Canucks deeply divided over one-click citizenship oath, feds told

Good summary of the comments received. Will be reviewing them in more detail to assess factors behind the degree of support/opposition such as citizen/applicant, individual/anonymous, English/French comment that I can derive from the comments.
One of the irritants that I encountered when looking at the comments is that one can only see 5 per page whereas other government sites allow more to allow for easier analysis (the search function is not helpful in overall assessment). Also interesting that Gazette allows anonymous comments which I inherently distrust and see little justification for except in exceptional circumstances (e.g., if the government would set up a foreign agency registry, one could reasonably expect that members of diaspora communities would need anonymity):
Allowing new Canadians to take the Oath of Citizenship by clicking a box online is a disgusting idea that will cheapen the process and open the door to fraud or a forward-thinking notion that will help decrease a backlog of citizenship applications, depending on who you ask.
That’s according to the hundreds of comments the government received about the idea over the last few months.

Others pointed out that longer wait times can delay delivery of new Canadian passports needed for travel.

“I loved my ceremony and the opportunity to mark the occasion, but it was tight getting my new passport to travel when I needed it, so the opportunity to reduce waiting times is great,” one person said.

“I have heard of many people who suffered because they had to wait for a long time to get their passports,” another said.

Critics said government backlogs and a lack of available in-person ceremonies were a poor reason to threaten the tradition.

“The objective should be trying to process the backlogs by providing more ceremony opportunities, instead of cheapening the experience by making it a self-administered click,” one wrote.

Others still worry about the possibility of fraud, though the government plans to use a secure web portal for the one-click oaths.

If approved, the changes to the citizenship regulations would come into effect as early as this month at a cost of about $5 million over 10 years.

Source: Canucks deeply divided over one-click citizenship oath, feds told

Time is right to scrap requirement to swear oath to the King, MPs and Senators say

Easy to agree, virtually impossible to implement and a distraction from more fundamental issues. However, the citizenship oath could be changed as former immigration minister Marchi tried to do in the 90s:

As King Charles prepares for his coronation at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, some senators and Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs want to abolish the federal requirement that parliamentarians pledge loyalty to the monarch. Instead, they say, office-holders should have the option of swearing an oath to Canada, or the Canadian people.

MPs and senators have to swear or affirm an oath to “be faithful and bear true allegiance” to the British monarch before taking their seats in Parliament after an election. They can’t sit if they refuse. The obligation dates back to the Constitution Act of 1867.

The oath is also taken by people with official positions across Canada, including judges, RCMP officers and members of the armed forces. New Canadians likewise pledge loyalty to the Crown at their citizenship ceremonies. The oath used to be sworn to Queen Elizabeth, until her death last year. It is now sworn to the new King.

Quebec Liberal MP Joel Lightbound said he has sworn an oath to the monarch three times since first being elected. “Having an alternative to swearing allegiance to the British Crown would have made me very happy,” he said.

“In my opinion federal elected officials should have the choice to swear or not swear allegiance to the Crown in future.”

Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus said he was “personally astounded” when he first found out he had to swear allegiance to the British monarch as a requirement of taking his seat in Parliament. He said he imagined his late Scottish grandmother, an avowed republican, striking him with lightning for doing so.

He said it is “simply not credible” that the only obligation in the oath is to the Crown, not Canadians.

Reviewing the oath is a “very legitimate conversation” to have as the new King is crowned, he said.

Ontario NDP MP Matthew Green agreed. “An oath to an overseas monarch in perpetuity is increasingly outdated,” he said.

He added that he and many other Canadians “would be more comfortable with an oath that reflects the allegiance to the Constitution and the people of Canada.”

“While tradition is an important part of our culture and identity, from time to time it’s healthy to review these traditions and determine whether or not they still reflect our current values,” he said.

Senator Tony Dean, a former head of the Ontario Public Service, also said an oath to the monarch “seems dated” today.

“Of course the oath could be refreshed or replaced,” he said. But he noted that, because the oath is entrenched in the Constitution, changing it could require a constitutional amendment.

Michael Wernick, a former head of the federal public service and a former a senior official in constitutional affairs, said revisiting the oath with 220 parliamentary sitting days left until the next election would be “a huge waste of energy.”

“There’s more important things to focus on,” he said.

But New Brunswick Liberal MP René Arseneault, who is of Acadian heritage, said creating an alternative to the oath for MPs and senators who don’t want to swear allegiance to the Crown is “doable.”

Mr. Arseneault successfully challenged a requirement to swear an oath to the Queen when he joined the bar in New Brunswick. He was the first lawyer in the province not to do so.

