Seven people from Houston were sworn in as new Canadians in one of the Bulkley Valley’s largest-ever citizenship ceremonies last week.
Speaking to the 66 people from 22 countries gathered at a Smithers elementary school on Thursday, Judge George Gibault noted that it was freezing cold outside, but “a very warm day in all of our hearts.”
“Days like this are special days in the life in Canada,” said Judge Gibault. “Right here, right now, we are part of a great tradition—the tradition of building Canada with newcomers from every part of the world.”
Houston’s newest Canadians came to Canada from India, from Russia, and Uganda. All have been in Canada at least three years, but some, like Balihar and Baljinder Vinning, have lived in northern B.C. for thirty years.
Tatiana Kortmeyer has lived in Houston since 2001. Her husband joked that “she wasn’t going to apply for it until she could get 100 per cent on the test.”
Candidates for citizenship have to pass a twenty-question test that touches on Canadian history, as well as the rights and duties of citizens.
To some, the test may seem like one more piece of paperwork in a years-long process.
But for Kortmeyer, reading stories in her citizenship book about others who immigrated to Canada from less free countries struck an emotional chord.
“You feel it—when I came from Russia, I felt it,” she said.
Like anything, she said, after a few years it’s easy to take such things for granted. But Thursday’s ceremony brought those feelings back strong, said Kortmeyer.
“Truly, I appreciate being in Canada,” she said.
Sam Kadoli was born in Uganda. He spent years apart from his mother, who had to flee their country for neighbouring Kenya, and he came to Houston as a refugee.
Becoming a citizen means many things, Kadoli said. For one thing, citizenship means a passport—much easier to travel on than the travel documents that come with being a permanent resident.
“But most important is just having a place to call home,” he said.
The night before he was sworn in as a citizen, Kadoli got to enjoy another Canadian tradition—a snow day that shut down his engineering classes at Camosun College in Victoria.
“That’s good,” he said laughing. “I was worried I’d have so much to catch up on.”