‘We are a better and stronger nation because you are part of us now’

News Article / December 11, 2017

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On November 7, 2017, 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron’s Honorary Colonel Diane McCurdy welcomed new Canadians with warmth, passion and humour following their citizenship ceremony in Surrey, British Columbia.

By Ruthanne Urquhart

Citizenship ceremonies are important events in Canada, and they should be celebrated as such. The events themselves are solemn and joyful by turns. Speeches of welcome are delivered. Family members raise their hands in a pledge to Canada, and sign on the line.

But the citizenship ceremony, while representing the beginning of a new chapter for those raising their hands, is often the culmination of a long, sometimes perilous, often tear-filled journey from nations around the world. After a process that can take months or years in their nations of origin, involving what must seem like mountains of paperwork, having sometimes been forced to leave loved ones behind, soon-to-be Canadians arrive in aircraft and in boats large and small, by train and bus and car. On foot. They arrive with their worldly possessions in shipboard containers and packing cartons and backpacks and pockets.

In recent years, with so many immigrants and refugees arriving on our shores, at our airports, in our cities and towns, just over our borders in forests and frozen swamps, Canadians—including Canadian Armed Forces members and their families—have been organizing and carrying out sponsorship programs to assist newcomers with everything from official paperwork to housing and school enrolment to grocery shopping.

And some Canadians, such as 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron’s Honorary Colonel Diane McCurdy, feel privileged to be able to participate in citizenship ceremonies. Here is the wonderful welcome she extended to new Canadians in Surrey, British Columbia, on November 7, 2017:

“Good morning.

On behalf of the men and women of the 442 Search and Rescue Squadron, on behalf of everyone who serves our country in a uniform, and on behalf of our entire nation, welcome to Canada, and congratulations!

By now, you know about our country, its geography, its government and its legal system. You know about Canada.

I’d like to take my few moments to talk with you about what it means to be ‘Canadian’.

Canadians are world famous for our kindness. We’re polite. We’re generous.

We believe that a society exists when everyone agrees to abide by the same set of rules.

We also believe that, as a society, we will reward hard work with success and, at the same time, we will offer support to those members of our society who might need it.

We believe in education for everyone. We believe in healthcare for everyone. And we believe that you should be able to choose and embrace the faith of your choice.

We believe in the rule of law. But we also believe in the compassionate enforcement of our laws.

We cannot stand conflict. But we’re prepared to fight if the cause is just.

We cannot stand persecution—not racial, not religious, not ethnic—and we’re prepared to step up to stop it.

We cannot stand intolerance. Canadians do not allow it. We are a society that encourages people to nurture and cherish their culture and beliefs.

The open diversity of the people who’ve come to Canada from all over this world is what defines Canada as a nation.

These are the values that are shared by all Canadians.

The only other thing that I’ll mention is that, to truly be a Canadian, you must learn to love ice hockey. It’s not really an option. Canadians invented hockey. We’re the greatest hockey nation in the world. Hockey is one of the few things that unites all Canadians. So, pick a team. It doesn’t matter which one, although I hear the Vancouver Canucks and the Winnipeg Jets are pretty good.

As an Honorary Colonel in the Canadian military, there’s one last thing that I’d like to say:

Since our country was founded in 1867, men and women have fought—and died—for the privileges that you will enjoy as Canadian citizens. The peace. The stability of the government. Law enforcement, and a justice system that we can all trust.

November 11 is called ‘Remembrance Day’ for a reason.

And so, to honor those who have served and sacrificed for this great country, it is my sincere pleasure to extend my warmest welcome to each of you.

We are a better and stronger nation because you are part of us now.

Thank you.”

After the ceremonies, thinking about what she had witnessed and watching the families meet and mingle, Honorary Colonel McCurdy summed up her feelings about her participation: “What a privilege and an honour to participate in such an important event! The ceremony was charged with emotion… the emotion of the people was palpable, and very moving.

“Canadians are so fortunate,” she added. “Ceremonies such as this are great reminders of how fortunate we truly are.”

Canadian citizenship

Canada’s first official citizenship ceremony was held on January 3, 1947, at the Supreme Court building in Ottawa, Ontario.

From May 22, 1868, to January 1, 1947, under the Naturalization Act, anyone born in or naturalized in Canada was a considered a British subject. The terms “Canadian citizen” and “Canadian citizenship” were used in some statutes before that date but did not create or imply any legal or actual status of “Canadian citizen”.

The Canadian Citizenship Act, which came into effect on January 1, 1947, changed that, giving legal recognition to the terms “Canadian citizen” and “Canadian citizenship”. The Act established who was and who could become a Canadian citizen. And there were many provisions for loss of citizenship, including Canadian citizens who acquired citizenship of another country, because dual citizenship was not recognized. And in some circumstances, a child born outside of Canada to Canadian parents was not automatically a Canadian Citizen.

The next major changes to Canadian citizenship came about with the Citizenship Act, which replaced the 1947 Act on February 15, 1977. British subjects no longer received special treatment, and dual citizenship became recognized. And there was only one provision for automatic loss of citizenship, limited to persons born in the second or subsequent generation outside Canada, unless they took steps to retain their citizenship by their 28th birthday.

On December 23, 2007, Bill C-14: An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption), contained changes allowing citizenship to be granted to children born outside Canada and adopted by Canadian parents, without requiring that the children become permanent residents first.

Bill C-37: An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, enacted on April 17, 2009, restored or granted Canadian citizenship automatically to many people who either had never had it or who had lost it due to previous legislation. This Act also restricted Canadian citizenship by descent to only the first generation born outside Canada. But Bill C-37 also contained an exception to this first-generation-only limit for children born or adopted outside Canada to a serving Crown servant (i.e., the parent who was employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces, the federal public administration, or the public service of a province or territory), at the time of the child’s birth or adoption.

Bill C-24: Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. Though some of the changes contained in this Act came into effect earlier, all came into force on June 11, 2015. The Act contains a range of amendments to improve the citizenship program. Some are:

  • The automatic extending of citizenship to people who were born before the Canadian Citizenship Act took effect on January 1, 1947 (April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador), who did not acquire Canadian citizenship on either of those dates, as well as to their children who were born outside Canada in the first generation.
  • The automatic extending of citizenship to British subjects neither born nor naturalized in Canada (or neither born nor naturalized in Newfoundland and Labrador) and were ordinarily resident in Canada on January 1, 1947 (on or before April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador), and who did not acquire Canadian citizenship on January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, or before that date in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador).
  • The automatic extending of citizenship to include the grandchildren of serving Crown servants. This means that citizenship was extended to a child of a Canadian parent who was born or adopted outside Canada to a serving Crown servant (i.e., the child’s grandparent who was employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces, the federal public administration, or the public service of a province or territory, otherwise than as a locally engaged person, at the time of birth or adoption of the child’s parent). This change came into force on June 19, 2014, retroactively to April 17, 2009, the date when the first-generation limit was first introduced.

 

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