New Canadians take part in a virtual citizenship ceremony in a video recorded from a livestream on the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s YouTube channel, as seen on a phone in Toronto, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini

New Canadians take part in a virtual citizenship ceremony in a video recorded from a livestream on the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s YouTube channel, as seen on a phone in Toronto, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini

Syrian refugees take citizenship oath on fifth anniversary of first arrivals

OTTAWA — A group of Syrian refugees is taking the Canadian citizenship oath in an online ceremony today to mark the fifth anniversary of when the first plane carrying Syrian refugees arrived in Canada as part of the Liberal government’s promise to resettle tens of thousands.

Ibrahim Nafash says he is happy it is finally happening after he and his family waited more than a year.

He says he submitted his citizenship application in February 2019 and passed the exam that October, but his oath-taking was delayed until now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nafash says he has been working as a chef for a Middle Eastern food supplier in Montreal after learning French and attending culinary school.

Nearly 46,000 Syrian refugees were resettled in Canada by April 2017 and then more continued to arrive under other programs.

The federal Immigration Department has suspended citizenship exams since the pandemic began, creating a backlog, and it says it will launch a pilot project to begin holding exams online for about 5,000 applicants who mostly filed before the pandemic.