Bilingualism at citizenship ceremonies

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

The department recognizes the importance of bilingualism at citizenship ceremonies. Staff must use the information below to foster even greater bilingualism at ceremonies.

On this page

Communicating with candidates for citizenship

Local offices are required to have sufficient bilingual staff in place to ensure that the requirements of the Official Languages Act are met in day-to-day business to meet the clients’ needs.

The prescribed order of official languages outlined in the Treasury Board’s Policy on Official Languages must be followed for all group communications relating to citizenship ceremonies, such as correspondence, greetings, signs, videos and remarks during the ceremony. Examples include the following:

  • preamble
  • words of welcome
  • oath of citizenship

Messages begin with the official language of the majority of the population of the province or territory where the ceremony is taking place.

  • In Quebec, messages are delivered in French first, and then in English.
  • In all other provinces and territories, messages are delivered in English first, and then in French.

When staff communicate individually with a candidate for citizenship or guest, and staff are aware of the official language of choice of the candidate or guest, staff should communicate in that language of choice.

Communicating with members of the public

English and French are the official languages of Canada for communicating with and providing services to the public. The public can communicate with and receive services from institutions in English or French in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Official Languages Act, Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations and Treasury Board policy instruments.

The department actively communicates with and provides services to the public at designated bilingual offices in both official languages. Nearly all citizenship offices are designated bilingual offices (through Burolis). Third-party services working on behalf of these offices, that is, hosts, must be able to communicate with and provide services to the public in both official languages at bilingual ceremonies. For more information, see Policy on Official Languages.

Ceremony language formats

A citizenship ceremony can be held in 1 of the following 3 different language formats:

  • bilingual
  • predominantly English
  • predominantly French

The language format of the ceremony is determined by the service requirements of applicants for citizenship, per the language of service requested on the citizenship application form. The 3 language formats have been defined below. All local offices are strongly encouraged to use the bilingual format.

Communication requirements for all ceremonies

At all citizenship ceremonies the following mandatory communication requirements must be met:

  • All materials (IRCC or other) distributed during citizenship ceremonies must be offered in both official languages.
  • The administration of the oath of citizenship must be delivered in both official languages.
  • The bilingual version of the national anthem -must be played or sung.
  • All ceremonies must be advertised as either bilingual, predominantly English or predominantly French on the IRCC external website’s list of ceremonies. Offices must use all other opportunities to inform candidates for citizenship and guests that the ceremony will be delivered in either of these language formats. Such other opportunities include the following:
    • correspondence
    • preamble
    • signs at the ceremony room entrances

Before the ceremony, the following measures must be taken:

For candidates

  • Send the Notice to Appear to a citizenship ceremony and any applicable inserts in the candidate’s preferred official language or in both official languages.
  • Provide flexibility to a candidate who requests to change their ceremony language format from “predominantly 1 language” to “bilingual” to accommodate the candidate or 1 of their guests and reschedule the candidate for a bilingual ceremony.

For volunteer presiding officials (VPOs):

  • Determine the language capability of VPOs before inviting them to preside over a ceremony to determine if they should be assigned to a predominantly 1-language or bilingual ceremony.

For staff

  • Have at least 1 bilingual staff member from the department available at all citizenship ceremonies when operationally possible.
  • If the circumstances of your office require it, hire bilingual casual employees to clerk or preside when needed and maintain a list of such individuals to use as a resource.
  • Before the ceremony begins, have a list of bilingual employees that you can refer to that day to redirect any questions received from candidates or guests in 1 of the 2 official languages.

For guest speakers

  • Remind guest speakers (before the ceremony and again on the day of the ceremony) of the importance of providing bilingual remarks. Offices should invite speakers to include bilingual remarks, if they are able to, at both bilingual and predominantly 1-language ceremonies.

After the ceremony

The department tracks bilingualism at all enhanced citizenship ceremonies. Offices must complete the requisite chart on a weekly basis upon request by National Headquarters (NHQ).

Bilingual ceremonies

A bilingual ceremony is defined as an event where there is an equal balance of English and French spoken during the ceremony. This is the preferred language format for most ceremonies delivered by local offices when possible, in recognition of Canada’s status as a bilingual country.

