Last fall, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) approached Halifax Public Libraries to partner on the Cultural Access Pass program. The pass, which is available to all new Canadian citizens for up to one year after their citizenship ceremony, provides free admission to more than 1,300 Canadian “cultural attractions,” like museums, art galleries, parks, and more. According to the ICC website, it also provides a “once-in-a-lifetime 50 per cent off on a trip with Via Rail” for the new citizen and up to four dependents under the age of 18, and a one-time discount at Fairmont Hotels.
Halifax Public Libraries branches are pick-up locations for people who register for the pass on the ICC website, and employees handle the verification process. In order to receive their pass, new citizens must arrive at the library two things: their citizenship certificate (so that the library can confirm that they’re still within their first year), and photo ID. Once the library verifies the information, they print the pass on the spot.
The library also provides an extra perk for those who might now have a computer or Internet access at home: they can help eligible citizens get through the entire registration process at the library and print their Cultural Access Pass in the same visit.
“The benefit of having people come into the library is that while they’re here, hopefully we can have a conversation about other things the library can offer them,” says Heather MacKenzie, diversity-services manager at Halifax Public Libraries. “It’s nice that we’re meeting people at this point in their lives and helping them integrate even more into the community.”
There are plenty of other programs for both newcomers at different branches of Halifax Public Libraries, too—from one-on-one ESL tutoring and conversation groups, to knitting circles and arts-and-crafts programs.
“New citizens who haven’t taken advantage of the pass, they only have a year to use it,” says MacKenzie. “We welcome them to come into their local library, get the pass, and start exploring.”