Video: How to Host a Citizenship Ceremony
This informative video advises how to plan and host a citizenship ceremony, step-by-step.
Alternative formats and transcript
The citizenship ceremony is a formalized rite of passage that pinpoints the moment someone enters the Canadian family. For many, it’s the realization of a dream. Sometimes, it marks the beginning of a new life. The ceremony confers the rights and acknowledges the responsibilities of citizenship described in Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, the citizenship study guide. Some of these are:
Rights of citizenship:
- the right to vote in federal, provincial, and territorial elections
- the right to be a candidate in federal, provincial, and territorial elections
- the right to live and work anywhere in Canada, and to enter and leave Canada freely
- the right to primary and secondary education for the English or French linguistic minority population
- the right to apply for a Canadian passport.
Responsibilities of citizenship:
- to obey Canada’s laws
- to take responsibility for oneself and one’s family
- to serve on a jury when called
- to vote in elections
- to help others in the community
- to protect Canada’s heritage and environment.
Citizenship therefore becomes a prized possession, because it is only attained after great thought and preparation. The ceremony is a celebration that is a reminder for all of the rich diversity of culture, ethnicity and languages that define Canada. The ceremony is a tangible example of the characteristics and symbols that bind us together as one nation.
This booklet is designed to assist your organization in hosting a ceremony. Community groups, service clubs and private companies are encouraged to take part in the process. As a partner with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), your group can play a significant role in the integration of new citizens into the broader community.
A citizenship ceremony is the final step in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen. It occurs after the individual passes either a written test or an oral hearing. There is a legal requirement for the individual to attend the ceremony and take the Oath of Citizenship. During the ceremony, the new citizen receives a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship. Guests attending the ceremony, who are Canadian citizens, may be invited to reaffirm their commitment to Canada by repeating the oath along with the new citizens.
CIC’s commitment to community relations
Many community groups have a strong interest in Canadian citizenship. Groups assist clients in completing their applications and preparing themselves for their citizenship test or hearing. For many years, CIC has worked with community groups to support their involvement in the hosting of citizenship ceremonies. More recently, the department has provided an opportunity for Canadians to participate in reaffirmation ceremonies to demonstrate a commitment to Canada. Read more information on how to organize a reaffirmation ceremony.
What’s in it for community groups?
Groups are encouraged to participate with CIC in hosting a citizenship ceremony or reaffirmation ceremony at the local CIC facility or at a community-based site. Non-governmental organizations benefit from hosting a ceremony by:
- raising their group’s profile in the community
- celebrating Canadian citizenship with Canada’s newest citizens
- promoting the values of citizenship in the community and recognizing the responsibilities of citizenship
- encouraging the acquisition of citizenship by members of your group.
Who is involved in a ceremony?
There are many individuals involved in the preparation of the ceremony. But the most important people at the event are the new citizens. This is their day and the focus should be on making the event a memorable one for them.
There are others who have a special and distinctive role. Knowing who and what their responsibilities are will give you an understanding of the process.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada Officials/Clerk of the Ceremony
These individuals are trained citizenship staff who can provide you with invaluable assistance. They are responsible for organizing the citizenship ceremony. Citizenship staff work in partnership with interested groups to conduct a ceremony that is both meaningful and sensitive to the diversity that exists in the community. They ensure that all the necessary legal requirements of the citizenship process as outlined in the Citizenship Act are met. They also ensure that all necessary administrative functions are carried out. These would include:
- ensuring candidates are given sufficient notice and instruction
- approving the location of the ceremony
- working with your group in planning the program
- ensuring that the ceremony program and national anthem are available in both official languages — English and French
- reviewing the list of invited guests
- reviewing opening remarks and speeches
- officiating at the ceremony
- inviting local RCMP to participate in the ceremony
- assisting with photo opportunities at the reception.
Master of Ceremonies
The Master of Ceremonies’ role may be to provide opening remarks and introduce special guests. The Master of Ceremonies can, for example, be a representative of a community group.