“In 2023, there must be a way to modify this,” he said. “For me the best solution is a choice.”

Bloc Quebecois MPs want Parliament to follow the lead of the Quebec National Assembly, which in December unanimously passed a law scrapping the oath requirement for its elected members. Three members of the Parti Quebecois had refused to swear the oath after the October provincial election, and had been barred from sitting as a result.

Bloc House Leader Alain Therrien said Canada is “becoming more and more anti-monarchist,” in part because Canadians don’t feel the same attachment to the King as they did to the Queen. He said there should be a debate about Canada’s ties to the monarchy, including the oath.

“We are against having to swear this oath,” he said. “The monarchy is an institution that is out of date.”

Quebec Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne also questioned the need for the oath. “The time has come to at least have a choice … to swear to the monarch or to Canada,” she said.

“I would prefer to swear to the people of Canada.”

Source: Time is right to scrap requirement to swear oath to the King, MPs and Senators say

Caddell: Does Canadian citizenship mean anything?

More commentary opposing self-administered citizenship oaths among broader concerns:

There are few more endearing sights than a Canadian citizenship ceremony. As a reporter years ago, I witnessed a couple. They are memorable in the extreme: the judge intoning on the importance of being a good citizen, a chorus of new Canadians taking the oath together, and the smiles and tears of participants looking as if they won the lottery.

And in many cases, they have: for the chance to come to a country as wealthy, as open, as full of opportunity, is what drives that joy. And we benefit from the talented people who come here. When I worked in Bangladesh in 2000, my bank manager was applying to immigrate to Canada. When I asked why, he replied, “We consider Canada to be a kind of paradise.”

While we struggle with an influx of refugees and cope with the impact of discriminatory laws like Quebec’s Bill 21, immigration is a Canadian success story. Indeed, among the major federal parties, none is spouting an anti-immigrant bias, which is unusual compared to many western countries.

And so it was disappointing to read of a proposal in February’s Canada Gazette, innocuously titled “Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulations (Oath of Citizenship).” It describes the backlog of citizenship applications due to the pandemic and offers a solution: “Technology offers the potential to vastly transform client service by helping to address long processing times and application inventories.”

In short, with the click of a mouse, you could become Canadian. No ceremony, no tears, no real effort. This simple act would reduce Canadian citizenship into a convenience, like online shopping.

Andrew Griffith, the former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism, doubts the idea came from the public service. “I find it hard to imagine anyone advocating for this,” despite the pressures of backlogs, he said. He thinks the deputy minister got a message from the minister’s office to “find a solution” to speed up processing and produced what Sir Humphrey of Yes, Minister would call a “courageous decision.”

Former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard famously said: “Canada is not a real country.” The current prime minister once stated: “Canada is a post-national state with no core identity.” To assist that perception, it has been years since a new version of the Citizenship Study Guide was published.

At the same time, there is a decline in the number of permanent residents who become citizens: only half living here take the oath. We also have one of the world’s largest diasporas: three million Canadians live abroad, without plans to return. I recently met a Korean family living in Halifax for three years to obtain citizenship before heading home. While in Portugal, I met a couple from Hong Kong who blithely said they had Canadian citizenship, but had no intention of living here.

It has also become too easy to obtain citizenship. The Harper government tightened regulations by, among other things, moving the residency requirement to four years. The Trudeau Liberals put it back to three in 2017. In many other countries, five and even 10 years residency is common.

Many talented friends and relatives have moved to the U.S. over the decades, and are never coming back. They are among the 50,000 Canadians who leave for the U.S. and U.K. each year. One young friend who is moving called Canada “genocidal” and “communist,” while the U.S. was “the best country in the world.” Her opinion was evidently shaped by the self-flagellating commentary on our history from our leaders. Now, try to imagine Americans debating whether their capital should be renamed because George Washington owned hundreds of slaves.

The thought someone should obtain citizenship with the click of a button from this country, which has achieved so much, is an embarrassment. Have we become so low in our self-esteem that we have abandoned any pride in being a citizen, and its responsibilities?

The current government could easily cut the backlogs by renting arenas and stadiums to welcome new Canadians in mass citizenship ceremonies. It could renew the citizenship guide, offering a positive take on our history. And maybe more people would be attracted to live here. If it does not change the negative narrative it is sending Canadians and the world, it should get out of the way to allow others to lead.

