Proposed change will recognize rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples
MARCO E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, on Tuesday introduced a Bill to amend the Citizenship Act to change Canada’s Oath of Citizenship. The bill responds to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by inserting text that refers to the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The federal government said it is committed to reconciliation and a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. The proposed amendment to the Oath demonstrates its commitment to reconciliation and to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The new proposed language adds references to the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples:
“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 fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
All new Canadians recite the Oath before receiving their Canadian citizenship. By doing so, new Canadians promise to abide by the laws of Canada and to take on the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.
The government said it encourages all new citizens to join the Canadian family by becoming active in their communities and upholding Canadian values.
“The Oath is a solemn declaration that all newcomers recite during the citizenship ceremony. With this amendment, we will take an important step towards reconciliation by encouraging new Canadians to fully appreciate and respect the significant role of Indigenous Peoples in forming Canada’s fabric and identity,” said Mendicino.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action are an important roadmap for all Canadians. From coast to coast to coast, orders of government, civil society, education and health-care institutions, and the private sector are demonstrating their commitment to this important journey as we build a stronger Canada together. The change to the Oath of Citizenship introduced today responds to Call to Action No. 94 and demonstrates to all Canadians, including to our newest citizens, that Indigenous and treaty rights are an essential part of our country,” said Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
“Indigenous Peoples have a rich history and have helped shape this country. I encourage everyone to respect, learn about and understand the place and importance they have in this country. The Government of Canada is committed to fundamentally transforming the relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The change in the Oath is an important step to create a foundation for a stronger, more prosperous and inclusive Canada,” said Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services.
“The proposed change in the Oath recognizes the contributions that First Nations, Inuit and Métis have made to Canada. I am pleased that we are once again moving forward in making the Oath of Canadian Citizenship inclusive. Reconciliation and reaffirmation of rights will help Canada create a strong, inclusive Northern Policy that will benefit all Northerners and all Canadians,” said Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs.
“I welcome the Government’s new legislation to change the Oath of Citizenship to better reflect a more inclusive history of Canada, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its final report. To understand what it means to be Canadian, it is important to know about the 3 founding peoples – the Indigenous People, the French and the British. Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed. Part of that vision is encouraging all Canadians, including newcomers, to understand the history of First Nations, Métis and Inuit, including information about the treaties and the history of the residential schools so that we all honour the truth and work together to build a more inclusive Canada,” said Senator Murray Sinclair.
* The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final 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.”
* The Government consulted extensively with national Indigenous organizations on amendments to the Oath of Citizenship.
* Canada supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, as well as rights to self-determination, language, equality and land.
* Today, Indigenous People are 5% of Canada’s population—more than 1.6 million people.