Proposal to make citizenship ceremonies optional a ‘disservice to all of Canada’

More coverage of this misguided proposal:

A proposal by the Canadian government to allow prospective citizens to tick a box on a website rather than affirm a formal oath of citizenship is causing concern among those who see the longstanding swearing-in ceremony as an important rite of passage for new Canadians.

As detailed over the weekend in the Canada Gazette, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is proposing to allow new citizens to fast-track their applications by giving them the option of affirming their citizenship oath via a secure internet webpage rather than raising their hands at a citizenship ceremony.

“In the 5 years from 2016–2017 to 2021–2022, citizenship grant applications have more than doubled, from 113,000 to 243,000,” read the statement published in the Gazette.

“Immigration levels continue to rise, with a target of 500,000 permanent residents for 2025, which will contribute to ongoing increases in citizenship applications.”

As of October 2022, the department said, around 358,000 citizenship applications were pending with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, with some waiting over two years before having their citizenship ceremony — the last step in Canada’s long and drawn-out citizenship process. 

The change, the department said, would save prospective citizens two to three months of processing time. 

Institute for Canadian Citizenship CEO Daniel Bernhard told the National Post that losing the ceremony is tantamount to losing an important chapter in Canadian history.

“It’s really unfortunate,” he said.

“The day you become a citizen is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion that has implications for every generation afterwards. People recognize that, and these are very special, meaningful and very emotional days, not just for the new citizens but also for their family and friends.”

Rather than giving options to bypass the affirmation, Bernhard said Canada should be doing more to celebrate citizenship.

Indeed, fewer Canadian permanent residents are going through the process of obtaining citizenship.

Last month, Statistics Canada reported that just under half of permanent residents who immigrated to Canada between 2011 and 2021 obtained Canadian citizenship.

That’s compared to just over 75 per cent in 2001.

A 2022 Leger poll commissioned by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship found immigrants are realizing that life in Canada isn’t as rosy as assumed, with the current leadership and/or government (43 per cent), high cost of living (35 per cent) and racism (19 per cent) listed as the top three reasons why they wouldn’t recommend others immigrate to Canada.

That same survey reported around 22 per cent of new immigrants saying they were likely to leave Canada over the next two years.

That said, the same survey reported 71 per cent of respondents saying Canada provides immigrants with a good quality of life.

While Bernhard understands the need for the government to streamline the process, particularly in this time where unreasonably long processing delays have become default for the federal public service, he stresses it shouldn’t be at the expense of ceremony.

“I understand the government is facing a lot of pressure from people who, very reasonably, want their applications to be processed more quickly, but I would hope that we would be able to find those efficiencies in other parts of the process,” he said.

“These celebrations are really special, and if we do away with them, that’s a disservice to all of Canada.”

Source: Proposal to make citizenship ceremonies optional a ‘disservice to all of Canada’

Soon a Canadian citizenship oath could be just a scroll and click away: But should it be?

The Canada Gazette notification of plans to further water down citizenship by allowing the oath to be administered by a “non-authorized person” risks further weakening the meaningfulness of Canadian citizenship.

IRCC justifies the proposal solely on operational and financial grounds, without any serious discussion of policy considerations. In a sense, this repeats the process of the previous government’s quintupling of adult citizenship fees in 2014-15, with a Gazette notice that discounted any impact from fee increases on naturalization rates. As we know from the recent Statistics Canada analysis and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, that was likely one of the factors, along with the impact of the pandemic, on the drastic decline in naturalization from 60.4 percent in 2016 to 45.7 percent in 2021, five to nine years after landing.

More worrying is some of the rationale for this change. Upfront costs of some $5 million over 10 years are expected to be recouped though reduced ceremonies as the Gazette notice states: 

“Consequently, it is expected that participation in ceremonies would be lower than it is currently, and there would likely be fewer ceremonies overall. Therefore, the Government of Canada would save costs, as the proposal would likely reduce the number of ceremonies the Department would be required to arrange.”

In a nod to inclusion, the notice mentions that applicants will save “up to three months processing time.” Furthermore, “swearing or affirming in this manner via the secure online solution is expected to take significantly less time” than the 90 minutes the current ceremonies take. 

