A citizenship ceremony with a twist at the Marguerite Lougheed Centre welcomed 48 new Canadians on March 21.
“Once a year, special citizen ceremonies that involve roundtable discussions before the ceremony are hosted by the community,” Claire Reid, national program manager for Building Citizenship at the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), explained.
In partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the ICC brings volunteers from the community to help welcome new citizens.
They do this through the roundtable discussions facilitated with more established Canadians that offer a unique opportunity to share experiences and make connections in their community.
Reid said the program currently has 29 communities across Canada holding these special ceremonies. The organization was founded in 2006 by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul.
“This process creates an opportunity to unite a community and everyone gets to build together,” Reid said.
Not all citizens are new to Canada. Several people participating in the ceremony had been living in Canada for 25 to 45 years, but were finally obtaining their citizenship in a country they already call home. The majority were from countries far and wide around the globe, such as Malawi, New Zealand, Ukraine, Madagascar and India.
Siew Yeo, who arrived from Singapore in 2006 with her husband and daughter, said after the ceremony she finally felt like she truly belonged to Canada.
“They call you a newcomer when you are a permanent resident, but today we are together as one, no longer called a newcomer.”
The local committee, chaired by Bela Ravi and Maxim Jean-Louis, has been organizing these community ceremonies for the past three years.
“Canadian citizenship opens so many doors, it’s a prized possession in the world,” Ravi said. She knows the feeling well, even though she became a Canadian citizen more than 30 years ago. “I didn’t realize the importance at that time and as we get older we realize what it’s all about. We are part of this country.”
Posted by Arron Pickard