The Senate chamber on Parliament Hill is seen on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The Senate chamber on Parliament Hill is seen on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian citizenship oath could help newcomers learn more about Indigenous people

Canada poised to amend the Citizenship Act to update the oath in line with TRC recommendations

Sharon Nyangweso says she first heard of Indigenous people in Canada when she was eight years old. Her family had just moved to Canada for her mother’s job at the Kenya High Commission in Ottawa. At one of the gatherings, a guest approached her mom upon learning they just arrived in the city.

What happened next stuck with Nyangweso.

The person told her mom to avoid Rideau Street because Indigenous people were there and “they were always drunk.” This memory unsettles her to this day, because the comment came not from a naturalized Canadian, but from someone in her own circle.

“That came from another immigrant,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Not just another immigrant, but one that had intimate knowledge of what it meant to be part of a colonized nation.”

Nyangweso said there’s a wide gap when it comes to dissemination of information to immigrants about Indigenous Peoples and cultures in Canada. One that, she said, causes the perpetuation of misconceptions resulting from the country’s history of colonialism.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada, issued 94 recommendations, or calls to action.

Numbers 93 and 94 urged the federal government to update the Canadian citizenship guide and test, as well as the oath, to reflect a more inclusive history of Indigenous Peoples and a recognition of their treaties and rights. This way, newcomers and immigrants to Canada would have a more thorough understanding about First Nations, Métis and Inuit, as well as their cultures.

On Thursday, the House of Commons passed Bill C-8 after unanimously agreeing earlier in the week to fast-track it. The bill, which must still be passed by the Senate, would amend the Citizenship Act to update the oath in line with what the TRC recommended.

The new oath would read: “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.”

At a committee meeting Wednesday, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino thanked all members of Parliament for supporting the passage of the bill, saying he looks forward to working with colleagues in the Senate to ensure it becomes law.

His press secretary, Alexander Cohen, said: “Reconciliation is a whole-of-government initiative.”

Cohen also said the Liberal government is still revamping the content of the new citizenship guide to make it more inclusive. The new guide will have 10 chapters and will paint a diverse image of Canada. It will include stories of Black Canadians, LGBTQ Canadians, francophones and Canadians with disabilities. It will also have a chapter on residential school. There’s still no schedule as to when the updated guide will be released.

Matthew Norris, board president of the Urban Native Youth Association in Vancouver, said recent immigrants to Canada are in a good position to be allies to Indigenous people.

“I think newcomers to Canada have a role to play to understand where the society has come, where to go, and to be voices of support for Indigenous people, as we’re constantly trying to fight for our rights,” said Norris.

Norris said he encourages people and stakeholders to also look at other TRC calls to action, particularly regarding the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bill C-15, which deals with that, is currently before the Senate.

Stronger calls to recommit to the project of reconciliation have emerged after Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced last week that ground-penetrating radar located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in an unmarked burial site on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Over more than a century, some 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly sent to government-funded, church-operated schools, where many suffered abuse and even death.

“We talk about Indigenous history but it’s also the Indigenous presence,” Norris said. “Residential schools weren’t that long ago. It’s affected our family members. It’s affected younger generations. Intergenerational trauma is continuing to rear its ugly head throughout our lives.”

Nyangweso, who just took her citizenship test recently, said adequate information about Indigenous lands, peoples and cultures will help newcomers and immigrants to better engage in civic processes and become better allies for Indigenous rights.

She added she hopes teaching newcomers about Indigenous people and cultures should not just start and end with the citizenship guide or the oath.

She said good information, that’s accessible outside of the citizenship guide, will equip immigrants and new Canadians to be more respectful inhabitants on Indigenous lands.

—Arvin Joaquin, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Watchdog says immigration applicants need easier access to info on their files

RELATED: Retaking language test unfair during COVID-19: applicants to new residency pathway

ImmigrationIndigenous

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported five additional deaths Wednesday due to COVID-19. (File photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer at 169 active cases of COVID-19

Province set to move into Stage 2 of reopening Thursday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Most Read