These are insignificant compared to changes made early in the government’s mandate that eased residency and language requirements, or the more recent change to the Oath to recognize Indigenous and treaty rights.

But to make citizenship more inclusive, the government would need to implement, at least partially, its platform commitment in the 2019 and 2021 election platforms to eliminate citizenship fees, a much more substantive measure.

Citizenship, as I have argued in the past, provides a mix of personal and public benefits. 

Applicants personally benefit from the security citizenship provides in terms of mobility and voting rights and the ability to run for office. Canadian society benefits from the “common bond for Canadian-born individuals and naturalized Canadians alike, signifying full membership in Canadian society.” 

This proposed change highlights how the government treats citizenship as a service transaction rather than a substantive unifying and integrating process to help new Canadians feel fully part of Canadian society. That the government has not issued the revised citizenship study guide, announced three ministers ago, is but a further example. 

Canadians, newcomers and old-timers, should raise their concerns with their MPs, regarding this diminishment of citizenship and the integration of new Canadians:

Starting as soon as June, new Canadian citizens could take the oath on their own — without the need for a citizenship judge.

The proposed change is an attempt by immigration officials to reduce processing time and backlogs.

However, critics warn the move would drastically change the decades-old ritual for generations of newcomers and with a click on the keyboard, further dilute the meaning of Canadian citizenship.

“This just further cheapens the significance of becoming a Canadian citizen. It’s just as easy to click terms and conditions to become a citizen as it is to create a Facebook or a TikTok account,” said Daniel Bernhard, CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

“That’s really a shame.”

The change, as part of the modernization and digitalization of immigration processing, is expected to reduce the current citizenship processing time by three months to 21 months, according to the plan published in the Canada Gazette over the weekend.

Swearing an oath has been a legal requirement of becoming a citizen in this country since 1947. It’s a solemn vow taken by citizenship applicants to follow the laws of Canada and fulfil their duties as citizens.

Citizenship is not only a milestone for new immigrants toward their belonging and commitment to Canada, it also comes with the benefits of a passport, voting rights and the ability to run for elected office.

Under the proposed change, the immigration minister would have broad discretion to allow citizenship applicants to take the oath by other means and not necessarily before an authorized individual. 

Currently, new citizens swear or affirm the oath before a citizenship judge at virtual or in-person ceremonies, which are mainly scheduled on weekdays, during working hours, although ceremonies are occasionally scheduled on Saturdays. 

“Many clients have to take time off work to attend citizenship ceremonies, and this time off is not necessarily paid by employers,” the immigration department said in the Gazette.

“The flexibility would allow the Department to implement options aimed at improving client service and reducing processing times of citizenship applications.”

The proposed change came in the wake of new data indicating a nosedive in citizenship uptake over 20 years.

The 2021 census found that just 45.7 per cent of permanent residents became citizens within 10 years, down from 60 per cent in 2016 and 75.1 per cent in 2001.

“Citizenship does take a long time, and they’re working on the process,” said Bernhard, whose organization obtained the data. “But the actual problem is not how long it takes to get the citizenship. The actual problem is the desirability of Canadian citizenship itself.”

During the pandemic, citizenship processing time has doubled from the prior 12-month service standard, even though the number of citizenship applications granted annually has risen significantly to 243,000 from 113,000 over the last five years. 

With Canada moving toward bringing in half a million new permanent residents a year by 2025, the inventory of citizenship applications — standing at 358,000 — is expected to grow.

Citizenship applicants must go through a stringent screening process to ensure they meet all requirements, including three out of five years of physical presence in Canada at the time of applying. Those between ages 18 and 54 must also show proficiency in either official language and pass a citizenship exam before they are scheduled for a citizenship ceremony.

Due to COVID, officials have brought in virtual citizenship ceremonies as of April 2020. Since then, 15,290 of the 15,457 ceremonies have been held online in front of an authorized official, generally a citizenship judge.

The “self-administration” of the oath-taking would now allow new citizens to sign a written attestation online without a witness to complete the obligations of citizenship, and applicants would still have the option to do it before a citizenship judge, the immigration department told the Star in an email Monday.

