Citizenship Ceremony Remarks

October 11 & 12, 2016
Vancouver, British Columbia
Citizenship Week 2016




Citizenship Ceremony Speech by
Alden E. Habacon


Good morning.

Special guests, Your Honour, new Canadians, I wish you all a very happy Citizenship Week! I'm so honoured to be part of this special day with you.

I can sense your excitement and joy. It’s like being part of a big wedding.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, specifically the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

For thousands of years, the Coast Salish lived here in community and welcomed guests to their territory. We are all honoured to be enjoying in the legacy of this land. It is my hope that our gathering honours the spirit of this place.

I am especially honoured to be here as I have been working to help newcomers integrate into Canada for the last twelve years. I’m on the board of SUCCESS, the largest immigrant settlement agency on the west coast. And in my professional work, I’ve trained settlement workers and career consultants on how to support newcomers. I’ve also coached thousands of international university students on how to be successful in the Canadian workplace.

Helping newcomers to Canada has been my personal passion for a long-time. I hope that what I have to share will contribute to your prosperity and the prosperity of your family.

I see there a number of children here with their parents.

So it’s only befitting that also acknowledge my parents. You see, I realized later in my life that as a child I had won the lottery. I won the birth lottery, as a matter of fact. I was born to a young couple who chose and made the effort to come to Canada in the 1970s—and because of that, like many of the children here, I was blessed throughout my childhood in ways I never really understood until I was much older. And certainly, I was blessed in ways I could never earn.

Thank you, mom and dad, for choosing Canada.

And thank you again, Canada, for choosing our family so long ago.

I came to Canada at the age of two, and have been a Canadian for over 40 years. I hope to share with you some insight on the next 40 years of your journey as a new Canadian.

I’ll start by asking you a question: have you ever wondered when and where Canadians feel the most Canadian?

Canada Day perhaps? Or cheering for Canada during the Olympic and Paralympic Games? Or when the Blue Jays win? Maybe it’s when Canadians watch the U.S. Presidential debates? 

I was in Washington DC the day after the first U.S. Presidential debate, and my friends teased me about our Prime Minister, who many Americans see as being the polar opposite of what is happening in the United States.

The research actually tells us that Canadians feel the most Canadian when they are travelling outside of Canada, especially on occasions like Canada Day or during the Stanley Cup Playoffs—and especially when they are back to their home country, or the country of their ancestors.

Now that might not make sense at first. So allow me to explain.

In being here, as a part of Canadian society, the things that Canadians say, how they interact with each other, what Canadians consider to be important—all of these are influencing you everyday. But you don’t realize how much you’ve changed until you go elsewhere.

When I was 21 I visited Manila (Philippines), where I was born, for the first time as an adult. And when I got off the plane, my body had this feeling like I knew this place. I was jolted by the realization that everyone around me looked kind of like me. It was a strangely comforting experience.

But over the next couple weeks, I began to meet people. I talked to my family and made new friends. And I realized, I didn’t see the world the same as them. I was undeniably Filipino, but it was my perspective that made me feel so undeniably Canadian.

I want you to know, this transformation will happen and is already happening to many of you. And I encourage you not resist it. It’s why you chose Canada.

This brings me to something that I hope will really stick with you today. I want to share with you what I believe is the hardest thing about being a Canadian.

The other day I heard a woman complain that because of multiculturalism, because of immigration, we no longer have a clear sense of Canadian values.

I totally disagree. All you have to do is ask new Canadians.

Multiculturalism, for example, is a great Canadian value.

With a show of hands, how many here decided to bring their family to Canada partly because of its reputation as being a multicultural place?

Egalitarianism, the idea that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social and civil rights. This is a great Canadian value. How many of you chose Canada because of its reputation as an egalitarian society?

A desire to resolve conflict with negotiation over violence, and a commitment to maintain balance between individualism and the wellbeing of the group, these are both great Canadian values.

These values, the ones you all raised your hands to, the ones you came to Canada for -- Multiculturalism, egalitarianism, nonviolence, the balance between my individual needs and the needs of my community—they … well, they sound nice. But, they are deceivingly hard to live by.

They sound like these should be easy to do. And, in fact, they are very easy to enjoy. You and I are benefiting from them right now, without any effort at all.

But, in actuality, adopting them, living and modelling these values can be, for some, the hardest thing they've ever done in their lives. 

These great Canadian values will force you, and all those who claim to be Canadian, to change, to stretch, and consider new ways of seeing and living amongst profoundly different people.

You may not see it yet, but you and your families are the future champions to these values.

Like a wedding, there’s a lot of joy but there’s also a little bit of anxiety about how this is going to work out. There’s always a bit of nervousness at whether the couple and the couple’s families will be compatible. We know that couples who take the time to learn a bit about marriage and each other before they get married, have a better chance of succeeding as a couple.

We also know, that at the heart of any healthy marriage is a strong sense of each other’s expectations. I need to know what you need to feel welcomed and included in Canadian society. Likewise, you and your family will need to know what Canadians expect of you, today and for as long as you consider yourself a Canadian. That’s marriage.

We won’t always agree. We won’t always be happy with each other. But, today you make a commitment to give this marriage the best possible chance. And I assure you that in making that commitment today, all of Canada has also made the commitment to support you and your family in living and fostering the values that make this place our home.

With that thought, I hope the knowledge shared with you today, of what is ahead of you, will help you and your families thrive and make giant contributions to Canadian society. I wish you much prosperity and good health, and I hope you wake up everyday thinking, as I do, of how lucky I am to be a Canadian.

Thank you, and congratulations.