The date of Sept. 13, 2012 will forever be etched in the minds of at least 33 individuals who took their oaths of citizenship to become Canadian citizens.
In a ceremony held at the Juniper Centre and presided over by citizenship Judge Harold Gilleshammer, 33 immigrants from 15 different countries were sworn in as Canadians and also welcomed to northern Manitoba and Thompson.
Coun. Judy Kolada attended the ceremony as on behalf of Thompson city council and addressed the new Canadians while welcoming them to Thompson.
“Now more than ever we need skilled workers here in Thompson,” said Kolada, “there are many opportunities for you here and you will all be able to assist in having a full workforce here.”
Gilleshammer has been a citizenship judge since 2007, and this year’s ceremony will be his last.
Gilleshammer was a well-known Tory figure in provincial politics, as he spent 15 years in the Manitoba legislature from 1988 through 2003. Through that entire period, he represented the riding of Minnedosa. He spent much of his political career as part of then-premier Gary Filmon’s Conservative cabinet, beginning in 1990 as minister of family services. In 1993, he became minister of culture, heritage, and citizenship, and served in that role until a January 1997 cabinet shuffle saw him become minister of labour. He was named finance minister in February 1999, and though he retained his seat in the September 1999 election, the Progressive Conservatives were replaced in government by Gary Doer and the NDP. Gilleshammer retired from politics in 2003, and was appointed as a citizenship judge by Prime Minister Stephen Harper December 2007.
In 2011 Gilleshammer lead 42 people in their citizenship oaths in Thompson, and the year previous, 45 new Canadians were sworn in under Gilleshammer.
The year 2012 represents 75 years of the Canadian Citizenship Act, which was enacted on June 27 1946 and came into force on Jan. 1, 1947, the first Canadian Citizenship ceremony was held two days later on Jan. 3, 1947.
The act was the brainchild of former Liberal Cabinet Minister, Paul Martin Sr., who first conceived the idea of a separate Canadian citizenship during the Second World War.
Up until the point that the act was brought into force, Canadian nationals had been legally defined as British subjects, both in Canada and abroad.
Gilleshammer spoke briefly about the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947 while addressing the new Canadians and those in attendance who have be lifelong citizens of Canada.
“This ceremony presents a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what our Canadian citizenship actually means,” said Gilleshammer, “it’s not just a certificate or a passport or a right to vote, being a Canadian citizen means much more than that. We as Canadians enjoy rights and freedoms unknown in many countries around the world; the right to live free from discrimination and persecution, the right to vote and hold office, the right to live and work in any province or territory, the freedom to practice our own religion and the freedom to express our opinions.”
Judge Gilleshammer followed up by saying that with the rights that come with being a Canadian citizen, so to come responsibilities, such as making a difference and helping others and to build safe and welcoming communities and to respect and treat one another with dignity.
The 33 new Canadians were congratulated by Judge Gilleshammer, and to conclude the ceremony, were led by Michelle Pruder in the singing of O Canada.