No celebration to welcome new Canadians

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On Wednesday, March 26, I attended a ceremony at St. John’s City Hall to swear in and “welcome” new Canadians.

I use the term “welcome” reluctantly, as I don’t think we did a very good job of welcoming them at all. I’d never attended such an event before and I always fancied it would be a warm and emotional to-do, leaving us all sharing pride, together, in being Canadian — whether new or native-born.  

And how did we welcome them? A bare room decorated with a red-coated Mountie, speeches, a group swearing-in, a handshake to accompany the unadorned piece of paper, “O Canada,” and cake.

The event was, to say the least, anti-climactic.

Newfoundlanders pour more of themselves into inducting CFAs with their Screech-ins and kiss-the-cod ceremonies!

Where was the celebration?  

Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony was the culmination of great dreams; long roads — difficult and dangerous for many — successfully navigated. Our new Canadian neighbours had achieved the great goal of being accepted and registered as citizens of a new country — Canada.

This was the pinnacle of years of effort! Yet we couldn’t even muster a tablecloth or a flag, let alone a heartfelt and sincere ceremony designed to show respect for difficult choices and journeys, and to recognize a shared value and love for the country that has now become their new home of choice.

Newfoundlanders — who have no small degree of appreciation for adversity, and who value roots and heritage so much that we hold fast to our own provincial anthem — couldn’t dig deep enough here to devise a memorable and moving ceremony to truly welcome new Canadians with passion and sincerity?  Shameful!

Embarrassing!  

Even my 6 1/2-year-old granddaughter said, with a tinge of disappointment, “Nanny, where’s the music? I thought there would be music.”

Couldn’t there have been some representative Canadian music being played as folks arrived? Something a little ceremonial as the dignitaries were escorted into the room?

Really — we can do better. We must do better!

New Canadians deserve to be recognized and truly celebrated for their great achievement. They deserve our genuine and sincere welcome, for they have chosen to live here, enriching our country with their strength, tenacity and bravery.  And Newfoundlanders possess just the warmth and generosity of spirit to provide such a welcome.

Surely a respectful Canadian citizenship ceremony is worthy of a little of our own world renowned capacity for hospitality and celebration?

Sharon Barnes

Conception Bay South

Geographic location: Canada, Sharon BarnesConception Bay

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Recent comments

  • GINN
    March 30, 2014 - 20:24

    I'm an immigrant and became a Canadian citizen five years (earliest date possible) after entering Canada in 1960. There was no such thing as a ceremony, only a representative (civil servant) from the federal govt. swore me in as a Canadian citizen. It was a great moment in my life. If an impressive expensive ceremony is the measure of Canadian citizenship, I don't believe it is necessary. Our acceptance as a Canadian is the only important measure of our pride as new Canadians. It should not be a "media" event. I totally agree with Noor's comments.

  • Noor
    March 29, 2014 - 08:46

    I've lived abroad, and I know how truly desperate people are to get into this wonderful country. (We're not perfect, but we are heaven on earth compared to a lot of places.) I daresay many of those newly inducted citizens were just so darn grateful to be given Canadian citizenship they didn't care about a frilly ceremony. It's not about the ceremony so much as about the actual citizenship. And Welcome!! my new fellow citizens. I'm happy to have you here:)

    • Citizen
      March 29, 2014 - 18:05

      Welcome to our new Canadians and I hope they find their new life in Newfoundland to be happy and prosperous! Every new citizen has a story of why they have chosen Canada as their new home and I am sure they were very proud and grateful. Citizenship ceremonies are delivered regularly through out year by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. With the huge cuts to the public service in recent years there probably aren't any staff left to organize extras for these ceremonies. To provide extras such as musicians, flags, food etc requires money and Harper's Federal Government does not provide a budget for this; more services no longer provided by the this Government.

    • Citizen
      March 29, 2014 - 18:19

      Welcome to our new Canadians and I hope they find their new life in Newfoundland to be happy and prosperous! Every new citizen has a story of why they have chosen Canada as their new home and I am sure they were very proud and grateful. Citizenship ceremonies are delivered regularly through out year by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. With the huge cuts to the public service in recent years there probably aren't any staff left to organize extras for these ceremonies. To provide extras such as musicians, flags, food etc requires money and Harper's Federal Government does not provide a budget for this; more services no longer provided by the this Government.