From China and India, to Russia and the United States, Canada welcomed its newest citizens Thursday at a swearing in ceremony in Halifax.
Among the 55 people from 25 countries was Adaab al-Sheikh Ali, his wife Montaha, their young children Ahmad, Mohammad and Rama. The family moved to Canada from Jordan in 2004.
“I have part of my family here, so we came here. I got my PhD and my wife, she got her Master’s. Now I’m working at Dalhousie University and my wife is a teacher in a bilingual school,” al-Sheikh Ali said. “It’s a beautiful city; quiet, not too busy, and the people here are so helpful and friendly.”
While he and his family had most of the same rights as Canadian citizens when they were in the application process, citizenship means they get to vote and to travel and work more easily across Canada.
“It’s a big day, after five years now to have citizenship,” he said.
Thursday also marked the 30th anniversary of the private sponsorship of refugees, which allowed third parties like churches to help fleeing people become citizens. It was born out of the “boat people” crisis, which saw more than one million refugees leave Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War.
“When refugees come to the country, they are either sponsored by individuals, private organizations or the government,” said Citizenship and Immigration Department spokesman Jon Stone. “To help us with that challenge, a number of community groups came together to privately sponsor refugees.”
Representatives of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches were honored for their dedication to the program over the last three decades.
Despite the lengthy ceremony, federal citizenship judge Linda Carvery welcomed each person by name, taking time for a little conversation.