Ceremony welcomes new citizens

Fifteen people from seven different countries officially became Canadian citizens last Wednesday afternoon during a ceremony at the Fort Frances Courthouse.
And this ceremony was exceptionally special as 2007 marks the 60th anniversary of Canadian citizenship.
The Canadian Citizenship Act came into force on Jan. 1, 1947. Prior to that, Canadian nationals were considered to be British citizens under the law.
The new citizens sworn in here originally hailed from El Salvador, England, Germany, Kenya, Philippines, Scotland, and United States, but now reside in communities west of Thunder Bay.
Citizenship Judge Arthur Miki of Winnipeg presided and was joined by Citizenship and Immigration officer Marg Ogden, Fort Frances Mayor Roy Avis, Wanda Botsford, constituency officer for local MP Ken Boshcoff, and an RCMP constable.
“The diversity that exists in this room represents what Canada is all about,” stressed Judge Miki. “And your presence here enriches all of us.”
He provided some history about the establishment of the Canadian Citizenship Act, noting the first ceremony was held Jan. 3, 1947 and that Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was honoured with the first citizenship certificate.
“And since then, more than six million people have become Canadian citizens,” he added.
Judge Miki also reminded those in attendance that the first people in Canada were aboriginal people.
“Now we have people from all over the world,” he remarked, noting that a new language had to be learned in some cases.
“Each has their own story of why they came to this country, but there’s something similar that draws us together,” he added.
Drawing on personal experiences of his grandparents immigrating to Canada from Japan, Judge Miki spoke of the belief that Canada is a land of opportunity and hope.
“If you work hard, you can succeed,” he stressed, noting his family came to Canada so the generations that followed would have a better life.
“You are paving the way for your children and grandchildren,” Judge Miki told the new citizens. “You want your family to live in a place where there might be more opportunity, safety, and security.
“It takes a lot of courage to leave the country you know and start new.”
He also said it’s important to know that in Canada, we don’t differentiate between people who are newly Canadian or those who have been Canadian since birth.
“Everyone has full and equal rights,” Judge Miki stressed, such as language, legal, and religious rights.
“Canada is an inclusive country that embraces diversity,” he noted. “And it’s about the responsibility to obey the laws and working together with other Canadians to build a strong Canada.”
He added the one important value of Canadian citizenship is the sense of belonging—the sense of community.
“It means opening our arms and welcoming people from other countries . . . they have so much to offer,” he remarked. “And Canadians have worked hard to make this nation fair and equal to all who choose to live here.”
The new citizens took their Oath of Citizenship in both English and French, then each were issued their citizenship certificate.
“O Canada” was sung to conclude the ceremony.
“Share all the strengths and talents that you bring with you. And share your stories,” Botsford urged. “We recognize that you overcame many obstacles to get to this point.”
Judge Miki noted with last week being Canadian Citizenship Week (Oct. 15-21), this was a good opportunity for all Canadians to look at the value of Canadian citizenship.
“It’s something we too often take for granted,” he said. “I’m happy you have chosen to be a citizen of this wonderful country.”
He urged the new citizens, as they leave from the ceremony, to get along with each other, as well as to respect each other’s cultures and traditions.
“Cherish [your Canadian citizenship], honour it, and guard it well,” he stressed.