New Canadians take Oath of Citizenship at ceremony tied to Capital Pride

Noteworthy:

As about 50 people became Canadians at a special citizenship ceremony held at the Horticultural Building at Lansdowne Park Thursday morning, 25-year-old Roksana Hajrizi and her mother, Celina Urbanowicz, looked on from the just outside the area cordoned off for officials, volunteers, celebrants and their friends and families.

They watched as Bibiane Wanbji, who six years ago left her husband in Cameroon and brought her four children to Canada to find a better life, smiled at the vastness of the world that had just opened up to her. Having a Canadian passport, Wanbji explained, means she can travel just about anywhere. She hasn’t seen her extended family and friends back in Cameroon since coming to Canada, so that’s a definite destination. So, too, are the U.S. and Cuba, and “the city of love” that she’s always wanted to visit: Venice. “It’s like a passport for the world.”

And although she’s been in Canada for six years already, Thursday’s ceremony left Wanbji feeling a bit different, she said, that she has “more to give in this country, to contribute to build the country.”

Hajrizi and her mother watched, too, as 50 new Canadians, including Haguer Abdelmoneim and her children, Mahmoud, 10, and Youssef, 5, sang their new national anthem. They and Abdelmoneim’s husband came from Egypt in 2014 “for a better education for the kids” and “for a better community to grow in.”

They didn’t just choose somewhere other than Egypt, she added; they specifically chose Canada. “We like the values. It’s a very inclusive country, very welcoming to newcomers.”

Another “new” Canadian, Saiful Azad, who arrived on Canada’s shores from Bangladesh 21 years ago, agrees. “A lot of people don’t understand how important it is to be a Canadian citizen and the opportunities that are given to you here,” he said. “I don’t believe the U.S. is the land of opportunity; I believe Canada is.”

Like Wanbji, Azad, who operates a Greek on Wheels franchise in Hunt Club, cherishes his new-found ability to travel as much as his right to vote. “When you’re a Canadian citizen, people look at you differently and treat you differently. Everyone thinks that Canada is a great country, and I think they’re right.

“People who live here and want to be Canadian citizens should pursue that.”

Thursday’s event was unlike most citizenship ceremonies in that it was one of about 75 sponsored each year by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a national not-for-profit charity that promotes active and inclusive citizenship.  As at other ICC-hosted citizenship ceremonies, this one opened with intimate roundtable discussions at which soon-to-be Canadians were engaged in conversations with other community members.

A lot of our soon-to-be Canadians have had long journeys and long stories in getting here,” said ICC chief executive and former Ottawa-Centre Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi just prior to the start of the ceremony, “so we want to talk a little about that. But most importantly we want to talk about what the journey is going to be like after they become Canadian citizens. How are they now going to contribute to the building of Canada? We want to promote active citizenship.”

Thursday’s ceremony was also co-hosted by Capital Pride, a first for both organizations.

“It’s an opportunity for our community and the candidates for citizenship to engage in dialogue about what our community is about and what the experience of being 2SLGBTQ is,” said Capital Pride founding director Sarah Evans. “A lot of newcomers, and even established immigrants, don’t always know a lot about the 2SLGBTQ community, so it’s a good opportunity to build that awareness.”

As she watched from the sidelines, Roksana Hajrizi was keenly aware. Describing herself as a “proud lesbian,” she attended Thursday’s ceremony partly in support of Capital Pride, and also to congratulate those being sworn in as new Canadians. “I am proud and happy for those who are Canadians today,” she said, “and I hope that one day my family and I could be citizens of this great country.”

Truth be told, Hajrizi already feels very much Canadian. She was just three years old when she and her family — her mother, father, Ismet Hajrizi, and younger sister, Camila, arrived in British Columbia from war-torn former Yugoslavia almost 23 years ago. She even has two brothers born in Canada: Sebastrijana, 22, and Daniel, 19.

But she, her mother and sister are living in Canada without official status, in constant anxiety that they will be deported. They are Roma — her mother a Polish Catholic Roma, her father a Yugoslavian Muslim one. Romas are not welcome in most places, she says, and gay ones even less so.

The United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has noted the discrimination that Roma people face worldwide, an Anti-Gypsyism expressed by “violence, hate speech, exploitation, stigmatization and the most blatant kind of discrimination.”

Hajrizi’s family was denied refugee status, and now she fears for her life and the lives of her sister and mother if they’re forced to leave the country. In 2008, her family, except for her brothers, was scheduled for deportation but was given a reprieve.

Still, Hajrizi’s father, she says, despite being a Serbian citizen, was deported in June to Kosovo, where he lives in a garage with no papers. She, with no birth documents herself, worries that it’s just a matter of time before she and her mother and sister will suffer similar fates, that she will never get to be on the other side of Thursday’s ceremony, that despite living in Canada for very nearly her whole life, she will never know what citizenship is like.

“I believe in my heart that I’m Canadian. I believe in my heart that my sister is Canadian. I believe my mother and farther are also Canadian. We’ve been here for 23 years and our roots have spread through Canadian soils. We have given our time, our compassion, our love, our kindness to our community, to our city. People who know us know that we are a good family.

“My family is being ripped apart,” she said. “My father was taken from us, and now my mother is next. But we will fight to stay in Canada.”

Source: New Canadians take Oath of Citizenship at ceremony tied to Capital Pride

Italy’s ‘Cultural Allowance’ For Teens Aims To Educate, Counter Extremism : NPR

Interesting approach.

