Citizenship ceremony discussions examine challenges for newcomers
By a Staff Reporter
A citizenship ceremony held at the Canada Games Centre on 10 May was kicked-off with a Roundtable discussion on the challenges and opportunities of immigration to Canada.
The discussion was organized by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC). Their Roundtable discussions are at the heart of the ICC’s community citizenship ceremonies and bring together a mix of new citizens and the more established Canadians to share their stories, compare their experiences, and reflect on what it means to be an active and engaged citizen.
The summing up of discussions at the four tables by reporters provided a peek into what the experience and the challenge of newcomer settlement is all about.
Reza, a doctor from Iran, talked about the challenge of having to do medical exams all over again, getting a grip on new medical language, while fighting back emotions of home, making new friends, coping with new customs.
But his wife, Mojgan talked about how the loneliness and a feeling of not belonging in the earlier months changed dramatically, when she experienced the hospitality shown to her son by a Canadian citizen when he needed to contact his home. “That’s when I felt I belonged to the community and today I am happy to be Canadian,” she said.
Anthony, who is from Ghana, came to Saint Mary’s University (SMU) to study computer engineering. He says the university’s host committee did come to the airport to receive him. But that’s the lost he saw of them. “I became a lone man on an island. I was in total isolation,” he says. “That was one big challenge. The other was the winter.”
Anthony says although the curriculum at SMU was challenging, it was diligence that pushed him forward. “Today we design telecommunications and our laptops are sold all over the world. I am proud of that contribution I have made to my new home.”
But he says his sense of belonging came about when a resident of Cape Breton, where he was working on a contract with Port Hawkesbury overwhelmed him by offering him office premises gratuitously to carry out his contract.
“A sense of belonging can come with little actions like these,” he says. “Today, this gentleman’s family and I are great friends and I want to put Cape Breton on the world map with the central computer library in that town.
He said love, honesty and peace are values in Canada, and that he respects the sense of equality and social integration.
Alex, also from Ghana, who is a marine engineer says his first challenge was having to requalify, especially because of financial constraints. But, of course, he took up the challenge head on, taking up jobs to pay for his Canadian studies.
He says he has lived with loneliness and has often missed home. “But that balances out with the tons of kindness that we experience in Canada on the other hand.”
Speaking about what citizenship actually involves, there was complete agreement with the fact that newcomers must make a contribution to the community.
“I think our contribution to the community is equally important. On the other hand, it’s because we miss traditions of home, our sense of Canadian citizenship is heightened,” he said.
Anthony is proud of the fact that he employs Canadians and is making his contribution to the economy. Mojgan says in order to make Canada home, you have to keep on track and chase the goal. “In time, the transformation takes place.”
The new Canadians were given cultural access passes valid for one year at all museums in the country.