ARTS & CULTURE | Celebrate Canada!

By Sharon Taylor,

Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society of Prince George-Williams Lake Branch  —

The last week of June gives us an opportunity to Celebrate Canada! with four days focusing on four different elements of Canadian culture.

Photo: Canada and BC flags blowing in the breeze, Williams Lake, BC. Photo: Sharon Taylor

Canada and BC flags blowing in the breeze, Williams Lake, BC. Photo: Sharon Taylor

The first is National Aboriginal Day, June 21. Many Aboriginal cultures traditionally celebrate around the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. June 21 was declared National Aboriginal Day in 1996 to recognize the many different cultures shared by peoples of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis heritage. Watch for the Annual National Aboriginal Day Parade and Celebration in Boitanio Park on Sunday, June 21.

The second is St. Jean Baptiste Day, June 24, celebrating the culture of French Canadians on the day dedicated to the patron saint of French Canadians with parades and music. This feast-day celebrates Francophone identity, culture, history, and achievements. On June 24, wish your French-speaking friends, “Bonne Saint-Jean-Baptiste!

The third is Canadian Multiculturalism Day, June 27. The 1988 Multiculturalism Act states, “multiculturalism reflects the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance, and share their cultural heritage,” as well as being “a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity and that it provides an invaluable resource in the shaping of Canada’s future.” In 2002, then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, herself an immigrant, declared June 27 a day to celebrate Canada’s rich diversity as people combine their cultural traditions with Canadian values of respect and equality for all.

People from many countries have come to the Cariboo for the beautiful natural surroundings and for a safe place to raise a family: countries such as Germany, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Finland, Norway, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Iran, Turkey, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Bermuda, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, El Salvador, the United States, and more.

All this cultural diversity is added to Aboriginal people of the Secwepemc, Carrier, and Tsilhqot’in Nations, and Métis heritage, and to people whose families came from Europe and Asia to settle in the area two, five, or even eight generations ago. The cookbook, Spicing up the Cariboo, was compiled by the Multiculturalism Program staff of the CMHA–Cariboo Chilcotin Branch, and features over 45 Cariboo-Chilcotin residents of various cultural backgrounds flavouring traditional family recipes with stories of hardship, celebration, love, and resilience.

The final day of Celebrate Canada! Week is Canada Day, Wednesday, July 1. This year in Williams Lake, the Canada Day planning committee celebrates cultural diversity with a variety of foods and entertainment. We look forward to having local performers and food vendors from many different traditions share their culture and talent at the Gwen Ringwood Theater in Boitanio Park between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. We’ll also be hosting a “Could YOU become a Canadian?” quiz, testing participants on their knowledge of the information on the Canadian Citizenship test. For more information about applying to be a performer or vendor, contact Suzanne Cochrane, Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex at (250) 398-7665 or scochrane@williamslake.ca.

As much as we appreciate and honour the cultures we came from, it is necessary in Canada to be able to integrate comfortably into the broader Canadian culture as well. If you have any questions about Settlement issues (finding housing or employment, preparing government forms for permanent resident status or Canadian citizenship, or any other needs) or want to improve your English, please contact Sharon Taylor, Settlement Practitioner, Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society of Prince George-Williams Lake Branch (at the corner of 1st and Borland) by phone at (778) 412-2999 or by email at sharont@imss.ca.

 

Becoming a Canadian Citizen

The Williams Lake Branch of the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society of Prince George offers support to people who wish to become Canadian citizens. The process takes some time and planning, but we are always happy to see people complete all the steps and proudly display their Canadian Citizenship papers.

Lots of people think that marrying a Canadian is a fast track to citizenship, but that is not true. Applicants are judged on their own merits, and the process for a spouse is the same for anyone else. Applying to become a Permanent Resident (the first step to becoming a citizen) involves filling out many forms, and processing times can take as long as five years or more. Sometimes it is faster for a person married to a Canadian to apply for permanent resident status from outside of Canada, but it can still take more than a year. The Canadian spouse has to be accepted as an appropriate sponsor before the immigrant’s application is considered.

In order to apply for citizenship, Permanent Residents must have lived in Canada at least three out of the past four years (1,095 days). Sometime in 2015, the Citizenship Act will change so that people will need to live in Canada for four years (1,460 days) out of six years, and at least 183 days in each year. Applicants will also have to prove that they intend to live in Canada once they become citizens.

People ages 18 – 54 need to prove an acceptable level of English or French in order to apply. There are three kinds of proof accepted:

  • Provide high-school or college transcripts proving education in English or French from a country with English or French as an official language. This is not always enough—some people have been requested to provide additional proof.
  • Complete an approved Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program (about 150 hours), and write an assessment test. In Williams Lake, these classes and assessments are available free at IMSS.
  • Achieve the appropriate level in a language evaluation test through one of two approved English language proficiency tests: CELPIP or IELTS, or an approved French language test. These tests are mostly offered in the Lower Mainland, take about three hours to complete, and cost around $300.

Once the application for citizenship has been accepted, people between 18 and 54 must also complete the Canadian Citizenship test. This is a 20-question test, and people must get at least 80% to pass (16 out of 20 questions). A book, Discover Canada, is provided and people must be prepared to answer questions about Canada’s history, geography, legal and government systems, as well as prominent people who have made contributions to Canada and the world. There is a lot of information that people need to study, and nearly 30% of people fail the test the first time. The tests are usually scheduled in Prince George, Vancouver, or Kelowna.

The age limits for both the Language requirement and the Citizenship test will change in 2015, from 18 – 54 to 14 – 64.

  IMSS – Williams Lake offers free monthly Citizenship sessions to help people become familiar with the information in the book, and learn more about ways Canadian systems work in our daily lives. Everyone is welcome to attend. Contact us for upcoming dates.

 

For more information about becoming a Canadian citizen, please contact Sharon at (778) 412-2999 or sharont@imss.ca

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