by Michael Scott
A week in October (10 to16) is usually set aside in Canada as Citizenship Week. In the past 10 years Canada has welcomed 1,500,000 new Canadians. It is a time all Canadians, native born and naturalized, should take some time to think about what it means to be Canadian. There were many celebrations across the country, including special citizenship ceremonies, guided walks and the illumination of the sails of Vancouver’s Canada Place, the Calgary Tower, the Olympic Plaza, Toronto’s CN Tower and Montreal’s City Hall and Biosphere with the colours of the Canadian flag.
In Winnipeg, a citizenship ceremony for 20 new citizens was held at the Museum for Human Rights with the Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and the Honourable Ian Wishart, Manitoba Minister of Education and Training and Minister responsible for immigration attending. The Museum highlights the challenges faced by many getting to Canada; their sacrifices and their contributions to Canada. The country is made up of many different people from different lands; all united under one flag. Minister McCallum noted: “In Canada, our diversity is our strength. We welcome people from around the world to come here, settle, integrate, contribute and become citizens. Citizenship Week is a time for all Canadians to reflect on the rights and responsibilities that we share as Canadians and to celebrate Canada’s vast diversity.”
The rights of Canadians include a democratic right to vote, language rights, equality rights, legal rights, mobility rights, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. Just think of other countries where these rights are non-existent. Where you can be arrested without warrant, denied the right to vote for your government and have your freedoms greatly curtailed. Just think about journalists and political opponents who were killed in Putin’s Russia or the unfortunate people of Aleppo or Mozul, caught in the middle of a deadly war. As Canadians, we also have the right to apply for a Canadian passport, which gives us status and protection abroad and allows us to enter Canada.
With rights come responsibilities. All Canadian citizens have the responsibilities to respect the rights and freedoms of others, to obey Canada’s laws, to participate in the democratic process and to respect Canada’s two (2) official languages and multicultural heritage. We are not the same as the Americans to the South because we encourage cultural diversity, the language, celebrations and foods of the countries our families came from.
Our diverse population is made up of over 200 ethnic groups, with 13 of those groups numbering over one million. More than one in five Canadians were born outside Canada. This is our strength and a source of great pride. In celebrations held across the land on Citizenship Week approximately 2,800 people became citizens at 46 ceremonies across Canada. The total number of new citizens in 2015 was 252,175. Next year the celebrations will become larger and they are set to celebrate 70 years of Canadian citizenship and Canada’s 150th birthday. It is always a good time to celebrate Canada. We continue to set an example of a safe haven for refugees and a choice country for immigration. Encourage your friends and families to apply to Canada and, once here, work towards becoming full contributing members of the society, as Canadian citizens.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.