Amid the turmoil, a call for hope and inclusion
By Yasir Naqvi, CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship
More than a week has passed since the horrific terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. During this time, many of us have been reflecting on that horrific event and searching for answers to the difficult questions it has raised. This is happening not just in New Zealand, but also here in Canada, where a similar attack occurred just over two years ago in Québec City.
We think of the victims and mourn with and for their families and friends. We think of the attacker and question what led him to commit mass murder. And we think of the different communities traumatized by this latest act of atrocity—Muslim communities, immigrant communities, and refugee communities, among others.
And after all of this thinking, we wonder what to do.
“We are one. They are us,” said the Rt. Hon. Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand, in a powerful statement of unity. In these six words, I believe we can find common cause and the building blocks of a call to action.
Inclusion and belonging are core tenets of the organization I now work with, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. All of our work is rooted in a fundamental belief: Diversity is a reality. Inclusion a choice. This choice—this conscious decision to deny an “us and them” mentality in favour of seeing only “us”—is at the heart of what we believe Canadian citizenship to be.
Seventy-five times a year, we put this principle into practice, by producing citizenship ceremonies in co-operation with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada—often referred to as “enhanced” citizenship ceremonies. In cities big and small, in schools, libraries, sports arenas, galleries, and other iconic spaces, we bring together Canadians and those just about to take their oaths of citizenship. We ask them about their journeys to citizenship. We invite them to tell their stories. We solicit their opinions on what citizenship means to them. And we ask the new citizens why they decided to join us—because becoming a Canadian citizen is, on their part, an active choice. Not everyone who comes to Canada takes out citizenship—many remain permanent residents—but the vast majority, 86 percent, do. Why? Why do the majority of newcomers to Canada choose to become one of us, often at the cost of giving up another citizenship?
Hope. Undeniably, that is the common factor. Hope for themselves. Hope for their children. Hope for their extended family. Hope that they may benefit from—and contribute to—a better society than the one they left.
This was the hope with which my parents brought me, my brother, and my sister to Canada. And it is the same hope that prevails amongst every new citizen I meet in my new role as CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. It is this hope that resonates with me and that fuels my commitment to fulfil the promise set out by the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul when they established our organization in 2006.
So, what is my call to action? It’s simple: Join us. Whether as an individual or as a group—from your neighbourhood, your workplace, your religious community, or any other association—join us. Come to one of our 75 annual enhanced citizenship ceremonies. Celebrate with new Canadians who are just joining our family. Talk to each other and share your stories. In doing so, realize for yourself—as we are convinced you will—that there is more that unites us than divides us. And that inevitably, truisms and clichés aside, you too will choose inclusion.
Information on upcoming citizenship ceremonies can be found here: https://www.inclusion.ca/program/building-citizenship/