The Presiding Officer of a swearing-in ceremony may be a Citizenship Judge, or a member of the Order of Canada, as well as certain recipients of the Order of Military Merit and the Royal Victorian Order, provided they are authorized by the Registrar of Canadian Citizenship and they have volunteered to participate. The Governor General, Lieutenants-Governor and Commissioners of the Territories may also be invited to preside at citizenship ceremonies.
The Presiding Officer administers the Oath of Canadian Citizenship and delivers remarks appropriate to this special occasion. He or she presents the new citizens with their certificates and, when possible, is available for photographs after the ceremony is concluded.
Candidates for citizenship are the focal point of the ceremony. Many have overcome barriers and obstacles in order to reach this point in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen. Subject to their consent, candidates may be interviewed or recorded (by audio or video) either prior to or following the ceremony.
Family and friends are often present and share in the special occasion.
The participation of special guests in a citizenship ceremony enhances the event. They can be representatives from the three levels of government, local community leaders or other dignitaries.
All persons invited to speak at the ceremony must be aware that the ceremony is not an opportunity to present political views, to present a point of view or to sell a product. Their greetings should offer congratulations to the new citizens and be no more than three minutes long. Special guests should be invited to participate in the post-ceremony photograph session.
During election campaigns, incumbent members or candidates should not be invited to a ceremony. Candidates for office who attend will not be introduced or asked to speak.
Citizenship ceremonies offer a unique opportunity to showcase local talent. The program can include a variety of entertainment either during the ceremony or at the reception. The presence of ethnic dancers, singers and musicians creates a celebratory atmosphere and promotes our multicultural heritage.
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer in full red serge uniform is often part of the proceedings. Citizenship staff arranges with the local RCMP detachment for an officer to take part in the citizenship ceremony. The officer’s official role is to open and close the citizenship ceremony and to represent Canada’s law enforcement agency.
An RCMP officer’s presence enhances the dignity and formality of the occasion as he or she often leads the procession that is composed of the Presiding Officer and special guests. The officer is also available for photographs after the ceremony.
Host group or co-sponsor
Citizenship and Immigration Canada encourages partnerships with a wide variety of groups to make citizenship ceremonies accessible to the general public.
A host group or a co-sponsor may include a non-governmental organization, an educational institution, service club, business group, company, union, volunteer group, not-for-profit organization, all three levels of government or other community groups.
A host takes an active part along with CIC in the preparation and presentation of the citizenship ceremony and reception. Some hosts may not wish to take part in all aspects of the ceremony or reception. They may take responsibility for the costs of the reception (e.g., finger food and non-alcoholic beverages) or meet any indirect costs associated with the ceremony (e.g., rental of a hall).
Citizenship ceremonies often attract media attention. These are good news stories and the media frequently request interviews with new citizens. New citizens are made aware that there may be media in attendance and are asked to sign a media release prior to the ceremony. Federal privacy legislation protects candidates from being identified, interviewed or photographed without their consent.
The host group, in consultation with CIC officials, may invite the media to attend the event. Staff are prepared to assist reporters and arrange interviews.
You may wish to ensure that there is a suitable area set aside for interviews and that sufficient electrical outlets are available for television or radio personnel. If there are concerns about the presence of the media at an event, the host group should consult citizenship staff or the local manager of CIC Communications.
Where are ceremonies held?
Ceremonies may be held at an appropriate location in the community or at the local Citizenship and Immigration office. Selecting the location of a citizenship ceremony is a key element of the success of the event. Consultation with citizenship staff is necessary prior to confirming the location of the ceremony.
Local Citizenship and Immigration Office
Host groups, with the agreement of citizenship staff, may host a citizenship ceremony and reception at the local CIC office facility.
Guidelines for selecting a site
- The size must comfortably accommodate the new citizens and guests.
- The facility must conform to a ceremony-style floor plan, including stage and lectern, and if desired, a portrait of the Queen and a large Canadian flag may be displayed.