As well as the items listed above under Communication requirements for all ceremonies, bilingual ceremonies must include the following elements:

  • fully bilingual clerk instructions (repeated fully in both languages)
  • presiding official remarks delivered with an equal balance of both English and French messages (repeated fully in both languages)
  • guest speakers’ remarks (when applicable) delivered by either of the following:
    • a guest speaker who uses an equal balance of both English and French messages
    • a combination of unilingual guest speakers to have as equal a balance as possible of both official languages

Additional factors

Volunteer presiding officials

When possible, and when the VPO has the language capacity, offices should provide assistance to VPOs by offering to translate any personalized remarks in an effort to maximize the bilingual content of these presiding officials’ speeches for bilingual ceremonies. The cost of such translations is covered by Citizenship Program Delivery (CPD). Staff should contact NHQ for additional guidance.

When a unilingual presiding official presides over a bilingual ceremony, delegation for another permitted individual (for example, IRCC staff, a second volunteer presiding official) to co-preside should be obtained, so the ceremony can be delivered bilingually. Staff can contact NHQ for additional guidance.

Guest speakers

Guest speakers (when applicable) are encouraged to include elements of both official languages (equal balance) in speeches delivered to the audience when possible. This gesture exemplifies our commitment to respecting Canada’s 2 official languages. Guest speakers’ remarks don’t have to be repeated verbatim in both languages as long as the main congratulatory message is expressed in both languages.

When guest speakers are unilingual, citizenship staff invite other guest speakers to speak in the other language to have a balance of English and French. In these cases, staff should alternate between speakers: 1 English speaker, then 1 French speaker and so on. Offices can reach out to local organizations for guest speakers.

Staff

Staff on site must provide an active offer of service in both official languages (such as initial greetings, asking a guest to wait while a bilingual staff member is found) to inform candidates and guests that they are free to use their preferred official language.

Hosts

Host staff and volunteers must provide an active offer of service in both official languages to new citizens and their guests when possible. When a host organization indicates it is not able to commit sufficient bilingual capacity during the event, staff from the department must be made aware and be present.

Which candidates are invited to attend a bilingual ceremony?

Bilingual ceremonies usually include a combination of candidates for citizenship that have indicated either English or French as their preferred language, but ceremonies can also include clients who have all indicated the same preferred language. When there is a combination of both clients who prefer English and clients who prefer French, the ceremony must be delivered bilingually, even if there is only 1 person who has indicated a preference for the second official language.

Helpful checklists for bilingualism at ceremonies

  • Pre-ceremony bilingualism checklist for IRCC staff
  • Pre-ceremony bilingualism guide for hosts
  • Pre-ceremony bilingualism checklist for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC)

On a quarterly basis, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) must send a completed checklist for each ceremony to NHQ directly.

Predominantly 1-language ceremonies

A predominantly 1-language ceremony is delivered in mostly 1 of the 2 official languages. Whether a ceremony is predominantly English or predominantly French, it must include the mandatory bilingual elements listed above under Communication requirements for all ceremonies.

Every effort should be made by staff and presiding officials to match the linguistic elements required for fully bilingual ceremonies.

At a minimum and when possible, unilingual presiding officials should include general bilingual greetings, such as “Hello / Bonjour” and “Congratulations / Félicitations”.

A bilingual clerk is encouraged to give remarks meant for everyone in the audience bilingually. Examples of such remarks include the following:

  • Keep the aisles clear.
  • Turn off the volume on your cell phones.

A unilingual clerk may officiate only citizenship ceremonies that are advertised and delivered as either predominantly English or predominantly French, whichever is applicable.

Bilingual remarks by guest speakers and active offers of service in both official languages by staff, hosts and volunteers are encouraged.

Which candidates are invited to attend a predominantly 1-language ceremony?

Staff must ensure that all clients who are scheduled to attend a predominantly 1-language ceremony have indicated the applicable language as their preferred language on their application.

Predominantly English ceremonies include only clients who have indicated English as their preferred language on their application.

Predominantly French ceremonies include only clients who have indicated French as their preferred language on their application.

If all candidates for citizenship on the roster of a ceremony have selected the same language except for 1 person, the ceremony must be delivered bilingually.

Helpful checklists for bilingualism at ceremonies

  • Pre-ceremony bilingualism checklist for IRCC staff
  • Pre-ceremony bilingualism guide for hosts
  • Pre-ceremony bilingualism checklist for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC)

On a quarterly basis, the ICC must send a completed checklist for each ceremony to NHQ directly.

More information

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