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Unique citizenship ceremony kicks off week-long focus on migrants and refugees

News release details

Writer John Ralston Saul joined by Grand Chief, Premier, Mayor at Museum

An enhanced citizenship ceremony featuring roundtable discussions between community members and 50 new Canadians takes place at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) on Monday.

John Ralston Saul, the award-winning essayist and novelist who founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) with Adrienne Clarkson — Canada's first refugee Governor General — will preside over the ceremony and deliver a keynote address. Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, Premier Brian Pallister, Mayor Brian Bowman, Manitoba Metis Federation vice-president Ron Chartrand, and Museum president and CEO John Young will also make remarks.

The event, organized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in partnership with the ICC and CMHR, includes the opportunity for new citizens, guests and diverse community members to share stories of their journeys and their hopes and aspirations for Canada.

What: Citizenship ceremony and roundtable discussions

When: Monday, May 9, 2016

  • 1 p.m. – roundtable discussions in CMHR's MTS Classrooms. Private event. (NOTE: media are welcome to shoot video and still photos, but interviews and audio recording are not permitted during this session.)
  • 2 p.m. – ceremony in CMHR's Bonnie & John Buhler Hall. Free public event. (Interviews welcomed after the ceremony.)

Where: CMHR, 85 Israel Asper Way, Winnipeg – please use Group Entrance

(Please note that the Museum's galleries will be closed on Monday)

"Citizenship and human rights are deeply connected," Young said. "Our citizenship links us to our identity, our community, and our place in the world. Citizenship includes both rights and responsibilities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one can be deprived of their nationality, nor denied the right to change their nationality."

Ralston Saul believes that modern Canada – including its notions of citizenship – has been profoundly shaped by the ideas of Indigenous peoples.

"Canada at its best is very much the product of the long relationship with Indigenous peoples, their approaches and philosophies; and above all, their concepts of inclusion and belonging, which today we would call immigration and citizenship," he wrote recently in the Globe and Mail. "If the central characteristic of Canada is its complexity, this also is an outcome of our long relationship with Indigenous peoples. In particular we owe a great deal to the example of the Métis Nation, the very model of living complexity."

The CMHR participates in ICC's Cultural Access Pass program, which enables new citizens to experience more than 1,200 of Canada's premier cultural attractions for free during their first year of citizenship.

Next week at the CMHR will be dominated by events and programs focused on migrants and refugees:

  • On Wednesday (May 11), the Museum marks Asian Heritage Month with an afternoon panel discussion about the Asian-Canadian refugee experience in Canada, featuring refugees from Malaysia, Vietnam and Syria who now live in Winnipeg – followed by an Asian fusion showcase of performances in the evening.
  • The Museum will open a new exhibit next week about the perilous voyages across the Mediterranean undertaken by millions of migrants and refugees fleeing war, persecution and instability – focused on the recent rescue work of groups like Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders.
  • Winnipeg next week hosts the annual conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (May 11–14) at Menno Simons College, which will bring hundreds of NGO workers, academics and human rights advocates from 30 countries to the city, including a tour and curator talk at the CMHR. This year's conference theme is Freedom of Movement. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 13) states that everyone has the right to freedom of movement within and across borders. Today, unprecedented numbers of people are being denied this fundamental freedom. 

The Institute for Canadian Citizenship(ICC) was founded in 2006 by the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, the first refugee Governor General of Canada, and John Ralston Saul, award-winning essayist and novelist, to welcome new Canadian citizens and foster active citizenship for all Canadians, regardless of whether their family has been here for five years, five generations or since before the first settlers arrived.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It is the first national museum in Canada to be built outside the National Capital Region. Using multimedia technology and other innovative approaches, the Museum creates inspiring encounters with human rights appropriate for all ages, in a visitor experience unlike any other.

Media contacts

Maureen Fitzhenry