On November 9th, 2021 I was granted my Canadian citizenship. This is the closure of a cycle that started nine years ago. A big milestone for me. Even though the ceremony was virtual, I wanted it to be a meaningful experience and I reflected on what it means to be Canadian and what are the most relevant rights and responsibilities that I now have. I concluded that respect to this land and the original stewards of this land are the most important issue for all of us Canadians.
One of the requirements to obtain my citizenship was a written test that I took just a couple of months ago. I can attest to how little we learn about the history of Indigenous people in Canada. It’s my strong belief that I cannot properly fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen without learning about this part of our history. As the study guide itself cites the Aboriginal People’s Rights as one of the most important in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms proclaimed by Her Majesty forty years ago.
The study guide contains all the information you need to know to take your citizenship test and it is publicly available.
Furthermore, in my oath to confirm my citizenship, I professed the following words:
I affirmOath of Canadian Citizenship
That I will be faithful
And bear true allegiance
To Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second
Queen of Canada
Her Heirs and Successors
And that I will faithfully observe
The laws of Canada
Including the Constitution
Which recognizes and affirms
The Aboriginal and treaty rights of
First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples
And fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.
Citizenship and Calls to Action
Call to Action 93. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.
As you can imagine from my earlier comments, this is not implemented yet. However, the presiding officer opened the ceremony with a beautiful land acknowledgement, highlighting the importance of the TRC Calls to Action and urging all new Canadians to learn more about the history.
Call to Action 94. We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.
This was implemented. The oath (see above) was recently updated to include the lines in bold.
Open Letter to the Lieutenant Governor
On the same web page where you can find the oath, there is a brief explanation about the oath. This explanation is also present in the study guide we use to prepare for our citizenship test. And it is as follows:
“In Canada, we profess our loyalty to a person who represents all Canadians and not to a document such as a constitution, a banner such as a flag, or a geopolitical entity such as a country. In our constitutional monarchy, these elements are encompassed by the Sovereign (Queen or King). It is a remarkably simple yet powerful principle: Canada is personified by the Sovereign just as the Sovereign is personified by Canada.”
My understanding is that one of my most important duties as a new Canadian citizen is to learn what is being done and how to best uphold those principles regarding Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous People. And that I should address Her Majesty The Queen, as the personification of Canada, its values and constitution. I will do so through the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the closest representative of Her Majesty The Queen.
In my letter to the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell (full letter here), I ask three questions:
- Where can I find an up to date information about progress, delays, action plans and timelines regarding the calls to action regarding the Province of Ontario?
- What changes for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario now that the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) became law in Canada in 2021?
- How can I help?
There are 22 mentions of provincial government and 9 mentions of all levels of government in the TRC Calls to Action.
You can learn how the Government of Canada is responding to the Calls to Action. The provincial information about reconciliation seems to be a little outdated. Several documents from the provincial government refer back to 2016-17.
According to the yellowhead institute only 8 out of the 94 calls to actions were fully implemented. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) provides a brief overview of the progress that different levels of government have made in meeting the Calls to Action.
Starting a new cycle
The Citizenship Ceremony on November 9th, 2021 marks the end of a process that started almost ten years ago when we submitted our immigration application. A process that we embraced with the seriousness that it deserves, dedicating countless hours and resources. And receiving countless supports and resources in return.
As I reflect back on my journey and learnings, I now ask myself: What are the steps, rituals and ceremony for me to become a legitimate resident of Turtle Island?
What are the values that I should embrace as a Turtle Island inhabitant? What are my duties and responsibilities? What learnings will ensure I understand my role as Turtle Island inhabitant? To whom should I pledge allegiance? Or ask permission and forgiveness, since I came here without the consent of the original stewards of this land.