, and win fabulous prizes: Cirque de Soleil tickets, Okanagan wine tours*, Air Canada passes, GST exemption for life (*not available in Alberta).
This exam will not include the arcane questions found in the current citizenship exam (Real example: “What is a Notice of Confirmation of Registration?” Correct answer: “Who cares?”). Nor will it include the trick ones (Real example: “Who was the first prime minister of Canada?” Correct answer: “To do what?”).
Instead, questions will test real Canadiana. Some samples:
• Canada’s highest point is: A) Mount Robson B) Mount Logan C) the CN Tower D) Centennial Square on 4/20.
• Was the Friendly Giant really a giant, or was Jerome just a small giraffe?
• What’s the difference between poutine and dog barf? (Answer: no GST on dog barf.)
• Why is Doug Ford?
• Why aren’t people in the developing world as worked up about the Fort Street bike lanes as we are?
The exam will include an experiential element: You should know how to free your tongue from a frozen tetherball pole, crack a beer with your skate blade, turn an empty Smarties box into a whistle, identify five types of Timbits in a blind taste test, and grovel your way out of a traffic ticket in the other official language.
Everyone should experience one epic cross-Canada trip as a family, entertaining an overtired three-year-old during a two-sailing wait at Tsawwassen (which should be included in any national spelling bee), snapping a credit card while scraping ice off the windshield in Calgary in August, getting caught behind a farm tractor in Saskatchewan (which you will be afraid to pass because you can’t judge distance on the Prairies) and pulling into the last motel in northern Ontario (“Hourly and half-hourly rates! Now featuring C-O-L-O-U-R TV!”) five seconds after the No Vacancy light flickers on.
Everyone should suffer catastrophic transmission failure in Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, or lose an eye to a fiddle bow at a Maritimes kitchen party.
And everyone should remember how blessed this country is in comparison to most of the world, and how those of us lucky enough to be born here won the lottery.
There will be no mandatory renewable citizenship exam, but Canadians wishing to take the same Oath of Citizenship as the 43 newcomers at Government House will be able to do so en masse on Canada Day, first at a ceremony at Fort Rodd Hill at noon, then at the Victoria HarbourCats baseball game at Royal Athletic Park at 1 p.m.
And all of us can pause, in the middle of the flag-waving and face-painting, to think a little more deeply about preserving what it is about Canada that makes so many want to come here.
Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloopsian who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.