What Does it Mean to be a Good Citizen?

How To | June 29, 2015

With recent changes to the Canadian Citizenship Act coming into effect under Bill C-24, the definition of citizenship has been in the news lately, along with questions about who’s entitled to it, and who can revoke it.

It’s a conversation that has, unsurprisingly, provoked heated debated (even a lawsuit). But discussion about an issue many of us take for granted is not necessarily a bad thing. Citizenship isn’t something we often have opportunity to really reflect on, unless we’re going through the immigration process.

Whether we’re citizens by birth or by immigration, we all know that our Canadian citizenship comes with certain rights and responsibilities (to pay taxes in exchange for access to essential services, to abide by the laws of our country in exchange for the freedom to pursue our dreams).

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lays out the basic rights of all Canadian citizens. But for most of us, being Canadian is about more than just basic rights and freedoms. There are as many intangible aspects to Canadian culture as there are official attributes documented in the charter.

For example, it’s a widely accepted fact that Canadians tend to be friendly, helpful and humble people. And around the world, Canadians are known for their willingness to help out during times of crisis.

But beyond that, what does it really mean to be a good citizen?

What’s a good citizen?

According to the 2012 national survey Canadians on Citizenship, the Canadian public identifies a range of attributes and actions to being Canadian:

35%: Obeying the law
25%: Active participation in one’s community
17%: Helping others
14%: Being tolerant of others
12%: Sharing Canadian values
10%: Paying taxes
9%: Respecting other religions
8%: Voting in elections

For Many Canadians, Citizenship Means Giving Back

According to Canadians on Citizenship, a 2012 national survey on what it means to be Canadian, “Canadians believe being a good citizen means more than having a passport and obeying the law. Just as important are having an active commitment to the community and being accepting of others who are different.”

According to the report, “there is public consensus around certain attributes as essential aspects of good citizenship, and at the top of the list is the equal treatment of men and women, as well as obeying the law, being tolerant of others, voting in elections and being environmentally responsible.”

“Half of Canadians each say being a good citizen means actively participating in the local community (51%), sharing common values (51%), displaying pride in Canada (e.g., by celebrating Canada Day) (51%) or volunteering (49%), while four in ten each say it includes giving to charity (42%).”

Above all else, “Canadians say they are most likely to feel like good citizens when volunteering, or being kind and generous to others.”
— Canadians on Citizenship

So what does being a good citizen mean to you?

Check out how Canadians are living out their values by helping others and giving back with Chimp:


play 4 your charity + Canadian women’s soccer
Canadians are invited to support the cause of their choice. All charitable gifts will trigger a matching donation to support Canada’s National Women’s Soccer team.


Fire & Ice Flight Centre Wish Trek
This summer, Flight Centre is trekking the wilds of Iceland in the name of Make A Wish Canada, and they’re raising support from across Canada to help fulfill wishes for sick kids.


Dream Riders
A father-son cycling team rides 4,400 kms to help children in Africa realize their dreams. Help them reach their fundraising goal!

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