Canada Day extra special for new Canucks who gain their citizenship | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Canada Day extra special for new Canucks who gain their citizenship

Negar Fakhraee, 11, of Iran, takes the oath to become a Canadian citizen during a citizenship ceremony in Vancouver, B.C., in this July 13, 2009 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - For some, it marked a welcome end to long years of waiting. For others, it engendered a tremendous sense of achievement, and for many more, it brought simple relief.

But amid the wide array of emotions on display at a special citizenship ceremony in Toronto, one reigned supreme — pure, infectious, joy.

As the country marked its 145th birthday, the Canada Day weekend was made all the more special for a group of immigrants from 38 different countries who gained their citizenship ahead of the national holiday.

To Shahied Gairy Friday's oath-taking ceremony at Pearson International Airport was like a burden being lifted from his shoulders.

"This has been the end of a very long process for us," said Gairy, who came to Canada from Grenada seven years ago and overcame a number of challenges before claiming his citizenship.

"Some people aren't fortunate to just come to another country and just fall into the same field that you were in before," he said, adding that getting qualifications recertified and settling into a new community are hurdles many new immigrants face.

For one younger new Canadian, becoming a citizen underscored the liberties offered by his new country.

"It means that you have freedom of expression, and you can vote," said 13-year-old Shaharyar Khan.

Khan planned to celebrate his first Canada Day weekend as a Canuck with a trip to Wonderland, one of the country's largest amusement parks.

The venue for the ceremony — Canada's busiest airport — was also significant for many participants.

"It's a round circle,"said Melanie Fernandez. "I came in through these very gates when I first arrived in Canada."

After taking the oath the 100 new citizens delighted in exercising their right to shout in unison: "I am Canadian! Je suis Canadien!"

Their faces lit with broad smiles, they collected their certificates and shook hands down a row that included a citizenship judge, the president of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, a Mountie and members of parliament who high-fived some of the youngest new Canadians.

Guests were garbed in clothes representing the wide spectrum of Canada's diversity: a bright yellow sari, a rhinestone-studded hijab, Sikh turbans and lots of dresses and suits.

And red and white frosted cupcakes arranged in the shape of a Canadian flag added an extra helping of Canuck flavour to the affair.

For many of the new citizens the next step in their journey will be to trade in their permanent resident cards for Canadian passports.

Fernandez and her husband, who hail from Pakistan, said that was at the very top of their to-do list. The couple said they planned to apply for passports within the week and were looking forward to being able to travel abroad without the hassle of having to obtain visas.

"We're very excited to take those shopping trips on the long weekends," she said of her future cross-border travel plans.

For others, just holding their new citizenship certificates seemed excitement enough.

"This means the world to me," said Dores Giestal as she pressed the precious document to her lips and gave it a kiss.

After 24 years in the country, Giestal, who was born in Portugal, said she felt over the moon to finally be Canadian.

"I'm feeling above cloud nine," she said. "I'm just going to go out there and scream 'I'm a Canadian!'"

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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