There are no immediate plans for future citizenship ceremonies in Campbell River, according to the Immigrant Welcome Centre.
Rachel Blaney, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Centre, said the organization has learned that Citizenship and Immigration Canada may eliminate local citizenship ceremonies to deal with budget cuts.
Blaney said she became aware of the issue through one of her clients a few weeks ago.
“One of our clients was informed by mail in early December that she would write the citizenship exam at Beban Park Recreation Centre in Nanaimo,” Blaney said in a news release. “The client drove to Nanaimo and wrote the exam. Following the test, she was told that she would receive the results by mail from CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada). There was no judge or ceremony, only a promise that a citizenship ceremony will be held at a future date, probably in Vancouver.”
The news comes on the heels of the federal government closing down Citizenship and Immigration offices in both Victoria and Nanaimo last May – the closest office is now in Vancouver.
A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said the department will provide services to Campbell River applicants through itinerant, or travelling, services.
“Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) expects to be in Campbell River this spring,” spokesperson Philippe Couvrette said. “The frequency of our itinerant service will depend on the number of people who require ceremonies or other services.
“CIC staff from Vancouver were in Campbell River in December to conduct both interviews and ceremonies.”
North Island MLA Claire Trevena said the department’s office closures and the uncertainty surrounding local ceremonies are troubling.
“It’s a concern if they’ve closed those offices, if you have to go to Vancouver,” said Trevena in an e-mailed statement. “If you’re a new immigrant you don’t necessarily have a lot of money. It’s going to make it more difficult on people. It doesn’t really encourage openness.”
For nearly 40 years, citizenship ceremonies have been organized locally by the Knights of Columbus.
Theo Berns, who received his Canadian citizenship in 1973, has been involved since then but so far has not received a request from the Vancouver Citizenship and Immigration office to organize another citizenship ceremony for Campbell River. The last ceremony took place in May 2012.
As in past years, new Canadians in this community swore their Oath of Citizenship at the Maritime Heritage Centre, with Quadra Island serving as the backdrop.
During the ceremony, the new citizens were presented with their Certificate of Canadian Citizenship. As is customary, invited guests and local dignitaries and politicians were on hand to welcome the new citizens into the Canadian family.
Blaney said “the Immigrant Welcome Centre has been trying for months to get an answer from Citizenship and Immigration Canada regarding their plan for the people of Campbell River and the Comox Valley” but to no avail.
Couvrette told the Mirror that Campbell River applicants will be served by Citizenship and Immigration staff in the Vancouver office who will travel around the region. The new process is part of the department’s efforts to reduce overhead costs, and to streamline programs and operations.
“The department is moving toward a system that allows for the electronic application, payment and processing of files,” Couvrette said.