One year ago, former Brandon city councillor and longtime Manitoba politician Jim McCrae was appointed a judge with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Since his appointment, McCrae has presided over citizenship ceremonies in Winnipeg, Clear Lake and Thompson in Manitoba, as well as ceremonies in Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Iqaluit, Nunavut.
In that year, he has not had the chance to preside over a citizenship ceremony on his home turf here in Brandon, as the last such ceremony took place in October 2012. But McCrae will finally get that opportunity later this spring when the CIC will hold two citizenship ceremonies in the Wheat City.
Last week, a spokesperson with the CIC told the Sun that the first ceremony will be held June 5 at Waverly Park School, followed by another ceremony the next day at the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba’s Summer Fair.
Citizenship ceremonies were previously held in Brandon biannually for more than a decade, but were pulled in 2012 after operational guidelines were changed, stating that itinerant services should not be provided in locations less than 300 kilometres from a CIC office.
That has meant immigrants from western Manitoba who have earned the honour of Canadian citizenship have had to travel to Winnipeg or Clear Lake ceremonies in order to take part.
Until now, that is.
We are glad that efforts by the Provincial Exhibition and local politicians to bring the ceremonies back to Brandon have borne fruit. They have worked hard to bring the ceremonies back to Brandon, and we applaud them for it.
But we are concerned that the government’s policy has not actually changed. Worse still, there has never been any assurance that this spring’s double ceremony isn’t simply a one-off, meant to placate local voices of protest.
A government spokeswoman simply stated that the “CIC delivers itinerant services, as needed.”
“Many factors are considered when determining where itinerant services may be scheduled, including wait times, size of inventories, capacity, and other considerations, such as special events, historic and momentous occasions, and special circumstances,” she told the Sun.
The problem with the situation facing our city — and likely others in our position — is that the reason the government gave for the policy change in the first place was non-existent. We were thus left to assume that the change was merely a departmental cost-cutting measure by the federal government, as a means to help balance the budget.
That strikes a rather disheartening chord for those Canadians — and those who want to be — who believe citizenship in this country is a valuable thing to have. To our mind, the government’s action has cheapened citizenship in this country, and unnecessarily so.
As we’ve stated before on this page, for a community that has welcomed thousands of new immigrants over the last decade, news of the change has been difficult to accept, as having a local ceremony had become a source of pride.
Brandon should not be considered a “special circumstance” or any other definition under the factors listed by the government mouthpiece. That Manitoba’s second-largest city has been denied a citizenship ceremony on a mere technicality — we’re not close enough to Winnipeg — is an ill-considered move.
Throwing the city a few ceremony dates without considering a reversal of a bad policy decision, in our opinion, is a slap in the face.