Andrew Caddell is retired from Global Affairs Canada, where he was a senior policy adviser. He previously worked as an adviser to Liberal governments. He is a town councillor in Kamouraska, Que. He can be reached at

Source: Does Canadian citizenship mean anything?

Ladha: I’m horrified by the suggestion of cancelling in-person citizenship ceremonies

Shortened version by Ladha getting wider circulation:

Citizenship ceremonies are emotional and personal experiences, especially for those of us who had the privilege of participating in one. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration is contemplating an end in-person citizenship ceremonies in favour of a “secure online solution.”

I still remember the citizenship ceremony that I had to attend when I proudly became a Canadian citizen in 1975. I was with my wife and son, all dressed up in our finest (Hugo Boss suit for me), lined up with new Canadians of all backgrounds, happily showing off the Canadian flags.

When the time came to sing the newly memorized national anthem, I was so emotional that my eyes welled up with tears. Every Canada Day, I still have visions of my heartbreaking citizenship ceremony experience.

I am horrified the government is proposing to abolish this special welcoming in-person citizenship ceremonies with an administrative online box and do away with a group singing “O Canada.”

The fact that Canada, the most friendly and welcoming nation in the world, would resort to a computer-oriented system to announce its citizens is appalling. Ceremonies in everyone’s life, be it a birthday or a retirement party, play an important part, signifying milestones in their lives.

A former minister of immigration under then Prime Minister Jean Chretien was so upset that he wrote an op-ed for this newspaper, calling it “an insult.” “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?”

Another prominent defender, former Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson, also a former refugee and presided over a few citizenship ceremonies herself as an Officer of the Order of Canada, said she was “horrified” by the proposed change.

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

Source: I’m horrified by the suggestion of cancelling in-person citizenship ceremonies

Ladha: Save citizenship ceremonies – Red Deer Advocate

Yet another editorial against the change:

Citizenship ceremonies are emotional and personal experiences, especially for those of us New Canadians who had the privilege of participating in one. Now the Department of Citizenship and Immigration has given notice that they were contemplating an end 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.

I still remember the citizenship ceremony that I had to attend when I proudly became a Canadian citizen in 1975. Dressed in my Hugo Boss suit, I was with my wife and son, all of us dressed up in our finest, lined up with New Canadians of all backgrounds, happily showing off the Canadian flags.

When the time came to sing the newly memorized national anthem, I was so emotional that my eyes welled up with tears. Every Canada Day, I still have visions of my touching and heart-breaking citizenship ceremony experience, and thankful prayers to Canada for providing a happy, wonderful, and prosperous life. Yes, Canada, I haven’t been disappointed.

I am horrified the government is proposing to abolish this special welcoming in-person citizenship ceremonies with an administrative online box and do away with a group singing “O Canada.” The government brief also notes that the new system will prevent the inconvenience of new citizens having to book time off work to make the ceremony. What a concession!

The fact that Canada, the most friendly and welcoming nation in the world, would resort to a computer-oriented system to announce that immigrants are now citizens is appalling and upsetting. Ceremonies in everyone’s life, be it a birthday or a retirement party, play an important part, signifying a milestone in their lives.

A former minister of immigration under then Prime Minster jean Chretien, himself an Argentinian immigrant to Canada, was so upset that he wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star, calling it “an insult.” “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?”

Another prominent defender former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson who came to Canada as a refugee from Japanese-occupied Hong Kong and presided over a few citizenship ceremonies herself as an Officer of the Order of Canada, said she was “horrified” by the proposed change.

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

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

Credit should, however, be given to the government for moving a notch forward towards truth and reconciliation of indigenous peoples by officially recognizing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, and the obligation of all citizens to respect the treaties between the Crown and Indigenous nations.

The new oath now includes “Indigenous, Inuit and Métis rights, and will help new Canadians better understand the role of Indigenous peoples, the ongoing impact of colonialism and residential schools and our collective obligation to uphold the treaties.”

“Canada’s Oath of Citizenship is a commitment to this country—and that includes the national project of reconciliation. This new Oath now includes Indigenous, Inuit and Métis rights, and will help new Canadians better understand the role of Indigenous peoples, the ongoing impact of colonialism and residential schools and our collective obligation to uphold the treaties. This is an important step on our shared journey of reconciliation,” said Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

“The new language in Canada’s Oath of Citizenship is a concrete step forward on rebuilding relationships with Indigenous peoples as it responds to Call to Action 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is so important that new Canadians understand the rights and significant contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.”

The new language of the oath reads: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

All Canadians and would be citizens should protest the proposal to replace citizenship ceremonies with something tantamount to “dial a citizen” method. Becoming a citizen by ticking the “Make Me A Canadian” box from anywhere is an impolite method of becoming a citizen of one’s country.

