On July 1st, the annual celebration of National Day of Canada, each and every one of us should stand up and proudly declare, “I am a Canadian.” Or, “I value being Canadian. I am so proud to have my Canadian citizenship.” Still, this isn’t the case.
Unfortunately most of us are not like that. We were either born in Canada before 1947 and automatically acquired our Canadian citizenship on January 1st of that year, or were born subsequent to that date, and acquired Canadian citizenship at birth. We became Canadians by right. By an automatic legal status.
As a result, we take being a citizen of Canada for granted. Sure, for- the-most-part we appreciate being a Canadian, but we do not treasure it. Some of us will put a flag in our window on July 1st, Canada Day. Or we may go to the local venue, sing O Canada and listen to dignitaries remind us of the importance of being a Canadian citizen. However, since the National Day of Canada is also a federal statutory holiday (long weekend) many of us will be sitting in a campsite thinking of a different type of ‘Canadian’ that is in the cooler.
It was different for forty-one people on June 6th, 2014 including Katembo Eugene Mango. They stood before a judge at the Citizenship Ceremony at the Reynolds Alberta Museum and declared, “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 and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.” Judging by their faces, it was a very sincere declaration.
It is sad, but most Canadians rarely think about and acknowledge the privileges, benefits and rights that we have as citizens of Canada. Instead, we hear people grumbling about a vast array of issues such as high gas prices, the delay in approving pipelines to get our oil to foreign markets, foreign workers…. and if these topics run out, well there is always the Edmonton Oilers.
It was noticeably different with the newly approved citizens. These people have a humble understanding of the importance of what it takes and what is required to become a citizen of Canada. Each-and-every one of them exhibited their pride of achieving the new official status as Canadian citizens and each-and-every-one of them cherished this earned privilege. Following the ceremony, Mango stated, “Today, my beautiful wife, my two kids and I, are proud to live in a land of opportunity whereby everyone gets a good education and a job. In fact, Canada has changed my family life. As a new Canadian citizen, Canada is my new home, a home to my entire family.”
Being a citizen of Canada should be acknowledged by all Canadians as much more than a legal status. Citizenship grants certain privileges and rights. In many cases new Canadians know that for the first time in their lives they are entitled to the country’s (Canada) protection. They know they have earned the rights and responsibilities offered by Canada such as the right to vote, having a Canadian passport and being able to live in a democracy. It’s a country where girls and women are free to go to university and feel valued. There are no dogs and soldiers with guns patrolling train stations. Canadians can participate in a religion of their choice. Police can be trusted. That's what makes living in Canada so special.
We may not have had to earn our citizenship like Mango, but each of us should begin to genuinely appreciate and celebrate our status. So this year on July 1st, don’t be a modest, quiet Canadian. Be ready to jump up and declare, “I know we have the best of everything. I am a Canadian and darn proud of it."