Citizenship: the greatest privilege of all
On July 1, 1867 Canada became an independent federation by the signing of the Constitution Act. In 1990 – 123 years later – my family arrived in Canada. Upon the snow cleared runways of Vancouver International Airport our plane touched down and for the first time the dream of living in a new place called Canada suddenly became very real. We were uncertain if immigrating here was the right thing to do but in retrospect, it was indeed the best decision we have ever made.
For many of us, Canada Day comes as a welcomed break filled with family outings and fireworks. However, I believe that there is so much more that we can do or should be doing to recognize the value and privilege of being a Canadian citizen. Below are my top six benefits of being a Canadian citizen.
1. The right to apply for a Canadian passport
As a Canadian citizen you are entitled to a Canadian passport and to consular protection from Canadian missions overseas. Upon attaining your citizenship, you can then apply for your Canadian passport. As a caution, do not allow yourself to be scammed by businesses or individuals that claim they can assist you in expediting your passport approval process. The truth of the matter is that only designated government agencies can process and approve all passport applications. The application forms and information are free of charge and you should not need to pay for them. The only costs associated with passport applications are the processing fees. Only Passport Canada regional offices, Service Canada centres, designated Canada Post offices and Canadian Government offices abroad are authorized to collect them. You can also apply directly at Passport Canada. The steps are clearly outlined and the process is not difficult.
2. Travelling to the United States
Whereas before you would have had to apply for a United States tourist visa, as a Canadian Passport holder, you are granted hassle free access to our neighbours south of the border. The conditions of stay remain the same as for non-Canadian citizens but the admission to the U.S. is much easier if you have Canadian citizenship. This also reduces delay at the border when crossing by land into the United States. As well, Canadian citizens can seek employment in the United States if the work is covered under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) treaty.
3. Canadian citizenship by descent
As a naturalized Canadian you have the right to pass Canadian citizenship on to your children born outside Canada. Any children born to you outside Canada will be Canadian citizens but you must be a citizen already.
4. Preference for jobs in the federal government
Most federal government jobs require the applicant to have Canadian citizenship. This is particularly true for jobs that have a high-level security clearance requirement.
5. The right to live outside Canada with no time limit
As a permanent resident, you must live in Canada for at least two years within a five-year period in order to keep your permanent resident status. Canadian citizenship gives you the right to travel freely and to leave and re-enter Canada whenever you want.
6. The right to vote
Voting, by far, is one of the greatest privileges of being a citizen and it is something in which I believe all citizens should be diligent. Canadian citizenship gives you the right to vote in any federal, provincial or municipal election. Upon attaining citizenship, you are added to the National Register of Electors, a database of Canadian electors who are qualified to vote in federal elections and referendums. There are similar systems in place for provincial and municipal elections. Along the same lines, as a Canadian Citizen you are able to run for political office whether municipal, provincial or federal, as this is a requirement under the election laws.
Other benefits of living in Canada
On top of all these wonderful perks of citizenship, even as a permanent resident you are entitled to such things as free health care and public education, services that some countries around the world do not even offer to their own citizens without a cost. At the end of the day, the strength of our country can only be as strong as the faith and respect that its people have for her. Together as citizens and citizens in waiting, let us be a constant reminder to one another of the true honour it is to be Canadian.
Currently, one of the chronic issues related to citizenship applications has to do with processing times. In the last month alone, I can think of at least two-dozen individuals who are eligible to apply, have submitted their applications, but are still waiting far past the projected processing time. I understand how this can be a serious problem for many families and it is indeed an issue that needs to be addressed as the backlog continues to increase. I am monitoring this file closely and will keep you updated.
At your service
If you require assistance in filing for your citizenship or passport application or would like to inquire about the status of your application, please don’t hesitate to contact our office at (204) 984-1767 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. On that note, I wish you all a Happy Canada Day! Take care.
Roldan Sevillano is the Executive Assistant to Kevin Lamoureux, MP Winnipeg North. For questions or comments on this article, you can e-mail him at email@example.com
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