Oath. Ottawa, Canada, 2016. (Valerian Mazataud photo)

Becoming Canadian:
“The Ends Of The Earth”

Ten years ago, I emigrated to Canada from France. I took an oath. Immigration officers were there to check if we moved our lips. Then we all shook hands and I felt that we had shared something, beyond the administration, immigration quotas, and questionnaires. When I thought of queens, flags and hymns, I was moved. I felt like I was in a family event, like a wedding.

Every day, 644 new citizens swear allegiance to Canada. In April 2014, I swore an oath to the Queen thereby becoming a Canadian citizen. Even though I am not fond of etiquette and administrative procedures, I was touched by the moment I shared with hundreds of immigrants from 80 countries.

A few weeks after my own initiation I decided to undertake work “The Ends Of The Earth”, which to explore the dynamics of immigration and citizenship through images of Canadian citizenship ceremonies.

I came back to capture citizenship ceremonies a few weeks later, equipped with an old DV video camera. This “family camcorder”, the type my uncles would use in the 90’s, seemed like an appropriate tool to capture this moment, reminiscent of family ritualistic stepping stones such as weddings, birthdays or communions. The video camera was too old to be plugged on my laptop. So I played the videos on my TV and started taking pictures of the TV with my digital camera.

These mechanically captured pictures made me think about the surveillance cameras of an oppressive state. Thus, above my initial family friendly experience, I added a second layer, pragmatic and distant. The final result is a quite accurate representation of my own feelings : a touching personal event belonging in a wider administrative process and a planned immigration policy.

This two step process translates the reality of this ambivalent event: the personal stories of the migrants, and the distant and pragmatic eye and goals of the immigration institution. According to the Canadian immigration act, these pragmatic goals are to “enrich and strengthen the social and cultural fabric” or to “support the development of a strong and prosperous Canadian economy”.

The title of the project is an extract of the Canadian motto : “a dominion from sea to sea, and from the river until the ends of the earth”. The country received 644 new citizens every day in 2015 (235,000 in total).

Why does that subject matter now ? Because just two years ago, in 2017, Canada celebrated its 150th birthday. Because the world has never been confronted by such a large immigration and refugee crisis. Because Canada is a permanently evolving country that is still looking for its demographic balance through immigration.

The citizenship ceremony is exactly the tipping point when an alien is not a migrant anymore, but a citizen. It all happens within seconds and only with a few words.

The oath. Montreal, Canada, 2014. (Valerian Mazataud)
Ceremony. Montreal, Canada, 2014. (Valerian Mazataud)
Veronica Johnson, citizenship judge. Quebec, Canada, 2015. (Valerian Mazataud)
A new citizen’s face. Montreal, Canada, 2014. (Valerian Mazataud)
The mountie. Chateau Ramezay, Montreal, Canada, 2016. (Valerian Mazataud)
A new citizen’s face. Montreal, Canada, 2014. (Valerian Mazataud)
The judge’s chair. Ottawa, Canada, 2016. (Valerian Mazataud)
Ceremony. Montreal, Canada, 2015. (Valerian Mazataud)
The tie. Quebec, Canada, 2016. (Valerian Mazataud)
Cake. Montreal, Canada, 2016. (Valerian Mazataud)
Ceremony. Montreal, Canada, 2014. (Valerian Mazataud)
Ceremony room. Niagara Falls, Canada, 2015. (Valerian Mazataud)
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Written By

Valerian Mazataud

Valerian Mazataud is a freelance documentary photographer based in Montreal. He is represented by Studio Hans Lucas in France. His images have been published in Le Monde, der Spiegel, Le point, Telerama or Liberation. He has also contributed to TV5, Radio-Canada, Le Devoir, La Presse, The Walrus, Chatelaine, Oxfam and Handicap International.