It's official – the Qarqouz family is now Canadian.
Hussein Qarqouz and his three sons, Mohammad, Ousama and Nabil, were among the 122 new Canadians to take the oath on Feb. 28 at a special citizenship ceremony at Lasalle Secondary School.
Qarqouz and his family are from Syria. They came to Sudbury in December 2015 and have since opened up their own restaurant, Damascus Cafe and Bakery, in the downtown area.
He became emotional when speaking about what it means to him and his family to now be Canadian citizens.
“I'm very happy,” Qarqouz said, after he signed papers declaring him a Canadian citizen. “Before I came here, I was in jail in a country at war, and now I'm a Canadian citizen. Thank you God, thank you Canada and thank you Sudbury.
“The people here are so friendly, and they like my food. Business is doing well, and because so many people helped me when we first got here, I now provide free food to people in need as a way to give back.”
Similarly, Dr. Mohammed Shoukri came to Canada from Egypt in 2016, but have called Sudbury home since August 2019.
Shoukri was joined by his wife, Sheree Abdo, and three of their five children at the citizenship ceremony. His two youngest children were born in Canada.
Both Shoukri and Abdo were successful pediatricians in Egypt. They said they came to Canada for many reasons, but the biggest reason was to give their children a better future.
“I came here because Canada really appreciated education and industry. Health care, education — every sector — is different. Life in Canada is incomparable to life in Egypt. We love Canada and we plan to be here forever.”
Shoukri is now a graduate teaching assistant at Laurentian University. He pursuing a master's degree in multidisciplinary health, then a PhD with a thesis in breast feeding practices among Indigenous women and their babies.
“That's why I chose Northern Ontario and Laurentian University, in order to be closer to the Indigenous communities,” he said.
Abdo is a graduate student at Laurentian University, pursing a master's degree in Indigenous relations. She said one of the best parts of being a Canadian is the rights and freedoms it brings.
“In Canada, women are treated equally and no one is above the law,” she said.
Now that they are officially Canadians, they look forward to the future.
“We feel like we now belong to this great nation,” they said. “It's an unforgettable event. It's a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment.
“We were satisfied with our jobs in Egypt, but we moved to Canada for the multiculturalism, to give our kids a better chance and to be in a respectful country. We want our kids to be successful, contributing citizens of Canada.”