Canada gained four dozen new citizens Thursday, their voices belting out O Canada! in the Abbotsford Arts Centre alongside friends and family.
The ceremony, which began shortly after a flutist concluded playing a rendition of Stompin Tom Connors’ The Hockey Song as people took their seats, was the final official step in what for many was a decade-long process of integration into their new country.
The new citizens – who hailed from 22 different countries – were told by Vickie Cammack, who led the ceremony, that they have gained both new rights and responsibilities. For many, though, those responsibilities are one of the main reasons they decided to become a citizen, rather than stay a permanent resident.
For Abdel Fatah, who first came to Canada from Morocco in 2011, it was the country’s beauty that kept him here, but the desire to help shape its future made him want to become a citizen.
“The most important thing to me, personally, is the voting.”
Without the ability to cast a ballot, Fatah said, “There are all kinds of issues all around you and you can discuss them, you can talk about them, but you can’t really affect them.”
For Beatrice and Henning Rieske, who came to Canada from Germany five years ago in large part so their son could get a better education, becoming a citizen was a vital affirmation of their plans for the future, and where they want to be.
“It’s the commitment – deciding that’s where we want to stay, and we want to be citizens and part of the community,” Beatrice said.
Being fully part of a country was also top of mind for 22-year-old Milca Tshimpaka.
Tshimpaka has lived in Canada since she was 11, but says the ceremony – and her new citizenship – helped her “identify as a Canadian so much more.”
Particularly resonating was a welcome to “our country” by one of the speakers.
“This is now my country,” Tshimpaka said. “I can vote and I can have a voice.”
Abbotsford's The Hockey Song-playing flutist gets hearty applause from soon-to-be Canadians before citizenship ceremony kicks off yesterday. pic.twitter.com/WXTRqZUkOF
— Tyler Olsen (@ty_olsen) November 2, 2018