One of the best initiatives of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship gives every new Canadian a one-year pass that provides free access to over 1,000 cultural and historical sites.:

Few things inspire more loathing in the hearts of high school students than the words “extra homework.” But as Florence Mattei hands out a pamphlet to her homeroom class at the Southlands School in Rome, she tells them they may want to give this assignment a chance.

“Who would like to read what it’s about?” she asks the room full of 18-year-olds.

A senior named Alessio translates from Italian into English: “For the people born in 1998 there is a 500-euro bonus that you can spend on cultural things, such as going to the cinema, visiting museums and this kind of stuff.”

He stares at the page in disbelief. But it’s true. Starting this month, Italy is offering its 18-year-old residents the equivalent of $563 to spend on culture, from concert tickets, books and museum admission to other qualifying events.

To get the money, they need to register online and download an app.

“Do we want to try?” says the teacher. “Yeah? So get your phone.”

Youth unemployment in Italy is nearly 40 percent in a country that’s been struggling economically for years. So the free cash is a welcome surprise for teens like Daniele Montagna, who knows where he is going to spend his first.

“On the concert of JB — Justin Bieber!” he rejoices.

And he can. The program doesn’t distinguish between pop culture and highbrow culture.

The Italian government is hoping the program will educate kids born in Italy as well as integrate a growing population of foreign residents, dissuading alienated youths from following radical Islam.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi first announced the so-called Culture Bonus last November after the Paris massacre, when Islamist terrorists killed 130 people inside a theater and outside on the streets.

“They destroy statues, we protect them,” he said in a speech at the time. “They burn books, we’re the country of libraries; they envision terror, we respond with culture.”

But some question whether exposing young Muslims to, say, Lady Gaga will really endear them to Western culture.

“There is a chance that Lady Gaga is exactly what’s going to make somebody angry,” says Barak Mendelsohn, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and an expert in combating extremism. “That doesn’t mean that they buy into your values. We’ve seen radicals trying to take advantage of the welfare state, funding themselves while building bombs.”

He points to the Paris attackers. French authorities estimate they collected more than 50,000 euros in unemployment benefits — even while at least one of them had a job.

“They don’t have any ideological obstacle in taking money from Western countries,” Mendelsohn adds.

Source: Italy’s ‘Cultural Allowance’ For Teens Aims To Educate, Counter Extremism : Parallels : NPR

New Canadians cherish their right to vote, ICC study finds

ICC Reasons for VotingNot surprising and confirms earlier studies but nevertheless important measure of integration and participation, and further reinforces ‘shopping for the ethnic vote’:

The study released this month by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) examined political participation of new citizens who received their citizenship between May 2012 and November 2014.

Through focus groups across Canada, it also explored this increasingly important block of voters’ reasons for voting and not voting, as well as their civic engagement beyond the ballot box.

“In 2014, Canada swore in more than 260,000 new citizens. As these people enter the body politic, by definition, they are also changing it. The ICC felt an election year was the perfect moment to examine the ongoing evolution of the Canadian voter,” said Charlie Foran, the institute’s CEO.

“We learned that new citizens believe in political participation, and are finding plenty of ways to become involved. We also learned that they definitely value the vote, and want to overcome any practical barriers that might keep them from casting their ballot.”

The key findings of the report, titled “Ballots & Belonging”:

  • 48 per cent of new citizens felt permanent residents should be allowed to vote in municipal elections;
  • 23 per cent reported having emailed or called an elected official about an issue;
  • 26 per cent had personally spoken with a candidate during their first election;
  • 10 per cent had put a candidate sign on the front lawn;
  • 5 per cent had donated money to a political party or candidate;
  • 12 per cent had attended an all-candidates debate/meeting;
  • 7 per cent had volunteered on a political campaign;
  • 6 per cent had become a member of a political party;
  • 46 per cent cited lack of knowledge of the issues and knowledge of the process as reasons not to vote;
  • 6 per cent said they didn’t vote because of the lack of interest and dissatisfaction with the government or political system.

“ ‘Ballots & Belonging’ speaks to how new citizens feel about the most fundamental marker of democracy — the vote,” said Foran.

Source: New Canadians cherish their right to vote, study finds | Toronto Star

Why 13 new citizens decided to become Canadian

Nice profile in the Globe of a number of new citizens at a citizenship ceremony hosted by the Governor General and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship:

‘Canadian citizenship is valued the world over, and with good reason. This is a society that values equality of opportunity and excellence, and that sees diversity as a virtue rather than a weakness. In Canada, inclusiveness is a key value, which means that every Canadian citizen should have the opportunity to help shape this country for the better, regardless of background or ethnicity.’ – Governor-General David Johnston

Why 13 new citizens decided to become Canadian – The Globe and Mail.

Chart of the Day: Sports and New Citizens

Great initiative by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship to raise the profile and encourage more new Canadian citizens to participate in sports, with a really good info graphic (which can be saved in a high-resolution pdf) and report (New citizens, sports & belonging):

Sports Infographic-FINAL

 

Maytree Survey Research Reveals Canada’s Attitudes towards Citizenship

While over two years old, this survey, conducted by Maytree, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, the CBC and Royal Bank, is nevertheless interesting, as it indicates that in general Canadian citizenship policies are working and little appetite for change.

As the Government moves forward with revision to the Act, it will be interesting whether the debate reflects these findings or not.

Maytree New Survey Research Reveals Canada’s Attitudes towards Citizenship » Maytree.