Hon. Michael Chan: I rise today to recognize Citizenship Week in Canada. In fact, it is an honour and a privilege, as an immigrant to this great country 39 years ago, to now stand before you to speak about the importance of citizenship.
When I took my Canadian citizenship oath, it was one of the most humbling and joyous days in my life. I knew that as a citizen of the greatest country in the world, I would enjoy the many privileges and rights we are so blessed to have, and I vowed to give something back to my new country.
It wasn't that long ago when Canadians did not have the many privileges citizenship offers. In fact, the first Canadian to become a Canadian citizen was Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1947. Prior to then, Canadians were merely British subjects living in Canada. Prime Minister King wisely noted, "Without citizenship, much else is meaningless."
Citizenship is the key to opportunity, to rights and to privileges. It is our membership in the community of Canada and Ontario and our neighbourhoods. But it is also about so much more. It's about becoming participating members in our communities. It's about making an individual commitment to keep our province and our country the finest place to live.
Our province is home to people from more than 200 countries who come to Canada to realize their hopes and dreams for a better future. One of these dreams is to become a citizen of this country. In fact, 85% of our immigrants do become Canadian citizens.
As Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I have the honour of taking part in many citizenship ceremonies. At these ceremonies and throughout my travels, I hear the stories of so many who give so much to their new country.
One of the most valuable ways citizens contribute is through volunteering. More than five million Ontarians give their time, their skills and their caring to more than 45,000 non-profit organizations across the province. They volunteer with the arts community, sports teams, food banks, service organizations, and the list goes on.
Their contributions are their commitment as Canadians. They are participating and they are giving. This participation and these contributions enrich our country, our province and each and every one of us. Volunteering is truly citizenship in action. Citizenship is so much more than a handshake and piece of paper. It's a lasting bond with our country. It is our individual and collective commitment to care for our neighbours, share with our communities and work together to make this country an even greater place to live.
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