Shinder Singh Purewal came to Canada knowing very little English and certainly had no idea he would one day become a citizenship judge swearing in new Canadians in both official languages.

Purewal was born in India to a family of small farmers. His father was murdered when Purewal was a month old, leaving his mother to raise a family of four. Having noticed young boys from the village leaving for Canada, his mother resolved that her family would live in a peaceful country. They arrived in Canada in September of 1979. Purewal was 17.

“I could not speak more than a few words and very basic sentences in English.”
Eventually, Purewal went on to perfect his English, and committed himself to learning French. “Who wouldn't want to learn the language of Voltaire?” Studying political history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., helped, as did interviewing Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau for his master’s thesis on the politics of multiculturalism.

One might say that Purewal walks the talk in his citizenship court in Surrey, B.C., by swearing in new Canadians using both official languages.

He includes the French version of the oath and a few words of French in his ceremonies, he says, “to underline the fact that this country’s basic framework is based on the foundations of two languages — English and French.”