Mark Lautens performs 100th Citizenship Ceremony

April 11, 2024 by Alyx Dellamonica

A white man wearing an order of Canada medallion and sitting at a desk with a Canadian flag on it addresses someone off-camera.
photo by Nick Iwanyshyn

Chemistry Chair Mark Lautens conducted his hundredth Canadian Citizenship ceremony as a Presiding Official on April 10th, officially welcoming 120 new Canadians from 31 countries of origin.

Professor Lautens was first invited to preside in citizenship ceremonies after receiving the Order of Canada in 2014, for contributions at the forefront of organic chemistry. The honor qualifies Canadians to administer the Oath of Citizenship on a voluntary basis, in both live and--during and since the Covid pandemic--remote gatherings.  

Lautens remembered effort being made to preserve a sense of occasion, even when so many such ceremonies became virtual. Being unable to stand together with an officiant for a picture, for example, has evolved so that participants in remote ceremonies are urged to turn off their cameras at the end, leaving only the image of the presiding officer on the meeting screen. This allows everyone to take a selfie with their computer—a picture ‘with’ the officiant.   

"I had to learn to hold a smile for a full minute to ensure everyone has time to get a good picture,” Lautens said.  

A passionate advocate for immigrants’ contributions to Canada, Lautens has written about the benefits for academic communities welcoming international students. "These individuals bring superb skills and a passion to succeed to their new home,” he wrote in a recent op-ed piece for the Globe and Mail.  

Lautens estimated he may have sworn in as many as 6000 new Canadians since 2014, and for this hundredth ceremony, he chose a live event held in the Mississauga Citizenship and Immigration Center. As is often the case, there were members of the university community at the ceremony, along with their families.   

“People are often excited to meet a scientist or a professor,” he said, adding that the UofT alumni, students, faculty and staff whom he swears in often reach out afterward with their personal thanks. Some even express a wish to have attended his classes.    

“Officiants are encouraged to share some of their journey at the beginning of each ceremony and I talk about my mother, who came to Canada from the UK as a teenager, had a career as a legal secretary, and then chose to complete high school after I became a professor,” he said.  

“Many of the people at my ceremonies are especially touched by hearing that—both about my family and the transformative experience of pursuing higher education in Canada.”