Host a citizenship ceremony
The citizenship ceremony is a formalized rite of passage that pinpoints the moment someone enters the Canadian family. For many, it’s the realization of a dream. Sometimes, it marks the beginning of a new life. The ceremony confers the rights and acknowledges the responsibilities of citizenship described in Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, the citizenship study guide. Some of these are:
Rights of citizenship:
- the right to vote in federal, provincial, and territorial elections
- the right to be a candidate in federal, provincial, and territorial elections
- the right to live and work anywhere in Canada, and to enter and leave Canada freely
- the right to primary and secondary education for the English or French linguistic minority population
- the right to apply for a Canadian passport.
Responsibilities of citizenship:
- to obey Canada’s laws
- to take responsibility for oneself and one’s family
- to serve on a jury when called
- to vote in elections
- to help others in the community
- to protect Canada’s heritage and environment.
Citizenship therefore becomes a prized possession, because it is only attained after great thought and preparation. The ceremony is a celebration that is a reminder for all of the rich diversity of culture, ethnicity and languages that define Canada. The ceremony is a tangible example of the characteristics and symbols that bind us together as one nation.
This information is designed to assist your organization in hosting a ceremony. Community groups, service organizations and private companies are encouraged to take part in the process. As a partner with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), your group can play a significant role in the integration of new citizens into the broader community.
A citizenship ceremony is the final step in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen. There is a legal requirement for the individual to attend the ceremony and take the Oath of Citizenship. During the ceremony, the new citizen receives a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship. Guests attending the ceremony, who are Canadian citizens, are invited to reaffirm their commitment to Canada by repeating the oath along with the new citizens.
Our commitment to community relations
Many community groups have a strong interest in Canadian citizenship. Many groups assist newcomers in completing their applications and preparing themselves for their citizenship test. For many years, IRCC has worked with community groups to support their involvement in the hosting of citizenship ceremonies.
What’s in it for community groups?
Groups are encouraged to participate in hosting a citizenship ceremony at our local facility or at a community-based site. Non-governmental organizations benefit from hosting a ceremony by:
- raising their group’s profile in the community
- celebrating Canadian citizenship with Canada’s newest citizens
- promoting the values of citizenship in the community and recognizing the responsibilities of citizenship
- encouraging the acquisition of citizenship by members of your group.
Who’s involved in a ceremony?
There are many individuals involved in the preparation of the ceremony. But the most important people at the event are the new citizens. This is their day and the focus should be on making the event a memorable one for them.
There are others who have a special and distinctive role. Knowing who and what their responsibilities are will give you an understanding of the process.
IRCC Officials/Clerk of the Ceremony
These individuals are trained citizenship staff who can provide you with invaluable assistance. They are responsible for organizing the citizenship ceremony. Citizenship staff work in partnership with interested groups to conduct a ceremony that is both meaningful and sensitive to the diversity that exists in the community. They ensure that all the necessary legal requirements of the citizenship process as outlined in the Citizenship Act are met. They also ensure that all necessary administrative functions are carried out. These would include:
- ensuring candidates are given sufficient notice and instruction
- approving the location of the ceremony
- working with your group in planning the program
- ensuring that the ceremony program and national anthem are available in both official languages—English and French
- reviewing and approving the list of invited guests
- reviewing opening remarks and speeches
- officiating at the ceremony
- inviting local RCMP to participate in the ceremony
- assisting with photo opportunities at the reception.
Master of Ceremonies
The Master of Ceremonies’ role may be to provide opening remarks and introduce special guests. The Master of Ceremonies can, for example, be a representative of a community group.
The Presiding Official of a swearing-in ceremony may be a Citizenship Judge, or a Volunteer Presiding Official (i.e. member of the Order of Canada, recipient of the Order of Military Merit, etc.) provided they are authorized by the Registrar of Canadian Citizenship and they have volunteered to participate. The Governor General, Lieutenants-Governor and Commissioners of the Territories may also be invited to preside at citizenship ceremonies.
