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Opinion: Removing one of life’s most memorable days with a Zoom call

'I have attended only one citizenship ceremony, and it was back when Jay Aspin was our Member of Parliament. I was invited, as the then executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, to sit with the dignitaries (who? me?) and then congratulate each new Canadian after they became citizens'
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Canadian flag.

The best part of the Canada Day baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox was not the leadoff home run by George Springer, or, even the game itself. The Jays lost.

It was the opening ceremonies.

But not the giant Canadian flag unfurled on field, or the Canadian Armed Forces team rappelling from the rooftop to the playing field, though both were pretty spectacular.

It was the Canadian citizenship ceremony.

Nine lucky new Canadians were chosen to participate, to match the starting lineup of the Jays. All clad in the Jays’ Canada Day red jerseys, they were individually introduced to the applauding 40,000 plus fans. The looks on their faces, the body language and the sheer joy of the occasion was something to behold.

After taking the oath of allegiance, in both official languages no less, they were all invited to throw out ceremonial first pitches to their Blue Jay counterparts. Some of them even managed to get the ball to the player’s glove.

It was magnificent, and the crowd cheered them on mightily.

Compare this national spectacle (the game was broadcast on Sportsnet) to the latest brain trust decision about citizenship ceremonies.

They will no longer be in person, but virtual.

Have the Ottawa bureaucrats who came up with this notion ever been to a citizenship ceremony? If they have, shame on them for taking away a memory that will last a lifetime for new Canadians.

The Government of Canada website now says most new Canadians will be invited to a virtual Zoom citizenship ceremony, instead of an in-person event.

That should bring a tear to potential participants’ eyes.

Gather around the computer screen, family, and look at other new Canadians, whom you will never meet in person, and a citizenship judge you will never meet, and crack a bottle of Champagne. We will celebrate with our little group, not all the other new Canadians being sworn in.

I have attended only one citizenship ceremony, and it was back when Jay Aspin was our Member of Parliament. I was invited, as the then executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, to sit with the dignitaries (who? me?) and then congratulate each new Canadian after they became citizens.

It was a Canada Day outdoor event, in front of the museum. It was sunny and warm and each new Canadian had friends and family attending. It was a joyous event, even if the Blue Jays weren’t there. The

citizenship judge, imported from southern Ontario, was resplendent in his robes and his presence added gravitas to the event.

It was a day I remember vividly, and I was born in Canada. For those that were not, and became Canadian citizens that day, it was one of the most memorable days of their lives.

A lot has been written about this foolhardy decision to go virtual. I subscribe to Andrew Griffith’s daily Multicultural Meanderings blog, and in a recent post he analyzed the feedback the February announcement by the federal government received.

The announcement was made in The Canada Gazette, rather than in the form of a news release from the minister. When governments do that, they are trying to avoid negative feedback. But it came anyway, in droves.

In the almost 700 comments in the Gazette, opposition is nearly universal among citizens and about two-thirds of immigrants. Former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson and former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke out against it in the media, among many others, including former immigration ministers and citizenship judges.

But, Griffith noted, “Interestingly, strong support comes from applicants, many of whom are frustrated with the application process and its delays. This clear divide is telling.”

The government says the move to virtual ceremonies could save three months of citizenship processing time, and people won’t have to take time off work to participate. The clear divide Griffith is referring to is the bureaucratic slowness and backlog in processing citizenship applications that is frustrating applicants.

My take is those in the system that are okay with a virtual ceremony just want to get it done, because the process is taking so long. They have never been to a live in-person ceremony, so they don’t know what they are missing.

It is important for all the new immigrants we are seeing in our city, who one day will become Canadian citizens.

Mayor Peter Chirico is quoted in a Sunday BayToday article about Canada Day, saying “We’re coming up on our 100th anniversary of the corporation of the City of North Bay in 2025. Our city is such a diverse and accepting city. The face of North Bay is changing and we’re changing with it. So, we celebrate Canada Day and what Canada means, that it is an accepting place, that it is a safe, and welcoming place.”

Can North Bay replicate what the Jays did for the new Canadians? Not likely, but it could come close.

How about a Canadian citizenship ceremony right before a Battalion home game at Memorial Gardens? It would be full of people cheering them on, and each new Canadian could each take a shot at the Battalion goalie…who would, of course, let them score. What is more Canadian than hockey?

That would be a memorable evening.

Editor’s Note: Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant living in North Bay, and a member of the Bay Today community advisory committee.

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Don Curry

About the Author: Don Curry

Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and president of Curry Immigration Consulting and a former journalism instructor
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