What it means to become a Canadian: Sentiments from a citizenship ceremony
Newcomers have helped Canada grow and thrive across nearly every sector of development. And while they have helped this vast country get closer to its goals, along the way, they achieved many of their own. It is fitting therefore that some of the country’s newest citizens were inducted during a doubly special time: not only were 37 newcomers from 11 countries granted citizenship on May 25, 2023, at Toronto Newcomer Day, which celebrates the contributions of immigrants to Toronto, but they were also inducted into Canada during Citizenship Week, which this year runs from May 22 to 28.
Presiding over the citizenship ceremony was Judge Hardish Dhaliwal, who herself became a citizen in 2007. “I have very clear memories of my citizenship ceremony. I remember the joy, the excitement, the relief, and I remember the sheer diversity of the people that became Canadian with me on that day,” she recalled.
“Each of you has already been here for several years. You have already been making your contributions, to your schools, your colleges, your universities, your workplaces, and to the many, many communities that you are part of,” she said, addressing the group of freshly minted Canadians, who stood proud during their citizenship ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square, in the very heart of Toronto. “As Canadian citizens, you belong here, you belong to Canada. There is another side to that statement: as Canadians, Canada now belongs to you.”
The value of being a Canadian citizen is something Nancy Lam knows only too well. The child of immigrant parents to Canada, she has been practicing immigration law for more than 20 years, helping newcomers navigate the not-always-straight path to citizenship. “As we learn and we get older, the best things in life are not easy to find…they are the things for which you must work the hardest,” she recalled.
“People often ask why anyone would leave what is comfortable to come to a place that’s so unknown to them, and the reason is opportunity. Canada for my parents offered all of that: they found work here, they eventually owned their own home, and they raised four children,” she said. “While my parents were not TV superstars, business tycoons or world-renowned athletes, they were very important members of this country, because all of us as Canadians together are part of the fabric that makes this country diverse and strong.”
Opportunity is also something that came the way of Ausma Malik, who became the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to serve on the Toronto City Council when she was elected to the office in 2022. “My parents immigrated to Canada more than 50 years ago, and as newcomers, my mom and dad made Toronto their first home together and demonstrated to my siblings and me that our citizenship is about what we do to make our neighbourhoods, our city, and our country a better place,” she said.
“Their love for Toronto and Canada is one of my most enduring inspirations to build a community and make a difference together. It is why I am so proud to represent and serve my beautiful Downtown Toronto communities, and to create history as the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to be elected to public office in Canada,” added Malik.
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