U of T's Mark Lautens performs 100th Citizenship Ceremony

April 15, 2024 by Alyx Dellamonica - Department of Chemistry

The University of Toronto’s Mark Lautens recently conducted his 100th Canadian Citizenship Ceremony, officially welcoming 120 new Canadians from 31 countries of origin.

University Professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Arts & Science, Lautens estimates that he may have sworn in as many as 6,000 new Canadians since 2014.

He chose an event held in the Mississauga Citizenship and Immigration Centre for his 100th appearance as a presiding official. As is often the case, there were members of the university community at the ceremony, along with their families.   

Mark Lautens posing with a group at a citizenship ceremony

“People are often excited to meet a scientist or a professor,” he says, adding that U of T alumni, students, faculty and staff whom he swears in often reach out afterward with their personal thanks and sometimes even ask if they can attend 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.

“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.” 

Mark Lautens standing in front of flags at acitizenship ceremony

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 honour qualifies Canadians to administer the Oath of Citizenship on a voluntary basis.  

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 in the Globe and Mail.  

Mark Lautens laughs a woman holding a baby at a citizenship ceremony

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lautens says efforts were made to preserve a sense of occasion when the ceremonies became virtual affairs. 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 the officiant — via the computer screen.

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