INAN - Opening Remarks for the Honourable Marco E.L. Mendicino, M.P., P.C. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship - Jan 28, 2021
House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAN)
January 28, 2021
Mr. Chair and colleagues, thank you for inviting me here today.
It’s an honour to appear before this Committee in support of our government’s bill to amend the oath of citizenship to ensure that new Canadians understand the role of Indigenous Peoples in this country’s past and present, and in our collective future.
As you know, Mr. President, our government is firmly committed to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action.
Our Government also strongly believes that it must acknowledge past wrongdoing in our country’s relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.
In doing so, we aim to continue to build relationships with Indigenous Peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.
As members will recall, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report contains nearly 100 Calls to Action. Number 94 calls on us to amend the Oath of Citizenship to add reference to “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples.”
Our government made a clear commitment to implement the TRC’s Calls to Action – and this bill is one of the many ways in which we’re acting on it.
This Bill is especially important, because the Citizenship Oath is much more than words.
It is a public declaration of joining the Canadian family, which includes Indigenous Peoples.
It’s an acknowledgement of newly gained rights and newly charged responsibilities.
It’s a commitment to Canada – past, present and future.
When considering the new language in the Oath, we worked closely with Indigenous Peoples and leaders from across Turtle Island.
We also conducted focus testing with the general public across Canada.
The wording put forth in this bill both responds to Call to Action 94 while reflecting the spirit and substance of what we heard during these extensive consultations.
By expanding beyond treaty-based Indigenous rights, we strongly believe that it better reflects the objectives of reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation.
The Bill we have introduced reflects a revised proposal for an oath of citizenship that incorporates the principle of reconciliation with the hope of instilling it in new citizens.
To further enhance newcomers’ understanding of the Oath, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is also working in earnest to revise the citizenship guide and knowledge test, to include more information on the diverse Indigenous peoples of Canada.
To that end, the Department has consulted with National Indigenous organizations, among many other partners. We will continue to do so and work to reflect on, and include, this feedback.
We have also been working to increase Indigenous representation at citizenship ceremonies.
When I personally have attended citizenship ceremonies where an Elder has joined, to offer remarks or an opening prayer or blessing, it has been an enriching experience for everyone involved in the ceremony.
So the Citizenship Oath, the revised study guide and test, and enhanced Indigenous presence in citizenship ceremonies – together support the important work of reconciliation.
I think members will agree that it is important that the principle of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples be introduced to newcomers and prospective citizens early in their citizenship process.
By taking the Oath, new citizens inherit the legacy of those who have come before them and the values that have defined our – and now their – country.
Our history becomes their history – and their story becomes part of ours.
And now, with this bill, that story includes recognizing and affirming the rights of Indigenous Peoples, while instilling in new Canadians the obligation that all citizens have to respect these rights and uphold the treaties.
These changes to the oath of citizenship are an important and necessary step in advancing Canada’s broad agenda of reconciliation and strengthening our country’s valuable relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
This proposed amendment adds only a few words to the oath of citizenship, but the scope of this addition is immense.
Reconciliation is a national project, one that requires all of us.
With this proposed change, the newest members of our Canadian family will now better understand their unique role in it.
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