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Speech welcoming new citizens at the Ismaili Centre

The following speech was delivered by Andrea Nemtin, the CEO and president of 6 Degrees partner agency Inspirit Foundation, to welcome new citizens at their citizenship ceremony. It was delivered Feb. 23 at the Ismaili Centre of Toronto

Ismaili Centre-Ceremony-200-sm

It is my great honour to be here with you today on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Métis, and most recently, the territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

I acknowledge this territory as a way of acknowledging the Indigenous peoples of this territory and Indigenous peoples across Canada because they are the original people of this land. As I am welcoming you here today they welcomed the first settlers to this land, they are our beginning.

And it is a beautiful land – of mountains and prairies, glaciers, oceans and lakes, rivers. Of animals and forests and fish.  Like many of you, I am happiest on a hike as the leaves turn from golden to orange and red, or fishing as the sunsets on the water. They are yours now, enjoy them and protect them.

On this land is an incredible history starting with the First Peoples and shaped and molded by each person and group of people who followed. To know Canada is to know the stories of the English and French settlers, the War of 1812, and the Seven Years War – yes, but also so much more. Canada is a country of stories, the Black Loyalist of Nova Scotia, the Japanees fishermen and charcoal makers of the Gulf Islands, the Gold Rush in the north, the Ukrainian farmers who amongst many others settled the prairies – where it actually gets colder than on Mars!  To know Canada is also to know the less happy stories, the struggles of the Chinese head tax, the Japanese internment camps, and the Indian residential schools.

What you will see in these stories is hardship and strength, personal stories of pain and resilience, of beauty and love.  You will learn of the mistakes that our country made and the lasting effects of those errors. That as a nation we cannot claim to be perfect but can only try to always work towards an ideal of dignity and respect, of fairness – our constant national quest to be better.

And by better I mean specifically a society where we each have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the social, economic and political aspects of our society.  To contribute to our communities and our nation, and be recognized and appreciated for that contribution – that you are entitled to all that this country has to offer.

My grandparents came to Canada from four different countries. They came from Russia and Romania, England and Italy to build lives for themselves and their families, and in doing so they helped to build the country. Just as each of you will, for Canada is complex, and as it will change you, you too will change it.

Congratulations and thank you for choosing Canada, we are lucky to have you.

Andrea Nemtin

February 23, 2017