Mansoor Ladha is a Calgary-based journalist and author of three nonfiction books: Off the Cuff, Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West and A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.

Source: Editorial: Save citizenship ceremonies – Red Deer Advocate

Oaths, trust and Canadian democracy

Interesting they left out the oath of citizenship.

The government’s proposal to allow self-administration of the oath (“citizenship on a click”) was raised at CIMM 20 March by the Conservative vice-Chair Redekopp, who requested that the Minister and officials be invited to the committee to explain the reasons for the change.

Redekopp also called for in-person ceremonies to be the default, with virtual only in limited circumstances.

Hopefully this broader discussion at the political level, along with the almost universal opposition in most media and social media to date, will result in the government abandoning this ill-advised proposal.

My apologies for using this post as a means to raise the citizenship oath again!

Occasionally, the Oath of Allegiance to the sovereign enters the news cycle.  Most often, it is raised in the popular debate of whether Canada’s constitutional ties to the monarch as a head of state are anachronistic. For some office holders it’s cast as a kind of “conscientious objection” to the concept of a monarchy. But these views are grounded in confusion.

What’s in an oath?

Privy Councilors, Supreme Court Justices, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, among others, all take an oath of allegiance to the King or sovereign, the person who embodies the Crown.  But when an officeholder swears allegiance to the monarch, they aren’t committing to a personal, or even a political, belief in the principle of hereditary office.  Taking the oath is an acceptance of the legitimacy of our constitutional system – one in which the Crown heads each branch of government: legislative, executive, and judicial.

Like it or not, the monarch is the legal repository of all authority of the Canadian state (although most of his powers are exercised by the Governor General). A minister is a minister of the Crown and exercises power only in its name. In formal terms, prime ministers and their cabinets are merely advisors to the Crown, such that decisions of Cabinet acquire the force of law only as acts of the Governor in Council.  If nothing else, this puts prime ministers in their place.

Does an oath matter in practice?

It’s easy to think of the oath of allegiance as something purely symbolic and as such dispensable. Our prime minister sometimes appears to think so. But oath takers put their integrity on the line, and a blithe attitude towards such “symbols” contributes to the toxic cocktail of declining trust in our public institutions and legitimacy.

Recent revelations of China’s interference into Canada’s last two federal elections as well as related intelligence leaks by unnamed intelligence sources to the Globe and Mail and Global News have shown how vulnerable our institutions can be, including the public service tradition of speaking truth to power.

One of the extraordinary things about the system to which a Canadian officeholder swears allegiance is the deep well of conventional, which is to say mostly unspoken, rights and obligations that it taps into.

To take one example of these deep historical roots, when William Cecil, principal counsellor to Elizabeth I for 40 years, entered her service she required three commitments from him:

that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gift, that you will be faithful to the state, and that without respect of my private will, you will give me that counsel that you think best.

In less than one sentence Elizabeth required a commitment to honesty and avoidance of conflict of interest, to acting in the public interest, and to speaking truth to power. Much of the content of our public service code and conflict of interest act is a less pithy and eloquent codification of these three centuries-old principles.

Incidentally, Elizabeth committed herself to a reciprocal confidentiality, such that what Cecil confided in her he should “assure yourself I shall keep taciturnly therein.”

Truth to power: A reciprocal commitment

Elizabeth’s commitment to her counsellor reminds us that oaths by office holders can carry reciprocal, if unspoken, commitments on the part of the Crown. Being obliged to speak truth to power, for instance, implies a commitment by the Crown not to mete out punishment for truths it doesn’t want to hear.

Unlike whistleblowing protections that afford those who risk personal career harm or injury by bringing to light unlawful behaviour for fraud by governments, the oath requires its keeper to give fearless advice even when the receiver is likely not asking for it.

In the case of alleged leaks of intelligence information to the media by unnamed officials, there is much we do not know.  We do know that the RCMP is investigating and will determine if the Secrecy Act has been breached.  We also may never know the granularity of the information provided to the prime minister and officials in his office.  We can assume, however, that the office holders providing the intelligence briefings were obligated to provide “fearless advice” on the nature of the threat and likely means to mitigate such threats.

A key question is, was the information leaked to media materially the same or different from the material used to brief the prime minister and his office?  How thorough was the advice?  Did the Prime Minister’s Office acknowledge receipt and take a different course than was recommended (which is their democratically elected prerogative).  Alternatively, was the information and advice provided limited or perhaps even diluted?

