FIRST READING: Save the #citizenship ceremonies! 

Summary of some other commentary criticizing the move. Haven’t seen any commentary favouring the change although a small minority in comment sections and social media are in favour given “promised” reduction in processing times:

Amid news that the federal government is mulling an end to in-person citizenship ceremonies, a cross-section of prominent Canadians have emerged to denounce the “terrible” and “horrifying” idea.

“This is without question a terrible idea,” wrote former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi in a tweet last week. “The ceremony is deeply meaningful and the reasons for removing it given here are bureaucratic and puerile.”

On Feb. 25, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration first gave notice that they were mulling an end to in-person citizenship ceremonies in favour of a “secure online solution.” In-person ceremonies could still be arranged upon request, but subject to a delay.

Rather than swearing allegiance to the Crown in front of a citizenship judge, new Canadians would simply check a box online. Presumably, the “online solution” would also do away with a group singing of “O Canada.”

According to immigration officials, phasing out the ceremony was suggested purely as a way to relieve a three-month backlog in finalizing citizenship applications.

“Recognizing that more can be done to further improve client service and processing times … the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced that the Department would begin pursuing the necessary changes to allow for self-administration of the Oath of Citizenship,” it wrote.

A brief also noted the inconvenience of new citizens sometimes having to book time off work to make the ceremony. “Many clients have to take time off work to attend citizenship ceremonies, and this time off is not necessarily paid by employers,” it reads.

“It is a bad idea to do away with citizenship ceremonies. A very bad idea. The opposite of efficiency,” novelist John Ralston Saul wrote in a statement last week.

Some of the most vocal defenders, however, have been foreign-born Canadians whose own citizenship began with the swearing of an oath.

Sergio Marchi is an Argentinian immigrant to Canada who eventually served as minister of immigration under then-prime minister Jean Chrétien.

“For years, my parents would recount how momentous and meaningful (the ceremony) was. Why would government want to rob future citizens of this feeling of attachment?” wrote Marchi in an op-ed for the Toronto Star.

The former minister also called it an “insult” that the ceremony would be phased out merely in the name of expediency. He noted that when similar backlogs piled up under his tenure, the department began deputizing Order of Canada recipients to act as citizenship judges.

“In-Person Canadian citizenship ceremonies are the magical rituals that bring together everyone (new and old citizens) to celebrate the true meaning of the Canadian dream,” reads a Monday social media post by Tareq Hadhad, a Syrian refugee famous for founding the Nova Scotia-based chocolatier Peace by Chocolate.

“We cannot afford to lose the significance of this celebration of belonging nor can we diminish the value of Canadian citizenship,” Hadhad added.

Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson came to Canada as a refugee from Japanese-occupied Hong Kong, and would preside over a few citizenship ceremonies herself as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

In a column for The Globe and Mail, Clarkson said she was “horrified” by the proposed change.

“The idea that Canada, which is perhaps the most successful immigrant nation in the world, would resort to a machine-oriented way of saying that you are now a citizen, is egregious,” she wrote.

Right up until the end of the Second World War, Canadians were considered British subjects and all citizenship rituals and protocols were dictated by the U.K.

But the 1946 passage of the Citizenship Act first demarcated Canadian citizenship as a distinct entity from that of the U.K. One of the more unique aspects of the bill was its provision that new Canadians should attend “appropriate ceremonies” in order to impress upon them the “responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship.”

This is not a universal practice. While the United States maintains a similar swearing-in ceremony for new citizens, in many countries naturalization is a more bureaucratic process done without any official pomp.

The centrepiece of the Canadian ceremony is the Oath of Citizenship. After some modern refinements over the years, it’s now a 64-word recitation pledging allegiance to King Charles III, the “laws of Canada,” the “Constitution” and “the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.”

Ironically, the Department of Immigration is looking to phase out citizenship oaths at a time when pledging allegiance to Canada has never been easier. 

With many citizenship ceremonies made virtual during COVID-19, thousands of new Canadians have already finalized their citizenship by speaking into a webcam.

However, it’s still against the law to deliver the oath by phone.

“Administering the Oath over the phone is not in keeping with the legislation,” reads an official guide for new Canadians living in remote areas.

Source: FIRST READING: Save the citizenship ceremonies!

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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