Ryerson University hosts first citizenship ceremony
Ryerson and the International Student Services department played host to its first citizenship ceremony in the Sears Atrium with Citizenship and Immigration Canada last Monday where thirty people became Canadian citizens.
The university’s soon-to-be interim president Mohamed Lachemi shared his experience of coming to Canada from Algeria almost 30 years ago. He said he faced many of the same barriers the people in the room may be up against that are common to the disorientation that comes with leaving a familiar way of life beside your family and friends and venturing off to a country that is so many miles away.
“I can tell you with hard work and with people here and elsewhere, there are people who will help you achieve your goals,” said Lachemi.
Immigration judge Nancy M. Siew applauded the great difficulties many people in the room may have experienced to get their citizenship.
Mary Cruz who came to Canada in 2007, said she had to leave her husband behind in the Philippines when her work visa was approved. She said it wasn’t until four years later that Rossano Cruz would be approved for immigration that she would see him again in person.
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“Having a citizenship ceremony on campus shows to the broader community that institutions like Ryerson are welcoming,” said Sanjid Anik, an international student advisor at ISS who was behind the initiative. “I hope the new citizens view Ryerson as a welcoming space and remember us in their memories.”
The ceremony was followed by a reception for the citizens with refreshments. At 3 PM, the Sears Atrium held a panel called “Deconstructing Bill C-24” to continue Ryerson’s discourse on citizenship. Panelist included representatives from the Ryerson Students’ Union, Continuing Education Students at Ryerson, ISS, and Ryerson’s World University Service of Canada (WUSC) program. The discussion was mediated by politics professor Tariq Amim-Khan and put together by the school’s cultural awareness committee.
“As a university we have a responsibility to show every side,” said Anik. “On one side it’s great that we are Canadian and that ceremony is important to celebrate but we also need to have an academic discussion on what this bill — that is now an act — means for Canadian citizenship.”
RSU vice-president equity Rabia Idrees started the panel discussion by talking about the Harper government’s divisive and controversial legislation. She said Bill C-24 — or the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act — followed a trend Harper used in the past to gain votes by inducing fear and promoting a predominantly inclusive and Eurocentric perspective.
“I haven’t seen any direct indications that Canada is a safer country through this bill,” said Idrees. “On the other hand I have seen more attacks towards people who are Muslim where they are being outlined as being terrorists and an enemy of Canada.”
CESAR vice-president equity Janet Rodriguez said she was concerned with where the priorities of the government are.
“In October a year ago, a straight white male was shot. Immediately, the government decided $24 million, we’re going to the Middle East and we’re going to fight that war,” said Rodriguez referring to last years shooting at Parliament Hill.
“At the same time, 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls have disappeared and thousands of Canadians and indigenous voices have raised to ask, to plead, to demand that something be done to stop that violence towards women and girls in this very land. But what did the government do?” Rodriguez asked regarding the inaction towards the issue.
No one on the panel said they felt safer with the new law.
Annie Jiang, an ISS international student advisor said, “I don’t think it’s made anything safer for our citizens. I think it’s created tensions and two-tier citizenship in this country.”
She said people who are born here but have parents who were born in another country, could be asked to leave Canada and go to their parent’s country if their parents commit a crime.
Jiang said the legislation is creating a sense of insecurity, “We don’t know how and when citizenship can be revoked and we don’t know the government’s definition of terrorism.”
The bill makes citizenship a privilege not a right, said Ridski Samsulhadi, Ryerson’s WUSC program co-chair.
“There is nothing in the bill that will ever touch a group of Canadians who were born here and whose parents were born here even if they are a high-class criminal. That’s privilege. That’s divisive.”
Jiang was quick to say citizenship should remain a right, not a privilege.
“Canadian courts have long said citizenship is fundamental to one’s membership in Canadian society and citizenship should not be an alternative way to punish people,” said Jiang.
“The citizenship regime should be separated from the criminal code,” she said.
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