The following essays were written by Alexa Ku and Cam Chernecki.  Both Alexa and Cam are highschool students in North Vancouver and West Vancouver respectively and will be travelling to Ottawa as a participants in this years Adventures in Citizenthip program hosted by the Rotary Club of Ottawa.

What does it mean to be Canadian?

Yes I am Canadian and no I do not live in an igloo or have a beaver as a house pet,  and no , not everyone is polite here.  I have not always lived in Canada.  For the first three years of my life I lived in Hong Kong and then moved here to stay and start a new life.  Throughout the years of living here I have done a fair amount of travelling and have seen much different cultural based cities and small communities around the world.  I have been asked before "if you could move anywhere in the world to live right now where would it be?"  I have always answered with "Vancouver" (Canada).  This is where I have been raised and I am extremely fortunate to be a part of such an independent and thriving country.  Now I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the world.

What does it mean to be a Canadian Citizen?  It means you are a part of a nation that has freedom in being who you are not who you are told to be.  It means that you are a part of the nation tha that created peacekeepers not war makers and you are equal to everyone around you.  It also means you are always welcome even if you are not already a Canadian.  Canada is an extremely multicultural country, which is why being a part of it all, is so important to me.  I am half Chinese and half Canadian.  Each and every single importance of being a canadian listed above I strongly agree with.  Being Canadian means you have privileges and rights other countries may not have.

Alexa Ku

What does being a Canadian citizen mean to me?
There is more to being a citizen of Canada than just a piece of paper announcing your citizenship. Being a Canadian citizen is about having the rights and freedoms that everyone shares, upholding Canadian values and setting an example for those around us. It also means participating in the political world in order to have a say in the decision making of our nation. These are the things that make up who we are as a whole rather than individuals, the things that make us a great nation.

 Becoming a Canadian citizen is a comparatively accessible process when compared to countries around the world. This is because Canada is a very accepting society and a central hub of multiculturalism and diversity. A person’s beliefs or ethnic background do not stand in the way of citizenship. There are certain requirements one must meet to become a Canadian citizen. First of all you must be a permanent resident of Canada and have lived here for at least three years (1,095 days). Secondly you must be able to speak one of our two official languages, French or English. Then you must be able to have an understanding of Canadian culture and history. Requirements like these ensure that immigrants understand the commitment they are undertaking and their role as new Canadians.

Canadian citizens are entitled to certain rights as well as granted freedoms stated by the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter starts with the fundamental freedoms of all Canadians: the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association. These freedoms have all Canadians in mind, giving them the freedom to believe what they want and not to be controlled by a government or authority. For instance, the aboriginal peoples of Canada have every right to pursue their own spiritual beliefs as well express their feelings and gather together in peaceful assembly.

The charter of rights also enshrines democratic rights that give all Canadian citizens of age the right to vote and have influence on decision making in Canada.  Canadian citizens have the opportunity to become involved in and actively participate in Canadian politics. As a Canadian, we do not have to worry that our ideologies or beliefs will land us in jail

Another important part of the charter is the legal rights that come with being a Canadian citizen. Unlike a number of countries, Canadians have a right to legal representation equally with no fear of discrimination by law. We have the right to an attorney, have the right to remain silent, and will be presumed innocent until proven guilty. We will not be subject to cruel or unusual punishment as a Canadian.

What I treasure most about being a Canadian is that I can respectfully express my opinions on political, religious and language issues and not have my legal or my mobility rights withdrawn. And, I can count on my government to uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of people throughout the country.

Cam Chernecki