Ammar Kagdi

Ammar Kagdi

Citizenship ceremony ‘a moving experience’

Some said they truly felt Canadian when watching a Stanley Cup finals game on a beautiful late June evening. For others, that feeling came when they were willing to spend half an hour waiting in line for coffee at Tim Hortons.

Some said they truly felt Canadian when watching a Stanley Cup finals game on a beautiful late June evening.

For others, that feeling came when they were willing to spend half an hour waiting in line for coffee at Tim Hortons.

Those who already felt Canadian officially became as much Tuesday, as 112 people took the oath and became Canadian citizens in a ceremony at Red Deer College.

From Australia to Zimbabwe they came to the Great White North — one man who became a citizen Tuesday came to Canada way back in 1956 — and, after swearing allegiance to the queen and pledging to observe the laws of the land and fulfil the duties of citizenship, in both official languages, the ranks of Canadian citizenship swelled.

“Canada is a bigger and better nation than it was one hour ago,” said Judge Joan May Way after the oath was read.

Twenty-eight nations were represented among the home countries of the new Canadians, with the Philippines one of the most common.

Benjamin Braga initially saw himself leaving the archipelago for a life in the United States. His parents immigrated there and he had begun his own process in the 1990s.

But that process stalled, and in 2005 he came to Red Deer for a job pushing hogs with Olymel. He came alone, without his wife and son, now 19.

“The sacrifice is really there. It’s tough living all alone without anyone that you know here,” said Braga, 50.

The stepping stone of being nominated for permanent residency, he said, was tough. But that allowed him to bring over his wife and son, and Tuesday they all become Canadian citizens.

“It’s a big achievement for us. It’s really hard to achieve a certain goal to be a Canadian citizen,” he said.

The federal government has made obtaining citizenship a little harder in the last few years, changing the rules around the written citizenship test and language proficiency determinations. Speaking to the Advocate, federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, who administered the oath and spoke at the ceremony, said the changes ensure the new Canadians have a better chance of succeeding.

“We’ve raised the bar a little bit on citizenship, but I think the new citizens appreciate that. They don’t take this country for granted, and they know it’s something worth working for,” said Kenney.

Kenney called the ceremony “a moving experience” and told the crowd that along with the rights and privileges they now enjoy, there are duties and responsibilities that come with citizenship.

“Find simple ways to be of service to this country,” he said.

Way, who has presided over hundreds of citizenship ceremonies, said each time she takes part, she gets a renewed appreciation for Canada though the newcomers.

“I look at them and think they are such brave people . . . It’s a leap of faith for every one of these people, and a big choice. These people have chosen Canada as their home. We as Canadians that have been born here, it’s our lot, but these people have made the conscious choice to live in Canada and become Canadian,” she said.

The citizenship ceremony, only the second one in Red Deer in the last five years, was able to go off thanks to some dedicated Citizenship and Immigration Canada staff, who had to go into the department office in downtown Calgary after the floodwaters hit the city to retrieve the necessary documents to swear people in. The event was organized by a local volunteer committee associated with the national non-profit Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

The affiliation made the Red Deer ceremony unique, as a number of roundtable discussions on citizenship preceded the formal ceremony. In the discussions, new Canadians spoke of their appreciation for everything from fresh air to the benefits of holding a Canadian passport.

At the roundtable, Braga said his family left the Philippines simply looking for a greener pasture, something he said they did not find.

“We found a better one, a paradise.”

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