If the latter, then “fearless advice” is being undermined.  The intelligence sources who leaked the information may be prime candidates to test the level of reciprocity that comes with an oath of allegiance: To serve faithfully, honestly and fearlessly and to be shielded (protected) from potential political or career reprisal.

Acknowledging the authority, you seek to exercise

Many people think the Westminster system, including the concept of the Crown, is one of humanity’s greater achievements. Readers are under no obligation to agree. But if you want to participate in the exercise of the Crown’s authority – even for the purposes of seeking its abolition – you must acknowledge it. Legally speaking, when and if the monarchy is ever abolished in Canada, it will be by and with the assent of the monarch.

When we dismiss oaths, we blithely toss away the richness and gravitas of the Canadian state, for the sake of a glib confusion.

Stephen Van Dine is the former Assistant Deputy Minister of Northern Affairs for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Karl Salgo is Executive Director of Public Governance at the Institute on Governance.

Source: Oaths, trust and Canadian democracy

Citizenship oath at the click of a mouse would cheapen tradition, Tory critic

Nice to see the opposition raising the issue as this change requires a political discussion. Sent my Canada Gazette submission to both the Conservatives and NDP, with no reaction from the NDP to date.

Hard to take Minister Fraser’s assertion that “they will still have an opportunity to participate in an IRCC-organized citizenship ceremony shortly after they complete their citizenship” seriously when the main rationale is to reduce the number of ceremonies to save a minuscule portion of the cost of the citizenship program. The inclusion arguments are more of a smokescreen than substantive.

Clearly Minister Fraser doesn’t understand and appreciate how powerful the ceremonies are to new Canadians (and many existing Canadians) in terms of meaningfulness and sense of belongin:

The Conservative immigration critic says a proposal to allow people to become a Canadian citizen with the click of a mouse “cheapens” an otherwise special moment for newcomers.

Citizenship by click is not citizenship,” said Calgary MP Tom Kmiec.

They’re really cheapening citizenship purely for political motivation, to reduce their backlogs.”

The federal government is seeking feedback on a plan to let people take the Oath of Citizenship online, rather than attend an officiated ceremony.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser first floated the idea in January 2022 as a way to speed up processing times, which would have someone “self-administer a digital oath by signed attestation, and celebrate their citizenship at a later date.”

Yet the proposal published in the Canada Gazette late last month would instead allow someone to skip the ceremony entirely.

Fraser did not specify why the proposal had changed, nor who came up with the idea. But he said COVID-19 created a backlog that even virtual ceremonies can’t quickly clear.

“For those people who choose to do an online self-attestation, they will still have an opportunity to participate in an IRCC-organized citizenship ceremony shortly after they complete their citizenship,” Fraser said on Friday, in his first public comments on the proposed regulatory change.

Fraser added that those who have waited years for citizenship would be able to take their oath faster under that process, and he rejected claims it would cheapen the moment.

Kmiec said the ceremonies are a big deal for people like him who were not born Canadian. Kmiec, who immigrated from Poland, still recalls taking his oath in 1989, and said the tradition shouldn’t be diminished as a way to deal with an administrative backlog.

“These are very low-cost events; these are mostly retired civil servants, serving judges and ex-judges who do the actual ceremony,” he said.

“The way they’ve done this tells me that they’re embarrassed by it, because I’d be embarrassed by it too.”

Kmiec argued the backlog stems from Liberal incompetence in administering programs, rather than the pandemic. He is also critical of the lag after newcomers they take the oath, at which point they relinquish their permanent-residence card and await their citizenship certificate in the mail, which can be used to apply for a passport.

“There are some process changes they could do to actually make people’s lives easier,” he said.

In any case, Canada’s former director-general of citizenship and multiculturalism, Andrew Griffith, said the department should have issued a press release about the proposed change instead of “trying to slip it by.”

Griffith retired after a career with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and Canada’s foreign service, and said the phrasing in the regulatory proposal and the lack of public-opinion research suggests it’s aimed at reducing costs rather than making things more convenient for applicants.

“It’s driven by the desire to reduce, if not eliminate, ceremonies, virtual or physical. And it’s pretty explicit,” he said.

“One gets the impression as a former bureaucrat that maybe the officials who had to draft the stuff weren’t really that keen.”

Griffith noted that the 1946 Citizenship Act explicitly called for ceremonies that instil the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, as Canada carved out an identity separate from Britain following the Second World War.

