Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King receives his certificate of Canadian citizenship on Jan. 3, 1947. (Chris Lund /National Film Board/Library and Archives Canada/PA-197418)

History Canada: Jan 3, 1947- The very first Canadian citizen

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Canada is still a relatively young country.

After achieving an outstanding reputation in the First World War, where Canadians were widely recognised as the best of the Allied troops, and after equally remarkable achievements and critical contributions in the Second World War,  In spite of those enormous national contributions, Canadians were actually still considered as British subjects.

It was a federal cabinet minister who came up with the desire to recognise Canadians as a distinct nationality. This came after he visited the Canadian military cemetery at Dieppe where so many Canadians had died in the cause of freedom.

Canadian Citizenship Act of 1946.

When Paul Martin Sr., introduced the bill called “The Canadian Citizenship Act” in 1946 he said “”For the national unity of Canada and for the future and greatness of this country it is felt to be of utmost importance that all of us, new Canadians or old, have a consciousness of a common purpose and common interests as Canadians; that all of us are able to say with pride and say with meaning: ‘I am a Canadian citizen”.   The Bill entered into force on January 1, 1947

So it was on this date, January 3, 1947, that the first official Canadian citizenship was granted.

The then Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie-King, became Canada’s first official citizen with certificate number 0001.

The first Canadian was Canada’s Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie-King, along with 25 others who were sworn in at the Supreme Court in Ottawa.

Along with the Prime Minister, 25 others became the first official Canadian citizens during the first official Canadian citizenship ceremony at the Supreme Court building on Jan. 3, 1947. They are: (Front, L-R:) Naif Azar from Palestine, Jerzy Meier from Poland, Louis Brodbeck from Switzerland, Joachim Hellmen from Germany, Jacko Hrushkowsky from Russia, Anton Justinik from Yugoslavia. (Back, L-R:) Zigurd Larsen from Norway, Sgt. Maurice Labrosse from Canada, Joseph Litvinchuk from Romania, Mrs. Labrosse from Scotland, Nestor Rakowitza from Romania, Yousuf Karsh from Armenia, Helen Sawicka from Poland. (Chris Lund-National Film Board-Library Archives Ca-PA-129262

Interesting facets of the new law included the fact that married women were now considered citizens independent of the husband whereas they had previously been generally defined by the nationality of her husband.

The Canadian Citizenship Act has been since revised, first in 1977, which allowed among other things for dual citizenship, and further amended in 2009 and 2014.

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