Citizenship an important privilege some take for granted

We take being a citizen of Canada for granted. Many do not treasure it.

“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 fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

These are very serious words recited by someone who has entered Canada on one of a variety of visas and spent years moving through the often-complicated process of achieving citizenship. These people have a humble understanding of the importance of what it takes and what is required to become a citizen of Canada. Most of us are not like that. We were either born in Canada before 1947 and acquired our Canadian citizenship on January 1 of that year or were born subsequent to that date, and acquired Canadian citizenship at birth. We became Canadians by an automatic legal status.

We take being a citizen of Canada for granted. Many do not treasure it.  Sure, a few of us put a flag in our window on the National Day of Canada, July 1st or as we know it, Canada Day. Or we may go to the local Legion to participate in the Canada Day ceremonies and, sing O Canada and listen to dignitaries remind us of the importance of being a Canadian citizen.

But it is sad 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 the sagging economy, political parties, the oil and gas industry destroying our environment, the increase in minimum wages and the impact that will have on the service industry….and if all that fails, well there is always the weather.

“I am a Canadian.” These are words that are to be spoken very genuinely and held with a great deal of importance.  Unfortunately, the majority of Canadians make up the group of “others” who do not stand up and proudly state on a regular basis, “I am a Canadian.” Or, “I value being Canadian. I am so proud to have my Canadian citizenship”.

I have been fortunate to witness the Citizenship Ceremony at the Reynolds Alberta Museum on a couple of occasions. Immigrants representing up to 25 different home countries were finally at the final step to becoming a Canadian citizen, the Citizenship Ceremony.  There was no grumbling going on. Instead, the sea of faces in the theatre exhibited a common look of gratitude. They had sacrificed a great deal to be on the verge of achieving a very important milestone in their lives.

The clerk introduced, and then formally stated that the candidates have qualified for Canadian citizenship. The judge, presiding over the ceremony advised the candidates of duties and responsibilities necessary with being a Canadian citizen. (although all of them had already studied and been tested on this and also required to demonstrate their ability to communicate in the English or French language). This was closely followed by having the participants stand, raise their right arm and pledge the oath of citizenship.

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.

Each of them had a story. Some had left family behind, some are not able to return home for political reasons, some experienced difficulties acquiring permanent resident status…but all shared the same story about the new opportunities afforded them. Having acquired our citizenship through legal status, we don’t understand the magnitude of sacrifices and difficulties others undergo to become a Canadian.

The ceremony ended as each candidate proceeded to the front of the room to receive their coveted and treasured citizenship certificate and received a warm welcome as new Canadian citizens from the dignitaries and the audience.

We may not have earned our citizenship like the “new” Canadian citizens but each of us should begin to genuinely appreciate and celebrate our status. We are blessed with opportunities and we enjoy freedom.  That’s what makes living in Canada so special compared to other countries.

Living in, or visiting a foreign country can be a great experience. It is a chance to view the world through another culture and lifestyle. However, the next time you leave the country and find upon your return how glad you are to be home, 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.”