How Citizenship Bonds Canadians
Industry Insight I arrived in Canada in 1942, when I was about two and a half years old. My family took refuge here after the Japanese conquered Hong Kong. I was, and am, a child of the Chinese Diaspora – I am someone that didn’t belong anywhere and I remain someone who understands the everlasting anguish of being forcibly displaced.
I am also someone who is proud to be a Canadian citizen. I belong to a country whose welcome is warm and wide, and whose diversity astonishes the world.
Like many new Canadians, my journey to Canada wasn’t the easiest, and although my family’s struggle continued when we first arrived, we were welcomed; helping neighbours was – and still is – an instinctive Canadian action.
"Citizenship is central to our immigration policy. When we bring people to Canada as immigrants, we’re choosing them as future citizens."
Canada is unique in the way we welcome immigrants. We embrace diversity. The arrival of new Canadians makes our country more diverse, more interesting and more capable.
Most Canadians believe everyone – regardless of whether they’re Canadian-born or born elsewhere – can be a good citizen. I see this trait in the province of Alberta. I’m proud of its openness to multiculturalism. It has made itself a welcoming home for new Canadians by ensuring they feel valued for their cultural, economic, political and social contributions to the community.
30 years ago, Chief John Kelly, an Ojibwa, said: “As the years go by the circle gets bigger and bigger. Canadians of all colours and religions are entering the circle. You might feel that you have roots somewhere else, but in reality, you are right here with us.” This metaphor of inclusion by our native peoples is part of the Canadian psyche.
Citizenship is central to our immigration policy. When we bring people to Canada as immigrants, we’re choosing them as future citizens. We open our doors with the shared understanding that their stay is for the long term; roughly 85% of eligible permanent residents become Canadian citizens.
I became a Canadian citizen when I was 10 years old, and with each passing year, I grow more proud to say I belong to a country that is bound together by citizenship.
In Canada, citizenship is equality – it’s the most important thing we have and share with one another. There is no such thing as a second-class Canadian citizen.
I am proud to have been appointed the first immigrant as Governor General. When it happened, I received many letters from new Canadians who were thrilled that someone with a story like mine could reach the highest office in Canada.
My appointment was proof that Canada is a place where the sky is the limit, and I wanted to do more to ensure new citizens felt they had the same access to everything Canada has to offer – just as I felt.
In 2006, I founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), a non-profit charity that works to en- sure our country’s newest citizens feel welcomed and included, and engages all Canadians in active citizenship.
We achieve this through pro- grams like our Cultural Access Pass (CAP) which introduces new citizens to a wealth of Canadian experiences by offering a year of free access to almost 1,200 cultural attractions across the country.
Our Building Citizenship program celebrates citizenship by working with a national network of volunteers to organize community-led citizenship ceremonies with unique roundtable discussions where new citizens and community members share stories and collectively reflect on what it means to be Canadian.
The ICC helps create a sense of belonging for all Canadians regardless of whether their family has been here for five years or five generations.
Full citizenship begets full participation in society. As a citizen you offer your country your energy, talents and your traditions, just as Canada extends its generosity, its opportunity and its fundamental decency.
I encourage all Canadians to take on the role of active, engaged citizens – it’s the only way our country can continue to grow and succeed.