Reflections on a Canadian Citizenship ceremony

I recently had the opportunity to attend the ceremony where my friend Josh became a Canadian Citizen. Having been born in Canada I never had to take the oath, and this was my first opportunity to witness it first hand. It occurred to me that reflections on the ceremony might make an interesting post.

Our newest Canadian
Our newest Canadian

The first thing occurring to me is the time and location of the ceremony itself. I have never been a morning person, and I suppose I shouldn’t hold it against Citizenship and Immigration Canada for making the ceremony take place at 9:30 am, but holding it this early I am sure leads to a lot of running around for everyone involved. Granted, on the plus side for anyone who has to take time off work to attend, this means the ceremony doesn’t cut into their work day too much.

The ceremony was held in a specially designed room at the CIC office on Exeter Road in London. I’m sure there must be a logical bureaucratic reason for why the office was put here in the first place, but in the real world this is a terrible location. The office is in the middle of nowhere, far away from any public transit, meaning anyone without a vehicle (such as someone who is only recently established in Canada) would have to arrange transport from a friend or pay for a cab. Originally the building was meant to be accessible to the public, but recent cutbacks in the public service mean the office is only open by appointment. There was a button to press to get the attention of someone inside, but there was a handwritten note on it asking that it not be pressed unless you were here to make a refugee claim. The location of this office serves to discourage anyone from coming to it.

As is my custom I arrived early and the office was not yet open, I ended up chatting with a pharmacist from the Philippines who was waiting to take part in the ceremony. Had this been the summer it wouldn’t have been so bad, but anyone who has experienced Canadian winter knows that extended periods of being outside at this time of year are unpleasant.

Eventually the doors were opened and more people began arriving. At this point we were advised that each participant was only permitted to have two guests inside the ceremony room, with anyone remaining seated if there was space. In the end there was plenty of space for everyone, but putting the ceremony in the middle of nowhere, away from public transit and capping the number of guests allowed in suggests this really isn’t the “public” ceremony that former CIC minister Jason Kenny promotes it as.

Instead of a citizenship judge, there has been a move towards having members of the Order of Canada perform the ceremony, and member of the Order administered the oath in this instance. Strangely he didn’t actually wear the insignia.

Despite its importance, the ceremony itself is surprisingly short. The oath administer came in with a staff member from CIC, surrounded by a couple of guys in Navy uniforms along with a couple of civilians who were there to represent local Members of Parliament who were in Ottawa and couldn’t attend. The administer was introduced and he gave a short speech. He asked everyone to rise and repeat the oath.

I affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

Josh created something that vaguely resembled a peace sign when he raised his hand. We all sang O Canada and after this all new Canadians are required to sign the oath, and a lineup begins to have your photo taken with nobles.

glenlivetThis seemed like the kind of occasion where gifts are given. I considered finding something with a Canadian flag on it, but I am not fond of given people stuff that will just become junk filling their homes, so I decided on something consumable. Maple syrup seemed to obvious so I ended up purchasing some Scotch whisky called “Glenlivet”, which apparently is pretty good according to my friends who know about these things. This was the day I learned, unfortunately, Josh is fond of any liquor but scotch.

Our mutual friend Tim went all out, creating a “Canadian Citizenship Starter Kit” out of an old box. This included a number of fun Canadian items like the obvious maple syrup, and some more eclectic stuff like Ketchup chips, a Celine Dion Christmas album, and a Molson Canadian tuque. josh new canadians

Overall it was an enjoyable thing to witness, but I would suggest some improvements. For one, this ceremony should really be public. Instead of holding it in a special room in a building out in the boonies, why not hold it in a more public space, like city hall, or a real courthouse, or the public library? I can just imagine the library signing people up for library cards at the same time they get their citizenship certificates. Many of the libraries have plenty of parking and at the very least are accessible by public transit.

Overall it was a nice thing to witness. Welcome to Canada Josh, we’re stuck with you now 🙂

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