“It’s really an abuse of the process, because it goes against the grain of what the Citizenship Act was designed to do,” he argued. “It really goes against one of the fundamental objectives of citizenship.”

The comment period on the proposed change closes on March 27.

If approved, the changes to the citizenship regulations would come into effect at early as June, at a cost of about $5 million.

Source: Citizenship oath at the click of a mouse would cheapen tradition …,

Un serment de citoyenneté en ligne déprécierait le rituel, soutient l’opposition

Opinion | Canada’s citizenship ceremonies aren’t bureaucratic …

More commentary. Haven’t seen any supporting the change apart from some tweets:

Having been born in Canada, I’ve never had to participate in a citizenship ceremony to affirm my Canadianess. I have partaken in the process in other ways. I’ve been privileged to write letters to the government on behalf of friends who were on the path to becoming Canadians. I’ve attended ceremonies both personally and professionally, and always felt proud to have been there to welcome our newest citizens.

So when I read last week that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration was considering moving away from the in-person swearing in as a way to reduce a three-month backlog for ceremonies, I was suitably aghast.

While it may be old-fashioned, there is power in ceremony and in this ceremony in particular. It’s a tangible moment that marks a transition, whether it’s a conversion of convenience or the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. It’s an experience shared with all those who’ve become citizens since 1947. It’s about becoming something new, something different. It’s about belonging, about knowing that Canada can be your home now and forever. You are now a part of Canada, and no one can take that away from you.

I get that it can be inconvenient to take time off work and drag the kids out of school to attend. I get that for some, acquiring Canadian citizenship is no more momentous than buying a new toaster. I get that swearing an oath of citizenship in your living room is no less binding than doing it in a nondescript government office. I get all that, but by ditching the in-person ceremony, something important would be lost — something that a tick box on a computer screen could never replace.

At the ceremony, you’re surrounded by strangers who’ve come to this country from all across the globe. They may be refugees fleeing war. They may be migrants seeking a better life. They may be family members of those already here. It’s entirely possible that the only connection that you have with these people is that you all happened to be in the same room on the same day.

Then something magical happens. You all recite the oath and all become fellow Canadians.

The rituals around becoming a citizen aren’t some bureaucratic nonsense like getting your driver’s licence renewed. They are something with real meaning. It’s meant to be special. It’s meant to be an occasion. It’s meant to shared with the community.

So if the government really wants to clear the backlog, it can do what’s been done in the past — deputize Order of Canada recipients to preside over these ceremonies. Who better to welcome new Canadians to the family than some of our country’s best and brightest?

Source: Opinion | Canada’s citizenship ceremonies aren’t bureaucratic …

Nelson: Gaining Canadian citizenship is more than just about ticking the box

From rural Alberta, another voice opposing the change. Too much anti-Trudeau vitriol but fundamentals on oath administration sound:

The greatest gift any country can confer is citizenship.

So why is it any surprise, given the ongoing ineptitude involving virtually every branch of our federal administration, that Canada is considering turning such a remarkable moment into something akin to tying your laces?

In fact, if a proposal by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is accepted, becoming a citizen will take even less time than needed to actually fasten your shoes. All it would entail is ticking an online box on a federal website.

No longer would you swear a solemn oath before a judge alongside other assembled proud recent immigrants from across the globe. Nope, you can get it done during a commercial break while watching a hockey game on TV. Won’t that feel oh-so special?

Maybe that’s how our current government sees this country. After all, Justin Trudeau’s administration has spent years apologizing for all sorts of perceived wrongs committed by Canada over the past century. It might therefore reckon becoming an actual citizen of such a dubious land shouldn’t be cause for public celebration.

Well, they’re wrong. So wrong they should hang their collective heads in shame.

Becoming a Canadian citizen, 38 years ago, remains a major highlight in my life: the poignancy of that day in Edmonton, following the required three years as a landed immigrant, remains a proud memory. It’s doubtful I’m alone in that sentiment.

Of course, given the recent track record of our federal government, this sad ‘tick-the-box-and-become-a-Canuck’ plan arises from yet another virtue-signalling boondoggle – one guaranteed to end in confusion and disarray once exposed to the light of day.

OK, according to the latest government figures, there are 358,000 citizenship applications outstanding, with some of those folk waiting more than two years for a ceremony.

Why such a backlog? Well, in his usual preening manner, our prime minister announced immigration levels to Canada would be boosted to such an extent that by 2025 we’ll accept 500,000 newcomers a year.

No doubt Trudeau gets some figurative gold star from the UN for this: yet the fact we can’t process such huge numbers remains an unmentionable and inconvenient truth.