The Presiding Official administers the Oath of Canadian Citizenship and delivers remarks appropriate to this special occasion. He or she presents the new citizens with their citizenship certificate and, when possible, is available for photographs after the ceremony is concluded.
Candidates for citizenship are the focal point of the ceremony. Many have overcome barriers and obstacles in order to reach this point in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen. Subject to their consent, candidates may be interviewed or recorded (by audio or video) either prior to or following the ceremony.
Family and friends are often present and share in the special occasion.
The participation of special guests in a citizenship ceremony enhances the event. They can be representatives from the three levels of government, local community leaders or other dignitaries.
All persons invited to speak at the ceremony must be aware that the ceremony is not an opportunity to present political views, to present a point of view or to sell a product. Their greetings should offer congratulations to the new citizens and be no more than 2 minutes.
Special guests should include bilingual remarks, when possible, and be invited to participate in the post-ceremony photograph session. We may limit the number of special guests and guest speakers.
During election campaigns, incumbent members or candidates for political office should not be invited to a ceremony. Candidates for office who attend will not be introduced or asked to speak.
Citizenship ceremonies offer a unique opportunity to showcase local talent. The program can include a variety of entertainment either during the ceremony or at the reception. The presence of ethnic dancers, singers and musicians creates a celebratory atmosphere and promotes our multicultural heritage.
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer in full red serge uniform is often part of the proceedings. Citizenship staff arranges for an officer to take part in the citizenship ceremony. The officer’s official role is to open and close the citizenship ceremony and to represent Canada’s law enforcement agency.
An RCMP officer’s presence enhances the dignity and formality of the occasion as he or she often leads the procession that is composed of the Presiding Official and special guests. The officer is also available for photographs after the ceremony.
A rewarding experience
Since 1947, community groups, service organizations and private companies have hosted or sponsored citizenship ceremonies. Many of them have done so regularly.
Hosting a citizenship ceremony in your community is a rewarding experience. It’s your opportunity to contribute to the changing tapestry of the Canadian family. When we work together to weave the different strands in our society, it strengthens and preserves the fabric of our diverse cultures.
We encourage partnerships with a wide variety of groups to make citizenship ceremonies accessible to the general public.
A host may include non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, service organizations, veterans’ organizations, libraries, volunteer groups, all three levels of government (excluding elected officials) or other community groups.
Should elected officials at any level of government be interested in hosting a citizenship ceremony in their riding, they are encouraged to seek the involvement of a host as outlined above to work with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
A host takes an active part with us in the preparation and presentation of the citizenship ceremony and reception. Some hosts may not wish to take part in all aspects of the ceremony or reception. They may take responsibility for the costs of the reception (e.g., light refreshments and non-alcoholic beverages) or meet any indirect costs associated with the ceremony (e.g., rental of a hall/venue).
Occasionally, a host may work with a sponsor. A sponsor may include a business, company or corporation.
A sponsor does not take an active role in the ceremony or reception, but rather covers some or all of the costs. Sponsors usually meet costs indirectly (through covering the cost of venue or reception), rather than directly (through making a cash donation).
Citizenship ceremonies often attract media attention. These are good news stories and the media frequently request interviews with new citizens. New citizens are made aware that there may be media in attendance and are asked to sign a media release prior to the ceremony. Federal privacy legislation protects candidates from being identified, interviewed or photographed without their consent.
The host group, in consultation with IRCC officials, may invite the media to attend the event. Staff are prepared to assist reporters and arrange interviews.
You may wish to ensure that there is a suitable area set aside for interviews and that sufficient electrical outlets are available for television or radio personnel. If there are concerns about the presence of the media at an event, the host group should consult citizenship staff or the local manager of IRCC Communications.
Where are ceremonies held?
Ceremonies may be held at an appropriate location in the community or at the local IRCC office. Selecting the location of a citizenship ceremony is a key element of the success of the event. Consultation with citizenship staff is necessary prior to confirming the location of the ceremony. The citizenship staff will conduct a site visit with the host to assess the suitability of the proposed new locations.
Local IRCC Office
Host groups, with the agreement of citizenship staff, may host a citizenship ceremony and reception at the local IRCC office facility.
