My singing voice has the melodic tone of a few stones rattling in the bottom of a bucket.
Thus it is with reluctance that I launch into song, even when pressed into contributing to the collective singing of the national anthem. Normally the volume is little more than just mouthing the words, the effort rarely audible beyond that heard within my head.
However, last week I had the opportunity to attend a citizenship ceremony where 30 people, from 16 nations, formally became Canadians. At the conclusion they, along with the rest of the assembled friends, family and others sang, for the first time as citizens, Canada’s anthem.
Not to be outdone by a bunch of newbies I joined in, though controlling the timbre of my contribution to ensure I didn’t frighten any of them sufficiently enough to renounce their new status and flee to their homeland.
The ceremony was lengthy, and moving, the presiding judge pointing out the privilege and obligations of citizenship. I did find surprising there was no mention of one of the primary advantages of living in a democracy – the right, and duty, to vote.
Here we are in the middle of a federal election campaign, and no advice, counsel or admonition from the judge that one of their first acts as a citizen can be and should be to exercise this privilege. Also remarkably lacking was any recognition or mention of two people in attendance, one a member of parliament (though admittedly on hiatus at the moment due to the election) and the other a minister of the Crown to which the assembled group had just pledged allegiance.
While it may not have been necessary, and perhaps the rules of citizenship ceremonies preclude naming the politicians in attendance, their presence should have been acknowledged and their positions should have been mentioned, for everything we have and hold precious in this country is based on, and determined by, the role of governments at all levels.
Voting is a duty that comes with citizenship, and what better way to emphasize its importance than to recognize the significance of the current election, and that both the provincial and federal governments were represented at this important milestone in the lives of 30 new Canadians.
Adding to the oversight was the emphasis placed on the importance and role of the non-elected Queen as our head of state. Not that I’m an anti-monarchist but it does seem odd that we place such high regard on a system that is based on hereditary rule rather than on the principles that truly define our democracy … the ability to choose our leaders through elections.
Since the root of our democracy is based on the British parliamentary system that has, as its titular leader a queen, I don’t object to the recognition. But does anyone truly believe that there is a continued need to pledge allegiance to a position and person few Canadians have ever seen, nor likely will, while ignoring those who can and do make a difference in their lives?
Granted, pomp and ceremony lends colour to events, but I think we have come far enough as a country to stand on our own merits – and have new, and all, Canadians pledge allegiance to country and flag rather than queen and crown.
Additionally, the duty to cast a ballot, to participate actively in the formation of governments at all levels in this nation, needs to be emphasized in that pledge.
And while I don’t offer wording for a new oath of allegiance, the essential message each and every responsible Canadian should know is that if you don’t bother to vote, then don’t bother to bitch.