Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.
I am happy to speak on Bill C-6, where the government has introduced changes to the oath of citizenship. These changes are necessary. New Canadians need to recognize and affirm the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people and understand the major contribution to our collective successes as a country.
One of the strongest pillars for successful integration into Canadian life is achieving Canadian citizenship, and we have one of the highest naturalization rates in the world. Some 85% of newcomers become citizens. Over the last decade, Canada has welcomed nearly 1.7 million new Canadians.
Citizenship ceremonies are the end of a long process of immigration, settlement and integration for a newcomer to Canada. Ceremonies are a moving and emotional celebration, as well as a necessary legal step to citizenship. The oath of citizenship is a solemn declaration that the citizen applicant promises to obey Canadian laws while fulfilling his or her duties as Canadian citizens. Taking the oath of citizenship is an integral part of the citizenship process, and the act reflects the Canadian values of social cohesion, openness and transparency.
The proposed changes include clear reference to the rights of indigenous peoples. They are aimed at advancing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action within the broader reconciliation framework.
The bill would modify the words of the oath of citizenship as follows:
I swear (or affirm) 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 fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
Indigenous peoples have played a fundamental role in Canada's past and are a strong pillar of our society. Our government believes that it is important for all Canadians, including new Canadians, to understand and appreciate the importance of indigenous peoples to our heritage.
The bill we are proposing is consistent with the values and practices that exist in Canada today. The revised text of the oath uses wording that reflects a broad range of rights held by diverse indigenous peoples.
The government encourages all immigrants to take the path to full membership and permanent belonging in Canadian society. Canada's diversity is among its greatest strengths. We are a strong and united country because of, not in spite of, our differences. Canada's commitment to diversity and inclusion is an essential approach to making this country and this world a better, safer place.
My riding of Don Valley East is one of the most diverse ridings in Canada, comprising immigrants and Canadians whose backgrounds are from all over the world. This change to the wording of the oath of citizenship is important to my constituents and to all Canadians. It reflects the fact that we are all immigrants, regardless of how far back we track our ancestry. It is important to recognize first nations, Inuit and Métis people as the first peoples of this land.
The Government of Canada is focused on building an inclusive society with a sense of belonging and a common set of values shared throughout our country, while valuing the diversity that people of all origins bring to Canada.
Canada welcomes immigrants and helps them to settle, integrate and succeed here in Canada. This is both our history and our present. The success of immigrants is our success as a strong and united country. Taking the oath of citizenship at a citizenship ceremony is a requirement to become a Canadian citizen, but the oath is much more than just words. As I mentioned previously, taking the oath demonstrates that a new Canadian embraces the values of social cohesion, openness and transparency in an open, free, democratic and diverse Canada.
As I meet with many people, young and old, it is amazing how few know the history of the indigenous people, what they have contributed and what they have done to ensure that we, the newcomers, have a good life in Canada. If it were not for the hospitality of the indigenous people, none of us would be here. It is sad that their history is not taught in schools. The change in the oath is but a first step, and that is what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report states:
Precisely because “we are all Treaty people,” Canada’s Oath of Citizenship must include a solemn promise to respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
In closing, I would note that the aim of this change to the oath of citizenship is to raise newcomers' awareness, and emphasize the importance, of aboriginal and treaty rights. Beyond the introduction of this bill, we must keep moving forward together on many fronts. Continued progress will require a new level of commitment, determination and partnership. It will also require a great deal of patience and perseverance. Above all, we must continue to build trust through stronger, more collaborative and respectful relationships, and by working on the issues that matter most to Canada's indigenous communities.
Canada's ethos of pluralism is a model for the world, and it is a constant work in progress. Diversity and inclusiveness, through the fabric of all its peoples, make Canada stronger. This is part of our government's ongoing commitment to meet the goals of reconciliation with the first nations, and serves as an important and necessary step toward reconciliation.