ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

At a news conference to announce the issuing of the one millionth 10-year ePassport

Toronto, Ontario
October 25, 2013

As delivered

Good morning, everyone. How are you doing? Good to have you all here in this storied setting of the Hockey Hall of Fame during Citizenship Week, which I hope you’ve all managed to cover or celebrate in one way or another, and thank you for the introduction. Thank you to the Hockey Hall of Fame for having us.

We are really celebrating Citizenship Week all week in this second half of October with citizenship ceremonies, with events to highlight the importance and the value that Canadians attach to their passport, to the privileges and also the duties and responsibilities that go with the great privilege of being a Canadian.

We also celebrate, as you see on both sides of me, everything that went into citizenship and developing, deepening the concept of citizenship across this country, in all provinces and territories, over centuries of our history, the growth of our symbols, not only the flag, but many other symbols being recognized around the world.

Certainly that passport is a recognized symbol. So is the flag. So is our national anthem, especially when we do as well at the Olympic Games as we did in Vancouver, and many other symbols that go into Canada’s brand, Canada’s reputation. I know that the Hockey Hall of Fame is in a former bank. We’re actually renowned for our banks and our financial sector, much of which is headquartered right nearby, because of its stability, its reliability through difficult times around the world.

These are among the great features of our citizenship, the great features of our nationality that have made it such a privilege to be Canadians. Citizenship Week calls attention to the rights and responsibilities we have as citizens of a strong, prosperous and, let’s not forget, pluralistic country.

Every one of the chapters that you see on both sides of me of our history as represented now in our passport represent another phase of that diversity: the contribution of aboriginal Canadians; the Inukshuk right at the beginning of our passport; the explorers who came from many countries, many parts of the world, many countries of Europe, but Samuel de Champlain, obviously, the key founder of la Nouvelle France and of the French language tradition which is so foundational for our institutions; and then onwards to many other phases of immigration, many other phases of institutional development, many other phases of adding to that diversity that makes Canada such a special place to live.

We will have well over 50, 58 ceremonies across the country, more than usual for one week, to bring 4,400 new Canadians into that circle of citizenship, and if any of you have been to any of these ceremonies – I know they’ve taken place here, I was part of one last weekend at the CN Tower – they are very moving experiences both because of the emotion that those who have struggled and sacrificed and worked hard to pass the exam, but to pass all kinds of other barriers and obstacles to come to Canada, because of the emotion that they feel and because of the pride that we all take together in realizing how exciting it is to be part of a pluralistic country that is ready to take in and welcome people from all over the world.

I think with 45 people in this last ceremony, there must have been 25 countries represented and some of them have furnished millions of immigrants to Canada over centuries. Others are newcomers to the immigration pattern of flows of newcomers to Canada. The whole world, though, feels at home in Canada whatever your origins, whatever your language, whatever your religion. You can be part of this fabric and you can be part of the values that we cherish as Canadians.

In doing so, you as Canadians and thousands of other new Canadians then acquire the right to hold a Canadian passport. That is one of the great privileges of moving from permanent resident status to citizen. That passport, as we all know, is an internationally recognized symbol among the most respected travel documents in the world, and the new secure 10-year electronic passport, which we are celebrating today, we call it the ePassport, is the ultimate symbol of our citizenship. What better time than this Citizenship Week to celebrate the success of Canada’s new ePassport.

When we launched the new ePassport back in July – it wasn’t so long ago – we were confident that Canadians would appreciate the added security and welcome the chance to have a booklet that was valid for 10 years. We all know what a hassle it is to renew everything – health cards, credit cards, all the pieces of identity that we have. Now, at least our passport, if we invest in this 10-year version, doesn’t have to be worried about for a decade.

The popularity of this ePassport, the 10-year ePassport, has actually surpassed our expectations. Just since July, we have delivered over a million ePassports, and more than 80 % of the adults who are applying for new passports are going for the 10-year version because of the value for money it represents, and the decreased hassle.

When carrying the ePassport, Canadians can be confident that they are traveling with the latest high-tech travel document. ePassports are the gold standard of international travel documents. The electronic chip embedded inside each booklet provides an additional layer of security and identity verification.

Let’s be clear here. The security, the privacy considerations are foremost in our minds whenever we are looking to redesign and modernize these absolutely fundamental documents for Canadians. They are now second-to-none in the world on those two most important fronts.

This new document will better stand up to attempted fraudulent credentials, and we do know how unfortunately often we do encounter individuals or groups who are trying to acquire Canadian identity documents by fraudulent means, or trying to compromise the privacy of individual Canadians, which they cherish and which we work so hard to protect.

Our new ePassport also beautifully captures proud moments of Canada’s history through illustrations on each page of past heroic Canadians, symbols of our heritage, images of our landscape which is unique only to Canada. You only have to look around me: Vimy Ridge and the monument there, whose 75th anniversary we will celebrating in a couple of years; Niagara Falls, obviously a wonder of the world on our doorstep; the Stanley Cup, I think, appears here twice. It’s in the next room.

These are iconic symbols for the whole world of Canada. These are part of our identity and now they are more visible than ever – the last spike, Billy Bishop’s aircraft, Terry Fox’s run – in our passport, reminding us of our collective story every time we go to travel, every time we open that book.

We celebrate immigration itself in this passport. Pier 21 is here on my right, the fabulous facility – and those of you who haven’t been there really should consider it – in Halifax, which is now a national museum, the only national museum we have opened so far out of the national capital that celebrates the most important point of entry, single point of entry, we’ve ever had to Canada. One in five Canadians traces their ancestry in one way or another to that single building in Halifax when, of course, so many Canadians arrived before the age of civil aviation dominating our immigration flows as it does now.

Cherish this book for there are millions around the world who would dearly like to have it and would go to great lengths, as thousands of new Canadians have bravely done, to become proud owner of the new Canadian ePassport. But to celebrate the one millionth 10-year ePassport issued, and we have calculated this quite precisely, as well as to highlight Citizenship Week, I am pleased to present a new ePassport to a deserving Canadian, Mr. Mark Anthony Walker. Please join me up here, Mark.

I’m honoured to be the Minister of a Department that has such a tremendous impact on the lives of so many people, and Mark Anthony, who has been a Canadian … all your life a citizen? Born in Toronto, born in Mount Sinai Hospital, but with connections outside Canada, as many of us do – my wife is an immigrant – has been absolutely a great partner for us in preparing today’s event, and I think for me, as a Canadian from Toronto, sums up many of the great attributes and virtues of our citizenry these days.

He told me a bit of his story having worked in the private sector, having worked in the public sector, having worked in Ottawa, having worked in the Toronto area, great to have lucked into having you here today. Here is your passport. Use it well and thank you again for today.

One more gift, because Mark Anthony made the trip all the way downtown today, when he probably had other plans, to be with all of you. There really was only one gift we could give you, a few months away from the Sochi Olympics, here at the Hockey Hall of Fame. I hope you’ll wear this one with pride.

You can wear it playing soccer, too. So in closing I want to congratulate Mr. Walker on receiving his new Canadian passport, wish him safe, exciting travels as a Canadian, and most importantly a tremendous future in his home country to all of us that encompasses peace, opportunity, prosperity and a continuing drive to have the best, provide the best service to all of those, and it’s a huge number of Canadians now who are passport holders.

It’s actually a dwindling minority who don’t have passports, and to continue to welcome large numbers of immigrants to this country for whom citizenship, and for whom having a safe, secure, convenient ePassport is important today as it never has been before. Thank you so much and I’m open to your questions.

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