Religious and cultural considerations during 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.

Taking the Oath of Citizenship: swearing or solemnly affirming

Candidates for citizenship have the choice of taking the Oath of Citizenship by swearing or solemnly affirming it. For further information about the difference between the two options, refer to the Allegiance to the Queen section.

Holy books

With respect to the use of holy books, as per paragraph 17(1)(b) of the Citizenship Regulations, citizenship judges have the responsibility to administer the Oath of Citizenship with dignity and solemnity, allowing the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation thereof.

The Notice to Appear to Take the Oath of Citizenship form informs candidates that if they wish to swear the Oath of Citizenship on a holy book, they must bring their own holy book.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) allows various religious organizations to have holy books available for candidates who wish to swear the Oath of Citizenship on a holy book and who forgot to bring their own.

Instructions for CIC local offices on the use of holy books at citizenship ceremonies

Before accepting holy books, CIC local offices must provide these instructions to religious organizations.

  • Holy books are displayed at onsite citizenship ceremonies only, and candidates are free to take one from the display.
  • The responsibility for supplying and housing/storing holy books rests with the religious organization wishing to provide the material.
  • Local offices should accept to display holy books from religious organizations only if the books are offered free of charge.
  • To reflect Canada’s two official languages, the religious organizations providing the holy books should make them available in English, French or both.
  • When approached by a religious organization to display holy books, local offices should make accommodations to display them in an accessible area, such as a table in the waiting area.
  • Neither CIC staff nor religious organization representatives shall hand the holy books to candidates, but rather, should display them where clients can help themselves.
  • When present, representatives from religious organizations should be discreet and not promote their beliefs.
  • CIC offices will monitor compliance with the instructions provided to the religious organizations.

Cultural differences and sensitivities

Behaviour that is appropriate by traditional Canadian standards could be considered inappropriate or even insulting by people of different cultural backgrounds.

For instance, men and women from some cultures may find it inappropriate to shake hands with members of the opposite sex. Others might find any physical contact other than a handshake to be inappropriate.

Remarks, either formal or informal, that reflect on a particular culture, religious belief, or nationality are out of place at a citizenship ceremony.

Candidates for citizenship should not be asked to raise their hand or stand up during the naming of the countries or places of origin. Some candidates may not wish to publicly acknowledge their country or place of origin at the citizenship ceremony and may be placed in an uncomfortable position if they are required to comply with this request.

The clerk of the ceremony should be aware of cultural differences and sensitivities, and ensure that all participants respect them.

It is not appropriate to hold a ceremony specifically for a group made up of people of a particular ethnic or national origin, or religious belief. For instance, it is not appropriate to hold a ceremony for new citizens from the United States only.

Full or partial face coverings

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