Officials said the measure could result in savings as fewer ceremonies are expected to be hosted.

For Andrew Griffith, a former director general at the immigration department, the change marks another diversion of the federal government in its approach to immigration and citizenship.

“I just look at all of our immigration policies,” said Griffith, now an Environics Institute fellow. “It’s basically the more, the merrier. It’s not about the ability to integrate. It’s just increasing numbersI can see the logic in terms of you just want to push people through but I always thought that immigration and citizenship was more than that.

“We’re just really further diminishing the value of citizenship.”

The public has 30 days to comment and provide feedback to the proposed regulatory change.

Source: Soon a Canadian citizenship oath could be just a scroll and click away

40% decline in permanent residents becoming Canadian citizens since 2001, data shows

Of concern, accelerating trend that I started identifying a number of years ago:

StatCan numbers reveal the percentage of permanent residents who become Canadians has plummeted over the past 20 years.

The Institute for Canadian Citizenship says Statistics Canada data points to a 40 per cent decline in citizenship uptake since 2001.

The group’s CEO, Daniel Bernhard, calls the drop alarming and says it should serve as a “wake up call” to improving the experience newcomers have in Canada.

In 2021, nearly 45.7 per cent of permanent residents who’d been in Canada for less than 10 years became citizens.

That’s down from 60 per cent in 2016, and 75.1 per cent in 2001.

The StatCan data did not identify reasons for the drop, but Bernhard suggests Canada’s cost of living and job prospects are likely factors.

He says the institute is investigating root causes.

“There are a myriad of issues,” said Bernhard.

“But ultimately, what’s changing is that people have decided that they’re less interested in being `Team Canada.”’

Bernhard said the decline affects Canada’s long-term economic and social outlook.

“This is a problem for all of us who care about Canada’s future prosperity and dynamism,” he said. “We need to solve this for the future of our country.”

The federal government has said it wants to boost immigration by adding 1.45 million permanent residents over the next three years, starting with 465,000 in 2023 and increasing to 500,000 in 2025.

Source: 40% decline in permanent residents becoming Canadian citizens since 2001, data shows

The National Post take:

As Canada ratchets up immigration to the highest levels in its history, surprising new figures from Statistics Canada are showing that nearly half of all recent immigrants are no longer bothering to seek Canadian citizenship.

The numbers were publicized this week by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. And according to the group’s CEO Daniel Bernhard, they may be a sign that the Canadian dream is no longer working out for newcomers.

“What’s changing is that people have decided that they’re less interested in being ‘Team Canada,’” Bernhard said in a statement, adding that the figures are a “wake up” call to the Canadian immigrant experience is treating new arrivals.

In 2021, of the permanent residents who had come to Canada within the last 10 years, just 45.7 per cent had become citizens. In 2001, that figure was 75.1 per cent.

It’s not the first time that evidence has emerged to show that new immigrants are not as enthralled with Canada as in prior decades.

A March Leger survey — also commissioned by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship — found that more than one fifth of recent immigrants were already making plans to leave. Among under-34 immigrants, in particular, 30 per cent said they were “likely” to leave Canada within the next two years.

As to why, newcomers are citing the same concerns with the country as native-born Canadians: Skyrocketing housing costs and diminishing access to government services such as health care.

In the Leger poll, even among immigrants who wanted to stay, their number one reservation was “high cost of living.”

In a bid to boost GDP, the Trudeau government has already raised Canada’s immigration intake to the highest levels in Canadian history, and is on track to bring in 500,000 newcomers annually by 2025. Absent any dramatic policy changes, this influx will likely worsen many of the issues that are already beginning to scare away new Canadians.

On Tuesday, CIBC CEO Victor Dodig warned that if Canada continued packing in immigrants without a viable plan to absorb them, it could spur an unprecedented “social crisis.”

“New Canadians want to establish a life here, they need a roof over their heads. We need to get that policy right and not wave the flag saying isn’t it great that everyone wants to come to Canada,” Dodig said at an event hosted by Canadian Club Toronto.