Therefore, is it any wonder fewer and fewer immigrants even bother becoming citizens at all? According to Statistics Canada: in 2021, about 45 per cent of permanent residents in Canada for less than 10 years hadn’t taken citizenship. In 2001, it stood at a much lower 25 per cent.

So, why are more newcomers unwilling to commit to Canada? After all, they picked up sticks and came here in the first place – a huge, life-altering choice to make.

Is Canada becoming simply a country of expediency? Or are those continuing assaults upon our good name and once-stellar reputation, from those supposedly representing us, eroding our national brand?

Add in the organizational chaos facing enthusiastic would-be Canadians resulting in years of delay and it becomes a toxic mix of disengagement.

The official response is promoting a ‘tick-the-online box’ solution.

Such crass make-do is shameful. This is the best country on the planet, populated by a diverse bunch of Homo sapiens, somehow finding joy under sunny skies, even if it’s -20 C outside.

This remains, as always, next year country: the horizon beckons and the past is exactly that: the past. Leave it at the entrance door.

It’s time the federal government realized becoming a Canadian citizen isn’t akin to finding some loose change down the sofa. It’s a remarkable gift to bestow and one that should be suitably celebrated.

Source: COLUMN: Gaining Canadian citizenship is more than just about ticking the box

Citizenship Oath on a Click: My Submission

My submission in response to Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 157, Number 8: Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulations (Oath of Citizenship)


The planned change risks weakening the meaningfulness of Canadian citizenship by allowing the oath to be administered by a “non-authorized person” and thus citizenship ceremonies to be reduced if not eliminated in number.

The notice is lacking in any serious analysis apart from some generalities around potential cost and time savings. 

Given that the proposal focuses on cost savings due to a reduced number of ceremonies, one would expect, at a minimum, estimates of the number of applicants who would avail themselves of “ceremonies on a click” and the consequent number of reduced ceremonies. 

There is no analysis on the impact on the sense of belonging and attachment that moving to “ceremonies on a click” will have on new Canadians, nor is their any consideration of the historical context or the will of Parliament. It appears that no public opinion research was conducted regarding this proposed change as none is mentioned in the notice. 

This proposal has been widely criticized in commentary by myself and Senator Omidvar, former Governor General Clarkson, former Immigration Minister Marchi among others. These public commentaries, and the comments they have generated, need to be included along with formal comments like this one.


While IRCC has correctly focussed on modernization of the process such as e-applications, e-tests and an on-line application tracker in order to facilitate the process for applicants, in other areas it has weakened the meaningfulness, integration and sense belonging of becoming a citizen. The move to virtual citizenship ceremonies, needed during the pandemic, has less power and significance than in-person ceremonies, as anyone who has attended both can attest.

The proposed change would further weaken the act of becoming a citizen by eliminating or at least reducing the need for citizenship ceremonies, an objective explicitly stated in the “benefits and costs” section.

It is also against the wishes of Parliament, expressed as early as the first reading of the original Citizenship Act on October 22, 1945, when the then Secretary of State, Paul Martin Sr. spoke of the importance of citizenship ceremonies, stating that the legislation would:

“by appropriate ceremonies, impress upon applicants the responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship” (House of Commons Debates, October 25, 1945, p. 1337 and s.38, Citizenship Act, 1946.)

Mr. Martin went on to state that new Canadians must:

“be made to feel that they, like the rest of us, are Canadians, citizens of a great country, guardians of proud traditions and trustees of all that is best in life for generations of Canadians yet to be … [and] have a consciousness of a common purpose and common interest as Canadians; that all of us be able to say with pride and say with meaning: “I am a Canadian.”” (House of Commons Debates, October 25, 1945, p. 1337)

At second reading, Mr. Martin reiterated that where ceremonies were taking place for Canadian ‘naturalization’ (which occurred prior to 1947), these ceremonies “have made a deep impression upon every new Canadian who has obtained Canadian naturalization.” He added that is was the Government’s “determination under the statutory provisions of this bill to frame regulations that will make these ceremonies more than ordinary procedure, and one of a memorable character.” (House of Commons Debates, April 2, 1946, p. 505)

Mr. Martin understood the importance of a ceremony to welcome new Canadians into the Canadian family and our practice of public ceremonies has been emulated by other countries who emulate the benefits of what we have been doing. It would be a betrayal of those who preceded us to do away with citizenship ceremonies.


The section focusses on the oath and ceremony as meeting the formal legal requirement and is silent on the broader implications on welcoming and belonging that citizenship ceremonies provide. There is no mention of public opinion research on attitudes towards citizenship ceremonies. 

