Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following remarks during a Citizenship Ceremony in Ottawa:
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and thank you to Commodore Hans Jung for that generous introduction. Thank you.
“I also want to give my greetings to all of our distinguished guests who are here today, including our presiding officer. I should mention, Commodore Jung was a little bit brief in his own biography. He is Commander of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group and Surgeon General of Canada. He was born in Korea, has risen steadily up the ladder in the Canadian Forces, becoming the first member of a visible minority to attain senior rank in Canada’s military. Commodore Jung is a superb example of what it means to be a citizen, and of a true immigrant success story. So, congratulations, Commodore.
“It is a great honour to be with all of you here today. This is Citizenship Week, and this is the kind of occasion that reminds anyone who goes into the public life of our country why they do it. Meeting people who, with deep roots in another land, and who, with the world to choose from, have said, ‘this is where my family will plant its roots for the generations to come. Canada is the best place for us.’ Well, that is truly inspiring. We know that Canada is the best country in the world, but thank you, for affirming this and for choosing our land, and welcome into the Canadian family!
“We also understand that this is not an easy process. There have been applications. There have been interviews. There have been long periods of waiting. I know that you’ve studied the new citizenship guide, Discover Canada, and you have indeed begun to discover the history, the symbols, the values and the institutions that define Canada and anchor our society in a tradition of freedom, democracy and rights through peace, order and responsibility.
“Indeed, you might like to know that earlier today, our Government co-launched the ‘Canadian Citizenship Challenge,’ so that high school students from coast to coast to coast can now study Discover Canada and take a mock citizenship test to win prizes for mastering what it teaches.
“Of course, you have already taken, and passed, the test. You have waited a significant period for citizenship itself. And, finally, today, there is confirmation. But in the process, you have shown something important. You have shown your willingness to live by Canadian law and to work within the system we have established, first, to become immigrants, and, now, to receive Canadian citizenship. And I salute you, all of you!
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure you’ve been reading the papers, watching the news. I know that you, probably more than any, are therefore concerned about what we see happening, that is the growing problem of mass arrivals through human smuggling, designed unfortunately, we are forced to conclude in many cases, to jump the queue and work around the system In fact, it’s far worse than that, because this phenomenon calls into question the most basic obligation of a sovereign country to control its own borders.
“I do not blame Canadians whether it is established Canadians, or new citizens such as yourselves, for shaking your heads over this, for becoming cynical or for demanding that we act. But I do worry about the consequences of not acting, because a failure to act and act strongly, will inevitably lead to a massive collapse in public support for our immigration system. Indeed, we have all heard rumblings already of that very kind of reaction. And we cannot afford anything like that to happen, because Canada has been fortunate,
“Because not only do we have relatively speaking the largest immigration program in the world; not only do we have the most generous system of sanctuary for refugees in the world; We also have a level of public support for immigration that is unparalleled elsewhere in the world. And that must continue. Because our economy will need even more immigrants. And, even if it didn’t, our country will always need more people like you who bring your dreams and thus help build our country’s future. We shall therefore be taking action.
“We shall be taking action, action to ensure public confidence in our immigration system and in our borders. Action, to ensure that people who abide by our laws and patiently proceed through our system, like everyone here today, are not made to wait even longer.
“During this session of Parliament, strong new laws are coming to deal with these deeply disturbing trends of mass arrivals through human smuggling. They will provide strong incentives to turn those who want to live in Canada away from this kind of behaviour and toward the legitimate channels of entry that you have pursued.
“And, once again, let me be the first to say to you: thank you pursuing those channels Thank you for choosing Canada. As Minister Kenney said, ours is a land of boundless opportunity, a place of refuge, a bastion of justice, human rights and the rule of law, built by those before us who sacrificed to give us a better life on the understanding that we would do the same for our children and grandchildren. As you go forth from here on this very important day, we embrace you as Canadians, with all the rights and privileges that the name suggests.
“And we call you, as citizens, to discharge the attendant duties and responsibilities, to the full extent of your ability.
“We are all in this together, and together, we shall build an even better country.
“God bless Canada.”
Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on a Citizenship Ceremony in Ottawa