Guidelines for selecting a site
- The size must comfortably accommodate the new citizens and guests.
- The facility must conform to a ceremony-style floor plan, including stage and lectern, and if desired, a portrait of the Queen and a large Canadian flag may be displayed.
- The facility (including washrooms) must be wheelchair-accessible.
- A separate dressing room should be available for the Presiding Official and the Clerk of the ceremony.
- A separate meeting room for the pre-ceremony briefing of new citizens is preferable.
- A separate meeting room should be made available for special guests.
- Ample parking space and access to public transportation for citizens and guests should be ensured.
- An adequate stage and adequate lighting and sound systems should be available.
- Temperature controls should be available.
- Service organizations
- Ethnic associations and multicultural centres
- Museums and art galleries
- Community centres and recreation centres
- Civic centres/City Hall
- Federal or provincial facilities
- Halls adjacent to churches, synagogues and mosques (Please note that citizenship ceremonies may not be conducted in sacred areas of worship.)
- Chamber of Commerce
- Council chambers.
Things to keep in mind when selecting community sites
As with any large event, there may be unpredictable elements that are beyond your control. Holding a citizenship ceremony in a public location may pose challenges. Keeping the following elements in mind will help to minimize any difficulties that you may encounter.
There may be problems associated with open-air sites or sites that are accessible to all members of the public as disorderly behaviour may interrupt the proceedings.
Outdoor sites can be threatened by both rain and heat. Have a suitable alternative indoor site.
Ensure that the area is free of any offensive posters, signs or markings, or any religious symbols.
When can citizenship ceremonies be held?
Citizenship ceremonies can be held at any time provided that they do not conflict with the schedules of citizenship staff. Ceremonies have been held during the morning, afternoon and early evening. Generally, ceremonies that are held on weekdays occur during regular business hours. On occasion, special ceremonies have been held on Saturdays and Sundays. It is not the practice to hold citizenship ceremonies on any other statutory holiday but Canada Day.
Guidelines for hosting a citizenship ceremony
The citizenship ceremony is governed by a set of legislative requirements. The Citizenship Act clearly defines the requirements to be met to become a Canadian citizen. Two other acts, the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, play a significant role in the format and content of the ceremonies.
The citizenship ceremony provides the Government of Canada with the opportunity to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the values inherent in Canadian society, among which is the equality of status of both official languages. During the ceremony, we must emphasize the linguistic duality of Canada and the Oath of Citizenship must be administered in both English and French.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and is committed to a policy of multiculturalism designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada. Therefore, comments made and actions taken at a citizenship ceremony must respect and promote a better understanding and appreciation of Canada’s diverse cultures.
Bilingualism at citizenship ceremonies
As indicated above, bilingualism at citizenship ceremonies is important. As a host, you are encouraged to provide an active offer of service in both official languages to new citizens and their guests, when possible, in order to inform candidates and guests that they are free to use their preferred official language. This could include initial bilingual greetings such as “Hello/Bonjour” or asking a guest to wait while a bilingual staff is sought out. Citizenship staff will provide you with a Pre-ceremony bilingualism guide during the planning stage and can answer any questions.
Planning the ceremony
If you or your group have decided to host a citizenship ceremony, these guidelines will help you plan for it. The length of the ceremony will depend on your circumstances.
Stage 1 (2 to 3 months prior to the ceremony):
- Tell us you want to host a ceremony.
- Confirm the date, location and other details.
- The location you choose must easily accommodate large numbers of people (candidates for citizenship usually attend the ceremonies with their friends and family).
- Plan well ahead of your chosen date in case you need to reschedule.
- Consider cultural or religious sensitivities associated with a particular calendar day when planning the event.
- Schedule a meeting with us (in person or by phone) to discuss the details of the ceremony, including:
- the number of new citizens and their guests that you can accommodate
- the presiding official
- special guests
- whether you’ll use an audio recording or arrange for a live performance of the national anthem
- the reception
- Review and sign the hosting agreement we’ll give you.
- This outlines our responsibilities and yours.