One other factor potentially driving down rates of immigrants seeking citizenship is that Canada’s immigrant stream is increasingly coming from countries that do not tolerate dual citizenship, thus prompting many newcomers to remain permanent residents in perpetuity.

The chief examples are India and China. Indian nationals are required to surrender their Indian passport the moment they become Canadian citizens. Chinese prohibitions on dual citizenship were illustrated most glaringly in 2021, when the Beijing government tightened its control on Hong Kong by forcing 300,000 residents with joint Canadian citizenship to either leave or tear up their Canadian passport.

Both countries now represent a significant share of Canada’s current immigrant influx. As per 2021 figures, 18.6 per cent of recent Canadian immigrants reported India as their birthplace, while 8.9 per cent reported being born in China.

For context, just three per cent of recent immigrants were born in the United States.

In 2022, Canada officially welcomed 431,645 immigrants. Notably, the last time in Canadian history that immigration levels were this high — during the settling of the prairies in the years preceding the First World War – it was also paired with surging levels of outmigration as many newcomers swiftly abandoned their new Canadian homesteads.

“A lot of people left; outmigration was as high as in-migration for a very, very long time,” Adele Perry, a researcher of Western Canadian history, told the National Post in 2012.

Source: Canada is scaring away its new immigrants

Hopper: Why immigrant-loving Canada is suddenly worried about immigration

Another critical look at immigration levels given housing and healthcare pressures:
Canada, by virtually any metric, is the most pro-immigration country on earth.

A 2019 global survey by Pew Research found that Canada was the one country most supportive of the notion that immigration “makes our country stronger.” In 2020, a Gallup survey ranked Canada as the world’s most migrant friendly nation. Last September, a poll by the Environics Institute found that 58 per cent of Canadians backed the notion that their country “needs more immigrants.”

Source: Why immigrant-loving Canada is suddenly worried about immigration

Canada’s Governor General to speak about immigration and reconciliation at event in Calgary

Of note:
Canada’s Governor General will speak at an event in Calgary on Thursday about the complex relationship between immigration and reconciliation.
Calgary was chosen as the location for this year’s LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, hosted by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), because of the city’s exceptional work connecting Indigenous people and newcomers, said the ICC’s CEO Daniel Bernhard.

Source: Canada’s Governor General to speak about immigration and reconciliation at event in Calgary

Institute for Canadian Citizenship makes Canoo [Cultural Access Pass] available to Permanent Residents

Significant move, expanding access to Canoo to Permanent Residents during their first 5 years in Canada, not just new citizens within one year of becoming a citizen.

From their announcement:

Thanks to generous donors large and small, 2 million Permanent Residents will now have free VIP access to our country’s best culture and nature attractions from the get-go. There is no better way to prove to immigrants that Canada values and respects them – to make them feel truly and completely at home. 

We also added spectacular new benefits to Canoo, including big discounts with Air Canada, film festival memberships, sports tickets, concerts, shows, classes, kid-friendly activities, volunteering, and so much more. 

Canoo is now a one-stop-shop for becoming Canadian, not just in your passport, but in your heart.

Newcomers struggle under long waits for citizenship

CBC seems to be doing regional series of those waiting for citizenship given processing backlogs.

More interest, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship is taking a more public advocacy role:

According to Daniel Bernhard, CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a national organization that helps newcomers and people seeking citizenship, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada has a backlog of 1.8 million applications, 400,000 of which are citizenship applications.

“This is incredibly alarming because these are people who are deciding to commit, quite permanently, to Canada, to be invested here, to make their lives here. It’s a multi-generational commitment,” said Bernhard.

Bernhard said many people are waiting two years or more for their citizenship.

“There’s a lot of frustration, which is understandable,” he said. “There’s a lot of real hardship.”

Bernhard said there are people whose permanent residency has run out while they waited on their citizenship, leaving them in the country illegally in some cases.

“It’s a real negative situation. It’s having a real negative impact on families in Canada and abroad, and it’s one that the government seems interested in dealing with. But they’re dealing with it very, very slowly and help just can’t come soon enough for people who want to become citizens.”

There are a couple reasons for the delay, according to Bernhard. The first is that the number of people who are seeking to come to Canada as immigrants is on the rise.

