by Gillian Hewitt Smith, Executive Director & CEO, Institute for Canadian Citizenship
October is a particularly striking month in Canada. The air turns cool and crisp, and our green landscapes deepen with vibrant colour. You can’t help but feel Canadian. Sure, there are many other occasions when we feel Canadian – celebrating Canada Day or cheering on our athletes during the Olympics – but allow me to ask: when was the last time you actually thought about what it means to be Canadian, what it means to be a citizen of this country?
Monday, October 15, marks the beginning of National Citizenship Week, and with so many visual cues surrounding us, it’s the perfect time to take a moment to reflect on what makes Canada so unique and what connects us all… citizenship.
As the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Executive Director, I’m passionate about citizenship. I believe it’s the most important thing Canadians share with one another. But for many, the concept of citizenship and how to be a good, active citizen is a mystery. This is why the ICC is reaching out to all Canadians during Citizenship Week to show it’s something many of us already do each day.
Most Canadians automatically associate citizenship with the legal responsibilities: obeying the law, paying taxes and voting. Although these are undeniably important, there’s much more involved.
Earlier this year, we partnered Maytree and the Environics Institute to release Canadians on Citizenship, a national survey asking what it means to be a good citizen in Canada. The responses revealed that in addition to the baseline responsibilities mentioned above, Canadians see civic participation, respecting and accepting difference, gender equality and giving back to one’s community as vital measures of a citizen.
These findings position citizenship in a more tangible, relatable way: citizenship is a series of everyday acts – large and small – that contribute to the life of a community, and to our country.
What’s more, Canadians on Citizenship demonstrated that not only is this textured understanding held by all residents of this country (newcomers, permanent residents, Canadian-born and naturalized citizens), but we believe that everyone – regardless of whether they are Canadian or foreign born – can be a good citizen.
Canadian citizenship gives us so much to celebrate.
This Citizenship Week, we’re encouraging all Canadians to embrace active citizenship: welcome a new citizen or play an active role in your community. We’re also asking everyone to take a moment to think about what it means to be Canadian and visit the ICC’s website to add your thoughts to our citizenship word cloud and see what others have contributed.