- The facility (including washrooms) must be wheelchair-accessible.
- A separate dressing room should be available for the Presiding Officer and the Clerk of the Court.
- A separate meeting room for the pre-ceremony briefing of new citizens is preferable.
- A separate meeting room should be made available for platform guests.
- Ample parking space and access to public transportation for citizens and guests should be ensured.
- An adequate stage and adequate lighting and sound systems should be available.
- Temperature controls should be available.
- Service clubs
- Royal Canadian Legion Hall
- Police stations
- Ethnic associations and multicultural centres
- Museums and art galleries
- Community centres and recreation centres
- Civic centres/City Hall
- Private companies
- Federal or provincial facilities
- Church halls (Please note that citizenship ceremonies may not be conducted in sacred areas of worship)
- Chamber of Commerce
- Council chambers
Things to keep in mind when selecting community sites
As with any large event, there may be unpredictable elements that are beyond your control. Holding a citizenship ceremony in a public location may pose challenges. Keeping the following elements in mind will help to minimize any difficulties that you may encounter.
There may be problems associated with open-air sites or sites that are accessible to all members of the public as disorderly behaviour may interrupt the proceedings.
Outdoor sites can be threatened by both rain and heat. Where possible, have a suitable alternative indoor site.
Ensure that the area is free of any offensive posters, signs or markings.
When can citizenship ceremonies be held?
Citizenship ceremonies can be held at any time provided that they do not conflict with the schedules of citizenship staff. Ceremonies have been held during the morning, afternoon and early evening. Generally, ceremonies that are held on weekdays occur during normal business hours. Special ceremonies have been convened on Saturdays, Sundays and on Canada Day. It is not the practice to hold citizenship ceremonies on any other statutory holiday.
Guidelines for hosting a citizenship ceremony
The citizenship ceremony is governed by a set of legislative requirements. The Citizenship Act clearly defines the requirements to be met to become a Canadian citizen. Two other acts, the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, play a significant role in the format and content of the ceremonies.
The citizenship ceremony provides the Government of Canada with the opportunity to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the values inherent in Canadian society, among which is the equality of status of both official languages. During the ceremony, we must emphasize the linguistic duality of Canada and the Oath of Citizenship must be administered in both English and French.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act recognizes Canada’s cultural diversity. It states that “all Canadians are free to maintain and share their cultural heritage and to participate fully and equally in Canada’s national life.” Therefore, comments made and actions taken at a citizenship ceremony must respect and promote a better understanding and appreciation of Canada’s diverse cultures.
If you have decided that you or your group want to host a citizenship ceremony, these guidelines will assist you in developing a plan. Please note that the length of the ceremony may vary depending on the circumstances.
Planning the ceremony
Stage 1 (2 to 3 months prior to ceremony)
- Contact the Citizenship Manager or Citizenship staff in writing and indicate your interest in hosting or sponsoring a citizenship ceremony.
- Confirm the date with the citizenship official. Allow plenty of time for the possibility of rescheduling. Remember, when planning an event, that there may be cultural or religious sensitivities associated with a particular calendar day.
- Identify and confirm with citizenship staff an appropriate location that will easily accommodate large numbers of people.
- A planning meeting with citizenship staff could be held to determine the number of people expected and special guests, and to identify the Presiding Officer. If you wish to have a member of the Order of Canada conduct the ceremony, an invitation will need to be extended to him/her. It is also desirable to confirm the participation of special guests.
Stage 2 (4 to 6 weeks prior to ceremony)
- Plan the layout of the site of the ceremony — including the placement of chairs, stage, etc.
- Develop an invitation list and share it with citizenship staff
- Send invitations
- Identify and invite media
- Organize entertainment or musical interlude
- Plan reception
- Recruit volunteers as ushers and reception hosts
- Inform citizenship staff of major public transportation routes leading to the location of the ceremony
- Arrange for a photographer
- Finalize arrangements with caterers, florist, musicians, etc.