“That is a matter of global dynamics, if you like. But it’s also a matter of public policy on behalf of the government of Canada that keeps increasing our immigration quota year on year.”

In October 2020, the Liberal government promised to bring in 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years, despite hurdles in processing created by the global pandemic. But the bottleneck of applications show cracks in the IRCC’s ability to keep up with the demand, said Bernhard.

“The processing capacity of the ministry has just not kept up, and they’ve been a very late adopter of digital anything. And there is a lot of frustration on behalf of people who call. These applications just disappear, and there seems to be no recourse to get things sped up or to find out even what the holdups are. So the ministry seems to be dealing with old systems that are just outmatched for the number of applications that are coming in.”

Travel restrictions and remote work has had a significant impact on processing times at IRCC, said communications advisor Julie Lafortune.

“IRCC has been moving towards a more integrated, modernized and centralized working environment in order to help speed up application processing globally,” said Lafortune in an email.

She said 5,000 people are writing their citizenship test online each week and that between 3,500 to 5,000 applicants are being invited to do the citizenship oath virtually each week.

As of March 2, “there were 3,411 applications from clients in New Brunswick in the current citizenship grant inventory,” said Lafortune, “of which 1,111 were more than 12 months old.”

And while so many wait, their lives become more complicated.

Source: Newcomers struggle under long waits for citizenship

Canadian soccer proves the power of citizenship

Sharp contrast.

While I have little patience with the Ottawa protesters/occupiers, there is a range between the organizers, who are extremists, and others who are frustrated (as all of us are).

But given the nature of the organizers, the many symbols of hate and the aggressive and abusive behaviour of many of those protesting, those who tolerate r don’t call out that behaviour are complicit:

It was a tale of two screens last Sunday.

On my phone, I was watching a stream of mostly white protesters rampaging around Ottawa, brandishing swastikas and Confederate flags, desecrating monuments, harassing journalists, assaulting homeless people and hurling racial slurs at those who stood in their way — even attacking ambulances rushing to patients in distress.

On TV, I watched the Canadian men’s soccer team pull off a gutsy, determined 2-0 victory over the United States — epitomizing the very best of the Canadian spirit and inching ever closer to qualifying for Canada’s first World Cup since 1986.

Two screens. Two Canadas. One closed to the world, fearful, and drenched in hate. The other, open to the world, confidently competing with the best in the world, made up of people from around the world who are proud Canadians by choice.

Canada’s new-found soccer success would not be possible without our ambitious immigration policy, which both Conservative and Liberal governments have supported over decades.

Just look at the makeup of the team. Canada’s star player, Alphonso Davies, was born in a Ghanaian refugee camp after his parents fled civil war in Liberia. Sunday’s goals were scored by Cyle Larin (Jamaican parents) and Sam Adekugbe (U.K.-born to Nigerian parents), with assists by Jonathan Osorio (Columbian parents) and Jonathan David (U.S.-born to Haitian parents). The Americans had a golden chance to tie the game late in the first half, but were denied by a highlight-reel save from Canada’s Yugoslavian-born goalkeeper, Milan Borjan, who celebrated emphatically before the sold-out crowd in his family’s chosen hometown of Hamilton, Ont.

But Canada’s immigration story is not the immaculate success we might think. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Canada having its own citizenship independent of Great Britain, yet the proportion of immigrants who become citizens dropped by 20 per cent between 1996 and 2016, the latest year for which data is available. It doesn’t help that, right now, more than 400,000 citizenship applications are sitting in a warehouse somewhere, awaiting processing by an outmatched bureaucracy that is only just getting around to allowing online applications. Citizenship applications now take more than two years to process — which doesn’t seem like evidence of a country eager to welcome new citizens.

Canadians continue to strongly support immigration, but too often it’s framed in purely economic terms. For example, in her last fall economic statement, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland devoted $85 million to reduce processing times. This is because “immigration is critical for Canada’s economic growth, especially when it comes to attracting top global talent, meeting the needs of employers and addressing labour shortages,” as the government’s Economic and Fiscal Update 2021 put it.

Source: Canadian soccer proves the power of citizenship

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


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