Why doesn't the Canadian government prioritize updating its official websites?

From cost-of-living estimates to ‘the Queen of Canada’ and the prime minister’s pandemic beard, numerous sites are simply out of date

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A number of government of Canada websites appear to be “buffering,” featuring images, facts and figures that have not been changed or updated in years.

When the Post published an article this week about food-bank use in Canada, it noted that the government requires international students to have $10,000 a year (or $833 a month) to cover living expenses over and above tuition.

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The comment drew howls from users of the website Reddit after the story was shared there. Many pointed out the difficulty of finding even accommodations for less than $900 a month, with one commenting: “Was this written in 2005?”

In fact, the numbers are at least eight years old. A web search turned up an immigration forum with a 2015 question asking about an international student who would be studying at Algonquin College that year, and mentioning the $833 figure.

A Bank of Canada inflation calculator suggests prices have risen by almost 25 per cent since 2015, with an average annual inflation rate of 2.8 per cent over that time, meaning that $833 in 2015 would be equal to over $1,000 today. Several web sites put the cost of living in Canada at around $1,400 per month — not including rent.

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It’s not the only example of a government website not keeping up with the times. A story in the Post from June of 2021 featured the headline: “Canada moves quickly to update citizenship guide to include respect of indigenous treaties.”

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The guide, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, is a document created in 2009 to help newcomers to this country learn about the nation’s history, culture and ethics in advance of the citizenship test they must pass to become Canadians.

“The entries for Indigenous and First Nations populations appear dismissive,” the article states. “Treaties, for example, ‘were not always respected.’ Residential schools ‘inflicted hardship on the students.’ The Inuit and Métis are together afforded just paragraphs.”

Yet almost two and a half years later, those sections in the guide appear unchanged.

In an email to the Post at the time, Alexander Cohen, press secretary to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendocino, said the updated guide would include “more information about a wide variety of historically underrepresented groups, like francophones, women, Black Canadians (highlighting the story of Africville in Nova Scotia), the LGBTQ2 community and Canadians with disabilities.”

However, the most recent version of the guide does not mention Africville, nor does the term LGBTQ2 appear. The words “gay and lesbian” appear twice, in a sentence that says “gay and lesbian Canadians … enjoy the full protection of and equal treatment under the law, including access to civil marriage,” and in a caption under a photo of Mark Tewksbury, “prominent activist for gay and lesbian Canadians.”

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More problematic, the Oath of Citizenship still includes a reference to Queen Elizabeth the Second, who died 14 months ago, as do several other sections of the guide. (The online version updates the Oath but still mentions the Queen in some of the study questions.)

Canada’s terror threat level also remains unchanged, in this case for nine years. In October 2014 it was set at “medium” (the middle of five options) and has not moved since.

This is spite of a recent move by Britain to declare on its travel web site, “There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting U.K. interests and British nationals,” adding in boldface: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Canada.”

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems frozen in time on his official page on the Canadian government website.

While the page features several new posts each day, including up-to-date notices of the prime minister’s itinerary, the smiling visage at the top is of a bearded, mid-pandemic Trudeau, who grew whiskers at the start of 2020, and shaved them off by the following summer. The beard has not returned, but remains enshrined atop his page.

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