Holy books to be allowed at citizenship ceremonies

By 
  • September 2, 2010
Catholic Biblical Association logoOTTAWA - Groups will soon be allowed to distribute holy books at Canadian citizenship ceremonies.

“We’re going to send a directive to all Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) staff who process applications, instructing them if religious groups apply to sit in the back and have copies of holy books, they are entitled to do so,” said Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for CIC Minister Jason Kenney.

The previous government had banned groups from giving away holy books in 2004, Velshi said.


“We’re going to reverse it in a few weeks,” he said.

Groups “can’t proselytize down the aisles,” Velshi said, but if they want to “sit in the back and give books away for free that’s fine.”

Fr. Murray Watson, president of the Catholic Biblical Association of Canada, welcomed the policy change.

“I think it’s very appropriate, a very balanced response, respectful of the role religion and religious texts continue to play in the life of many millions of Canadians,” Watson. “It demonstrates to our new citizens that faith is a significant component of our life and it informs the way many of us live our Canadian citizenship.”

CCN has obtained a copy of the instructions that CIC staff will pass on to groups wishing to distribute Bibles or other holy books.

“Citizenship and Immigration Canada is respectful of all religious beliefs and ensures that its ceremonies and reception areas are open for the new Canadian citizens and their guests to both religious and non-religious belief systems,” the policy states, noting that the use of holy books while taking the citizenship oath is “a personal choice.”

It will allow for displays where citizenship candidates can help themselves. They must not be handed out. Books must be available in French and English and free of charge.

“When present, representatives from religious organizations should be discreet and not promote or lecture their beliefs,” the policy states.

Groups are asked to be respectful of the variety of religious and non-religious beliefs and CIC staff will monitor compliance with the policy.

Biblical association executive director Sr. Jocelyn Monette said the organization is unlikely to become involved in distributing Bibles. She is, however, on the board of the Canadian Bible Society for Ontario. It’s mandate is the translation and distribution of Bibles, while the biblical association’s mandate is educational.

“What we’re trying to do is get Catholics praying and reading the Word of God.”

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