02 February 2012

Bureaucrats posed in staged Canadian citizenship ceremony

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In an embarrassing revelation for Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, recent documents released under Access to Information legislation show that federal bureaucrats posed as new Canadian citizens on television.

Canadian visa

The recently released documents are likely to leave several members of the Canadian immigration authorities slightly embarrassed.

The six members of Canadian immigration staff were seen on television waving Canadian flags and smiling as commentators referred to them as "new Canadians" that were delighted to have finally received their citizenship.

The released documents show that Mr Kenney had requested the citizenship ceremony to be added to the schedule for Canada's Citizenship Week in October 2011 at the last minute, forcing members of staff to rush the preparations.

Initial ideas included simply allowing a local news channel access to film any one of the 13 ceremonies that would take place across Toronto but this proposal was rejected by the news network Sun News.

Instead, it was decided that a simple reaffirmation ceremony - where citizens restate their oath - would be staged and 10 Canadian citizens who had recently become citizens could restate their oath at the news studio.

However, of the hundreds of phone calls made, only three people, one woman and her two children, showed up.

"I have just confirmed that all the clients that are calling back are declining the request as they have to attend work and are not able to take the time off to participate in this reaffirmation ceremony" it said one of the documents released.

At this point, Mr Kenney's staff once again urged Sun News to consider filming an existing ceremony, but this was again rejected.

As the original hope had been to get at least 10 people to restate their oaths in the ceremony, six members of Mr Kenney's staff, including three wearing identical t-shirts bearing the citizenship logo, took to the stage to sing the national anthem and celebrate graduating from a Canadian visa to citizenship, ostensibly for the first time.

While no laws had been broken, these reports are likely to leave several members of Canada's immigration department slightly red-faced. While the hosts of the TV show claimed they knew nothing about the farce, the Toronto based bureaucrat who oversaw the event said in an email the next day that it hadn't been the best of ideas.

"My overall impression of the experience is that it was a significant amount of work for a lot of people for little results."

The Canadian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people make their application to the Canadian Embassy.

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