Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-223 proposed by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. This bill aims to amend the Citizenship Act with respect to the oath of allegiance.
Currently, new citizens of Canada are obliged to recite an oath that is for all intents and purposes claimed by many to be lacking in contemporary elements. They say that the current oath does not truly represent present day views of the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. As new eras come an go we can expect that certain beliefs, behaviours and traditions will be changed in some way. This is simply the nature of history as we know it.
Before us today is an opportunity to make a change in the way in which new citizens first experience our country. The new oath would ask new citizens to pledge allegiance to Canada and the Constitution of Canada, faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil their duties as Canadian citizens.
For those who choose to become Canadians, taking the oath before a citizenship judge is the final step in becoming a Canadian citizen. With citizenship comes numerous responsibilities for helping to build a stronger, more vital Canada. These responsibilities could be better highlighted by emphasizing a pledge of allegiance specifically to Canada and the Canadian Constitution and the laws of the land.
The time is right for such an amendment. Changing the oath to make it more contemporary does not imply that other existing ties and traditions as described in our Constitution would be eliminated. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that our Constitution explicitly outlines the nature of Canada's relationship with certain symbols and traditions. These symbols, traditions and institutions cannot in any way, shape or form be altered through an amendment to the present oath of citizenship.
It is much more important in these times of strained national unity to promote Canada to our new citizens. What better mechanism could we utilize than the citizenship ceremony and the oath of citizenship?
We should really take this opportunity to let new Canadians know that Canadians are not afraid to stand strong and proud for their country. We should let them know that we are not afraid to pledge allegiance directly to Canada.
Let us examine more carefully the significance of an oath of allegiance to one's country. To first generation Canadians as well as to families that have been here for many generations an oath may be simply a verbal expression of one's love of one's country. Others say it is simply a necessary condition of citizenship.
It is more than a verbal expression. I see it as a declaration of faith, a declaration of trust in all that my country has done, all that my country is doing and all that my country will do to improve and enhance my life, the lives of my family members and the lives of all Canadians.
To the new Canadian it is a declaration of acceptance, accepting the laws, the rules and regulations of a highly organized and developed society. It is a declaration of belief and trust in Canada's people, its governments, its institutions, its laws and all that the new Canadian perceives about Canada at that very special moment when the oath of allegiance is stated.
This is done on a voluntary basis. Out of the dozens of choices available, the new Canadian has chosen Canada. The new Canadian has faith.
From a very personal viewpoint, as I declare my allegiance to Canada and all that it represents, I feel that I am making a serious obligation to commit myself to doing whatever I am capable of doing to reciprocate for what my country has done for me directly or indirectly. It is a personal relationship with my country, a sacred relationship that stirs the emotions. I too have faith.
Speaking of emotions, the citizens of this country recently experienced services of remembrance for all those who sacrificed so much during times of international strife. We emotionally paid special tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Do we believe for a moment that Canadians who came from Saskatchewan lost their lives only to protect the citizens of Saskatchewan? Of course not. Do we believe that the Canadians from Ontario lost their lives only in the defence of the freedoms the citizens of Ontario enjoy? Of course not. Do we believe that the young Canadians from Quebec died so that only future generations in Quebec could enjoy the highest standard and quality of life in the world? Certainly not.
All those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice did so with one objective in mind: to defend and preserve the democratic way of life in Canada. They too had faith. They had faith that future generations would carry the torch of freedom for all Canadians and this would be revealed through a declaration of allegiance to Canada.
In my riding of Thunder Bay I receive on a daily basis all forms of expressions of love for this great and wonderful country of ours. Not only do the people express it, they also demonstrate it through their behaviour and their relationships with each other.
My riding is composed of many ethnic communities and they most vehemently support the Canadian way of life. They are more than accommodating, more than tolerant of each other. They learn from each other by sharing and demonstrating their cultural differences. They certainly are dismayed by any anti-Canada act performed by individuals, by special single issue groups and by national or provincial political leaders with overinflated egos who lust for power and control at the expense of all other Canadians.
Many of the citizens of Thunder Bay and Atikokan are first generation Canadians who came to Canada because they, like the rest of the world, saw Canada as a symbol of hope. Canada has reached a stage in its evolution that no other country can match. It is a sophisticated civilized society in which societal differences can survive in harmony.
The path we follow as we attempt to further enhance our Canadian way of life has many obstacles, but these can be overcome in a civilized and rational manner. We must have a beacon to guide us. I firmly believe, as do the vast majority of Canadians, that the beacon is an oath of allegiance to Canada and all that it implies.