New Canadian citizens can look forward to learning more about their country’s arts scene, thanks to the Cultural Access Pass (CAP). The pass grants new Canadians free access to over 1000 of Canada’s cultural attractions during their first year of citizenship.
“It gives a good introduction to the whole of Canada, different cultures and experiences. I know from our interactions, people are overjoyed with the idea. There are quite a few people who are already citizens who are quite jealous,” says Jill Henderson, communications coordinator with the Contemporary Art Gallery, one of three designated locations in Metro Vancouver where new citizens can obtain the passes.
Vancouver CAP attractions
Centre A Gallery, a centre dedicated to the contemporary art of the Asia Pacific at the national and international levels is another of the eight Vancouver cultural attractions that participate in the CAP program. Last year, gallery coordinator Natalie Tan, 23, reached out to the Institute of Canadian Citizenship (ICC), which administers the CAP, to see what Centre A could do with the program.
“We were re-opening the relationship to see what ideas came from that,” says Tan.
One idea Tan has for the CAP is to develop a historical tour of East Georgia Street because some of the centre’s founders have a connection to the neighbourhood.
“Some of the founding members’ families had businesses on East Georgia Street. It was a coincidence that we moved here,” says Tan.
Building new cultural connections
Tan sees the program as one tool to help integrate new citizens into their local communities and make them feel at home.
“I think we all want to be part of the program for the same reason – we want people to know there are cultural institutions in Vancouver. We don’t want people to be intimidated. You can totally come in and join us and it’s totally fine. With this pass, you can go explore the city,” says Tan.
According to Leith Bishop, acting executive director of the ICC, CAP sites are chosen to meet the program’s objective of helping Canada’s newest citizens make meaningful connections to their communities and the country, and giving them an opportunity to explore all of Canada’s cultural spaces and places.
“Opening doors to places like Vancouver’s Centre A, Jasper National Park of Canada, and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax provides CAP members with a wealth of perspectives on Canada’s past, present and future, and sends the message that those places belong to them just as they belong to any Canadian,” Bishop says.
New citizens are impressed they have access to national cultural venues and a special deal with VIA Rail through the program.
“After talking with the participants, they plan to go to across Canada to use their passes,” says Henderson. “
In 2008, the program began as a pilot project in Toronto with six attractions; today, more than 1200 national attractions are part of the program. Since 2008, more than 75,000 new citizens have been part of the program. Bishop says there is no other program like the CAP, but the more diverse the program can be made, the more new citizens will want to participate.
“Although the program is national in reach, there are still many attractions we’d like to add to truly make the program inclusive. We’ve recently started recruiting performing arts attractions like Ballet Kelowna and turning to libraries to help us with the pass pick-up process. And we’re very excited to report that we’re making major changes to how our members and all visitors to our website search for arts and cultural experiences with the creation of a dynamic CAP attraction online directory,” says Bishop.
New citizens who are 18 years or older are instantly eligible for the CAP. The pass allows the new citizen to bring up to four minor dependent children under age 18. It is valid for one year from the day the pass holder becomes a citizen. New citizens can register online at culturalaccesspass.ca.