- Arrange for a clean-up committee
- Review detailed scenario of event prepared by the Clerk of the Ceremony.
Stage 3 (2 to 3 weeks prior to ceremony)
- Develop and review the program or schedule of events with citizenship staff (refer to sample program attached)
- Allow plenty of time for revision of program and translation into the second official language
- Confirm any special arrangements (i.e., guest speakers, performances, music)
- Confirm reception menu (bear in mind some dietary restrictions)
- Commence media promotion (if applicable)
- Review speeches or remarks where possible with citizenship staff
- Assemble promotional materials (Canadian flag pins, bookmarks, O Canada song cards, etc.).
Stage 4 (2 to 3 days prior to ceremony)
- Set up facility and ensure sound and lighting systems are in working order
- Conduct briefing of volunteers and assign ceremonial duties
- Prepare final version of program for printing
- Print sufficient copies of program
- Confirm all plans for reception.
Stage 5 (day of ceremony)
- Arrive at facility well in advance of the ceremony
- Ensure all facilities are in order
- Set up for reception
- Greet new citizens and guests
- Identify media and provide assistance.
Stage 6 (immediately following ceremony and reception)
- Ensure facilities are returned to original condition.
Place / Date / Time
- Words of welcome and introduction of the guests by the Master of Ceremonies
- Opening Remarks by the Presiding Officer
- The Oath of Citizenship
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 and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
- Presentation of Certificates of Citizenship
- Speeches by special guest(s)
- Closing Remarks
- National Anthem
O Canada, Our home and native land
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
the True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
What’s involved in hosting a reception?
It is customary for the host group to provide a reception following the ceremony. The reception is a time of celebration for the new citizens and their guests. The following guidelines outline the requirements for a successful reception:
- Host group should be at the site at least 45 minutes prior to the ceremony
- Identify yourselves as reception hosts to the citizenship staff
- Preparation of beverages and finger food is completed prior to the ceremony
- Members of the host group should attend the ceremony (or at a minimum be represented by one member)
- Host group should bring greetings at the ceremony and invite new citizens and guests to participate in the reception
- Host group serves food and beverages at the reception
- Host group is responsible for clean-up of reception area.
- choice of finger foods: cakes, cookies, sandwiches, cheese, crackers
- disposable cups, straws
- paper towels/tea towels.
- Give proper notice to citizenship staff of your intent to host a ceremony (2 to 3 months)
- Have detailed and organized plans
- Consult with citizenship staff
- Translate any remarks that are not made in either official language
- Conduct a ceremony that welcomes all cultures in your community
- Be sensitive to community issues
- Familiarize yourself with a citizenship ceremony by attending one in advance.
- The citizenship ceremony cannot be exclusive, that is, only for candidates of a single ethnic or religious origin, or for a specific age group.
- There can be no sales, marketing, promotion of religious, political, social policies or platforms by a host or sponsor. This includes distribution or availability of literature and business cards. A Canadian citizenship ceremony is not the time or the place to refer to conflicts in other countries, or to a specific faith or denomination.
- Sponsors and hosts can be community organizations, companies, non-profit organizations, unions, volunteer groups, service clubs, or veterans’ organizations.
- Refreshments should be simple — tea, coffee, juice, cookies, coffee cakes and other simple dishes. Under no circumstances should beer, wine, or liquor be served.
A rewarding experience
Since 1947, community groups, service clubs and private companies have worked with citizenship staff to host or sponsor citizenship ceremonies. Elementary and secondary schools, municipal governments, art galleries, museums, federal departments, and a variety of multicultural organizations have hosted citizenship ceremonies. Many of these organizations have requested to repeat the function on a regular basis.
Hosting a citizenship ceremony in your community is a rewarding experience. Moreover, it can be your opportunity to contribute in a tangible way to the changing tapestry that is the Canadian family. When we work together to weave the disparate strands in our society, it serves to strengthen and preserve the fabric of our diverse cultures.
For more information on how you can host a citizenship ceremony, contact the CIC Call Centre.