Here is an abstract of the remarks of Citizenship Judge Sigmund Reiser, C.M. to 50 new Canadian citizens, 6 February 2002, Markham Civic Centre:
Ladies and gentlemen, bienvenue et bonjour, welcome and good afternoon. I am very pleased and proud to join you today on this special occasion. Today you’ll be receiving a magnificent gift, the gift of Canadian citizenship...
The conferring of Canadian citizenship is the highest honour, the greatest privilege our country can bestow, and it confers a very special status to a person -- a status that is recognized, respected, much desired and even envied throughout the world.
This did not happen overnight. For decades, Canadians have worked to develop a country which did become the most progressive, most open, most tolerant, most inclusive multicultural society on Earth. You see, our Canadian citizenship is not based on blood and soil as in some other countries, nor is it based on common ancestry or geography. Our citizenship is based on shared ideas and on shared values, all of which flow from a single fundamental principle, and that is: "The respect for the dignity of Human life."
By following this single principle, we accept and practice all other values that emanate from it: values of equality and acceptance, fairness and justice, compassion and decency, civility and non-violence, tolerance and inclusion. These are the values for all of us to live by in our daily relationships, in our daily lives, and all these values are logical extensions, a practical consequence, if you will, of our basic belief in the dignity and worth of human life.
Only by practicing these values, thankfully, we can manage to live in peace and harmony, without ethnic or religious strife which, sadly, we see happening in so many other countries these days. Only by practicing these values did we create a peaceful environment which allows us to take advantage of the enormous opportunities available to all in our country. These values are the pillars of Canadian citizenship. By practicing these values, we have created, as our Prime Minister said, "A land where there is liberty of conscience, a land where peace loving people from around the globe can come together in friendship."
And indeed, Canada has shown the world that because we practice these values, people from diverse background can put aside their differences and live together in this civilized land of ours. People who have decided to give up and leave outside our borders, their baggage of regional divisions, of their age-old racial, religious and ethnic hatred and prejudices that dominated their lives in their home countries and therefore prevented them from leading decent lives and from having a decent future.
In this way, Canada has become a haven of safety and security for all our residents, and a magnet for all those who desire a better life. In this way, we have become an example for the rest of the world and a role model for the 21st century.
Ours is a vigourous, vibrant, multicultural society to which the constant influx of immigrants brings a flow of new ideas, fresh opinions, and dynamic energy. This in turn enhances Canada’s culture, heritage and economy which makes our lives here the richest on this planet.
We may become citizens by one of two ways: either by birth or by choice. Like you, I became a citizen by choice.
I arrived here as a refugee from war-torn Europe with my wife and 2-year-old son, without a cent in our pockets. We were met in Montreal by two ladies from a volunteer organization who appeared like two angels and gave us $10.00 to buy food. Right there and then, I decided that once I became established, I would also volunteer to help others. And I did...and I have for the past 50 years ... for many causes.
This was the only free ten dollar bill we ever received. Compare this to the generous social security network, to the social benefits available today, and you will realize the tremendous social progress Canada has made since.
I arrived here without any knowledge of English. I worked to support my family, and after work (no matter how tired), I went to school. Today, appearing before you as a judge, I believe I am living proof of what your determination, your hard work, can accomplish for you in Canada, as it did for me...because: look at me; I am no different from you.
Today, you join the great numbers of determined people from all over the world who come to this land to start afresh, representing literally hundreds of different cultures and traditions. Canada embraces all these cultural difference and outlooks.
And this is good; this is very good! Because the strength of our county lies in our rich diversity. Diversity is the lifeblood of Canada. In fact, it might interest you that people from 169 different countries speaking over 125 languages proudly call Canada home.
Being a Canadian
Being a Canadian citizen should be an important part of our daily lives. Being a Canadian means being a full and active participant in our Canadian society through economic, political and voluntary activities. Being a Canadian means being a partner in determining and shaping Canada’s future. Being a Canadian means taking responsibility for Canada’s well-being...
(After the ceremony, including the Oath of Allegiance...)
From today on, you all belong! There is no title you can wear more proudly than that of a Canadian citizen. No doubt, you must be very proud now!
But Canada also can be proud now, because in the last few minutes, Canada has become richer by 50 new Canadians. Canada is a unique and magnificent experiment in a multicultural democratic diversity ....
(After singing "O Canada" ...)
I wonder, have you ever considered what it means to "stand on guard for" Canada? It means protecting our democracy. So how can you best protect our democracy?
Volunteerism is one of the most important instruments of our democracy, a true foundation and expression of democracy .. and it begins on a local level. This is where democracy is born.
Last year, 7.5 million individuals (which is one in four Canadians) devoted one billion hours to 175,000 voluntary organizations across Canada. In this, lies the strength of our multicultural, multiethnic democracy.
Remember, we may look different, we may speak with different accents, but we are all on Canadian family. There are many ethnic groups, many skin shades, but only one race on this small planet or ours, and it is called the Human race.
Let us always keep in mind that we are members of one community, one society, united together by practicing common ideals, by sharing the same rights, by sharing the same obligations,... that we are one!
Our Prime Minister has expressed it best when he wrote: "We are lucky to live in a country where people of all religions, languages, traditions and origins live together in harmony. We have built this Canada together on a foundation of common values, like liberty, equality, tolerance, mutual aid and respect."
So I believe this has been a fabulous experience for you today, which will never be repeated because you can become citizens only once. ...May you and your families have a fruitful, happy and prosperous life in your chosen country, Canada. May you raise your children as good Canadians! Good Luck!