Internal research and evaluations are similarly not mentioned. The 2013 IRCC Evaluation of the Citizenship Awareness Program noted: 

“Although newcomers have various reasons for getting their Canadian citizenship, the evaluation found that practical reasons, such as getting passports, ranked below more intangible reasons linked to their social integration, highlighting a role that promotion can have in creating a sense of belonging and permanency for newcomers to further encourage uptake.”

The 2020 Evaluation of the Citizenship Program also indicated that the “evidence suggested that wanting to feel fully Canadian and to make Canada their permanent home are primary motivators,” along with the need to “implement a new approach for the knowledge requirement, which could include a revised study guide and additional tools.” 

Public commentary in the media and social media indicate significant attachment to public ceremonies, whether in-person or virtual.  Again, there is no reference to the original will of Parliament that ceremonies take place and that:

“Since the passage of the Citizenship Act in 1947, Canadian citizenship policy has embodied two distinct objectives: i) to encourage and facilitate naturalization by permanent residents; and ii) to enhance the meaning of citizenship as a unifying bond for Canadians.” (2013 Evaluation)


IRCC is essentially arguing that becoming a citizen in front of an authorized person along with other to be Canadians is not worth a few hours of their time? Seriously? 

The experience that I and others have while attending citizenship ceremonies is that the ceremony is a very significant moment in the immigration and citizenship journey for them, their families and friends. This more than compensates for a few more months of processing time.

Again, the lack of public opinion research on this proposed change is telling, as this is one of the few public moments in the immigration, integration and citizenship journey, and one of the few positive experiences with the process.

Regulatory analysis—Benefits and costs

The aim is clearly cost reduction through the holding of fewer citizenship ceremonies:

“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.”

Tellingly, there is no data on the recent average costs of holding citizenship ceremonies, both in-person and virtual. And there are no estimated numbers of the reduction of citizenship ceremonies that would be needed to cover the ongoing costs of $5 million over 10 years. This amount is negligible in relation to the overall budget of the Citizenship Program.

Similarly, there are no  estimates on the number of persons who would likely choose this option and the consequently reduced number of ceremonies. This information, and the underlying assumptions, should be stated in the notice (the government of the day did so with respect to the 2014-15 increase in citizenship fees).

But more than the financial benefits and costs, this change fundamentally diminishes the symbolic and celebratory aspects of citizenship by eliminating the most significant part of the process of becoming a citizen, being among others from around the world who are taking the next step in their immigration and integration journey.  As Paul Martin Sr. said in 1946, we need ceremonies and they must be these “more than ordinary procedure, and one of a memorable character.”

There is no discussion on this most fundamental aspect of this change, nor acknowledgement of how this shift will affect applicants and their sense of participation and belonging. Citizenship is not a drivers license or health card; it is the means of having a secure home, of have the right to vote and participate in decisions regarding the present and future of Canada. 

Trying to justify these changes on inclusion grounds, given processing and ceremony time savings, misses the most important and fundamental inclusion which is the ceremony itself, with all its rituals and symbolism and welcome it provides.

With no public opinion research or consultations cited in the notice, likely that none was carried out, yet we know from commentary to date that this change is highly controversial.

Implementation, compliance and enforcement, and service standards

Will IRCC report on the expected up to three months processing time separately? Unlikely, so we will never know whether these savings were realized.

Will IRCC publicly report on the number of persons self-administering the oath and those in ceremonies on an annual basis as part of the department’s annual departmental plan and results report? Given the weakness of IRCC’s current reporting on the citizenship, and given no commitment is made in the Gazette, unlikely. 


IRCC should abandon these proposals and maintain Canada’s proud tradition of meaningful public citizenship ceremonies.

However, should IRCC proceed in this ill-advised change, several commitments need to be made:

  1. IRCC needs to include breakdowns between the number of new Canadians self-administering the oath and those participating in public ceremonies in its annual departmental plans and result reports;
  2. IRCC needs to share publicly any internal targets in terms of ceremony reductions in order to assess the impact of the change; and,
  3. IRCC needs to commit to public opinion research on the experience of new Canadians who self-administer the oath and those who participate in ceremonies, an interim public report two-years after the change comes into effect (June 2025) and a further public report five-years later (June 2028)

Finally, as it was Parliament that originally directed formal ceremonies to take place, Parliament ought to review any actions by IRCC that undermine the will of Parliament.

Please consider providing your views to the Government through the Gazette process: