Hon. Patricia Bovey: Senator Gold, lately we’ve heard the idea from government that people could take the Canadian Oath of Citizenship by signing a document online without attending either an in-person or virtual citizenship ceremony. The negative concerns I have heard about this idea are legion, so much so that I attended a live citizenship ceremony again last Thursday. It was truly moving to hear all in the room take the oath, to witness the individual certificate presentations and see the photos — all very important aspects of the event that would be missed by merely signing an online form at home. Can you assure this chamber, all Canadians and those applying for citizenship that this idea of cutting out citizenship ceremonies in favour of a self-administered online oath will be quashed?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question, and I couldn’t agree with you more in terms of the importance of these ceremonies to the participants, the observers and their families.
The government wants to be very clear: All applicants will continue to have the choice and the option to swear or affirm their Oath of Citizenship before a citizenship judge or an authorized person at an in-person or virtual ceremony as the case may be. That remains the case. The government strongly wants Canadians to know that citizenship ceremonies are here to stay. IRCC — Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada — has resumed in-person citizenship ceremonies that were suspended due to the impact of COVID-19 to its operations and now actually offers virtual citizenship ceremonies to those for whom it’s appropriate.
The Oath of Citizenship is the final step to becoming a Canadian citizen. It’s a solemn promise to follow the laws of Canada and perform our duties as Canadians. The government is seeking input on proposed changes to the Citizenship Act to improve their experience and expand accessibility, and that is an ongoing process. Rest assured, citizenship ceremonies are here to stay.
Senator Bovey: As a quick follow-up, you used the word “optional.” I’m delighted to hear that citizenship ceremonies will continue. Yes, I appreciate there are online virtual ceremonies for when people couldn’t attend because of COVID, but are you saying that there might be another option whereby they don’t have to do either, but that the citizenship ceremony will stay?
Senator Gold: Currently, applicants have the option to attend in person or virtually, as I said. There is consultation going on now with regard to other proposed changes to the Citizenship Act that may be appropriate — in terms of other processes — but that is an ongoing process, as I described.