The day a PM was handed the 1st Canadian citizenship certificate

Before the Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect on January 1, 1947, Canadians born in Canada and naturalized immigrants were considered British subjects.

Until the Canadian Citizenship Act, Canadians were considered British subjects

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)

"I speak as a citizen of Canada." 

So declared the prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, at the very first Canadian citizenship ceremony, on Jan. 3, 1947.

King was, in fact, issued the very first certificate, numbered 0001.

Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King received the first Certificate of Canadian Citizenship on Jan. 3, 1947. (Library and Archives Canada/C-096789)

Up until the time the Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect on January 1 of that year, Canadians were British subjects who lived in Canada. Now they were Canadian citizens, on paper. (Aspects of the 1947 act have since been challenged over the decades. The Canadian government revamped the act in 1977. Further revisions have followed.)

King was addressing officials at the ceremony, including the act's proponent, Paul Martin (the father of the future prime minister). 

'Without citizenship, much else is meaningless'

King speaks at the country's first-ever citizenship ceremony. 9:52
Twenty-five Canadians in addition to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King became Canadian citizens on Jan. 3, 1947. (Chris Lund/National Archives of Canada/PA-129262/Canadian Press)

In the company of 25 other recipients, he pointed out that his fellow new citizens were from communities widely scattered across Canada, and from countries around the world.

Just two years after the end of the Second World War, he referenced Canada's contribution of "sons and daughters" to that war and the First World War. 

"In world affairs our country has an outstanding record of responsibility and integrity," he asserted.