In this file photo, Hui-Chen Blaikie, originally from Taiwan, accepts a canadian flag after becoming a canadian citizen during a citizenship ceremony at Vincent Massey High School in October of this year.
Citizenship ceremonies will likely return to Brandon early next year, according to Citizenship Judge Jim McCrae.
The ceremonies were previously held in Brandon biannually for more than a decade before they were pulled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
"I understand that there will be ceremonies in the future in Brandon," McCrae said. "It’s looking good for something in the earlier months of 2014."
McCrae said CIC has to make sure there are enough new citizens for a local ceremony.
The former Brandon city councillor has been busy over the past six months officiating citizenship ceremonies in Winnipeg. Ceremonies were also held in Thompson and Clear Lake. McCrae said he looks forward to officiating in Brandon, where he still resides.
A return of the ceremonies to the Wheat City would be welcome news to many, including Mayor Shari Decter Hirst.
"I think that it’s very unfortunate that families have to travel into Winnipeg to be part of this ceremony that should be a community celebration," Decter Hirst said.
The mayor said she never missed a ceremony in the past three years. Ceremonies were held at Brandon schools.
"It was a wonderful learning experience for young children as well, looking at community … and civic pride," she said. "I just think it’s wonderful when you can get a community together to celebrate that kind of achievement."
Richard Bruce, executive director of Westman Immigrant Services, said he, too, would like to once again see the ceremonies held locally.
"It’s always nice to have it where you live, there’s no question about that," Bruce said. "And because we have a judge here, I would have every expectation that probably sometime in 2014 there would in fact be a ceremony here, but that’s … just a wish list for us."
Former Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed said in May that he was "99 per cent certain" the city would host future citizenship ceremonies.
Operational guidelines put in place in 2012 stated that itinerant services should not be provided in locations less than 300 km from an office. Since Brandon is roughly 200 km from Winnipeg, the distance falls within the guideline.
A CIC spokesperson said in an emailed statement to the Sun that the department is making operational changes.
"It is modernizing the way it works, reducing overhead costs, and streamlining programs and operations for efficient service delivery and better value for money to Canadians," the statement said. "CIC is currently reviewing plans for possible citizenship ceremony in Brandon in 2014."
Several factors are considered when determining where itinerant services may be scheduled, including wait times, size of inventories, capacity. There are other considerations, such as special events, historic and momentous occasions, and special circumstances.
Newly elected Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire, who is expected to be officially sworn in next month, said it is "unfortunate" that the city does not currently host citizenship ceremonies.
Maguire said the issue is something he plans to work on in Ottawa.
"I think we’ve got enough of a population base here that we could at least have a ceremony a year here, maybe two if we could build on that," Maguire said. "I will certainly be working on that to see if we can bring something about."
Each year, approximately 4,500 newcomers are sworn in as Canadian citizens in Manitoba, according to the province. In 2012, a total of 13,312 newcomers arrived in the province, one of the largest numbers of new Manitobans since the start of modern record keeping in 1946.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 14, 2013