How to tell us you want to host a ceremony
- Write “Citizenship Ceremony Hosting Request” in your letter or email subject line.
- In your request, provide:
- the name of your organization
- a brief description of the organization
- the name, telephone and email address of the contact person
- proposed dates for ceremony
- a proposed location
- the room capacity
- information on whether the location is wheelchair-accessible
- Send your request:
We’ll only respond to requests sent in English or French. To avoid delays, don’t send the same request more than once.
Stage 2 (4 to 6 weeks prior to ceremony)
- Plan the layout of the site of the ceremony — including the placement of chairs, stage, etc.
- Develop an invitation list and share it with citizenship staff for approval
- With the agreement of the citizenship staff, send invitations to special guests
- Identify and invite media
- Organize entertainment or musical interlude
- Plan reception
- Recruit volunteers as ushers and reception hosts
- Inform citizenship staff of major public transportation routes leading to the location of the ceremony
- Arrange for a photographer, if needed
- Finalize arrangements with caterers, florist, musicians, etc.
- Arrange for a clean-up committee
- Review detailed scenario of event prepared by the Clerk of the Ceremony.
Stage 3 (2 to 3 weeks prior to ceremony)
- Develop and review the program or schedule of events with citizenship staff (refer to sample program attached)
- Allow plenty of time for revision of program and translation into the second official language
- Confirm any special arrangements (i.e., guest speakers, performances, music)
- Confirm reception menu (bear in mind some dietary restrictions)
- Commence media promotion (if applicable)
- Review speeches or remarks where possible with citizenship staff
Stage 4 (2 to 3 days prior to ceremony)
- Set up facility and ensure sound and lighting systems are in working order
- Conduct briefing of volunteers and assign ceremonial duties
- Prepare final version of program for printing
- Print sufficient copies of program
- Confirm all plans for reception.
Stage 5 (day of ceremony)
- Arrive at facility well in advance of the ceremony
- Ensure all facilities are in order
- Set up for reception
- Greet new citizens and guests
- Identify media and provide assistance.
Stage 6 (immediately following ceremony and reception)
- Ensure facilities are returned to original condition.
- Place, date and time
- Opening remarks by the Presiding Official
- Words of welcome by host/special guest, if applicable
- Administration of the Oath of Citizenship
- Presentation of citizenship certificates
- Congratulatory remarks by special guest(s), if applicable
- Closing remarks by the Presiding Official
- Singing of the National Anthem
- Reception, if applicable
What’s involved in hosting a reception?
It is customary for the host group to provide a reception of light refreshments following the ceremony. The reception is a time of celebration for the new citizens and their guests. The following guidelines outline the requirements for a successful reception:
- Host group should be at the site at least 45 minutes prior to the ceremony
- Identify yourselves as reception hosts to the citizenship staff
- Preparation of beverages and finger food is completed prior to the ceremony
- Members of the host group should attend the ceremony (or at a minimum be represented by one member)
- Host group should bring greetings at the ceremony and invite new citizens and guests to participate in the reception
- Host group serves food and beverages at the reception
- Host group is responsible for clean-up of reception area.
- choice of: cakes, cookies, sandwiches, cheese, crackers
- Give proper notice to citizenship staff of your intent to host a ceremony (2 to 3 months)
- Familiarize yourself with a citizenship ceremony by attending one in advance
- Have detailed and organized plans
- Consult with citizenship staff
- Translate any remarks that are not made in either official language
- Conduct a ceremony that welcomes all cultures in your community
- Be sensitive to community issues
- When refreshments are served, they should be simple — tea, coffee, juice, cookies, coffee cakes and other simple dishes.
- The citizenship ceremony cannot be exclusive, that is, only for candidates of a single ethnic or religious origin, or for a specific age group.
- There can be no sales, marketing, promotion of religious, political, social policies or platforms by a host or sponsor. This includes distribution or availability of literature and business cards. A Canadian citizenship ceremony is not the time or the place to refer to conflicts in other countries, or to a specific faith or denomination.
- Under no circumstances should beer, wine, or liquor be served.
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