Albert Ajatuewo had permanent resident status but that wasn’t good enough for the man born in Nigeria. He wanted more. He wanted citizenship.
That’s why he was all smiles on May 15 when he raised his right hand, along with 49 other people from nations around the globe, to swear allegiance to Canada and became a citizen of the country.
“It feels amazing,” he said after the ceremony.
The young man who lives in Abbotsford came to Canada at 17 to study chemistry at Thompson River’s University, and has since gone on to work in the chemical field and start a family.
“I felt like being a Canadian sets you apart,” Ajatuewo said.
He said Canadian citizenship is respected worldwide and having his citizenship makes him feel more at home.
“You are more part of the fabric of being a Canadian,” Ajatuewo said.
With his rambunctious three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Cahaya in a red and white dress and his wife, Devina Putri watching from the audience, he and the others took part in a citizenship ceremony at Walnut Grove Secondary.
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The school hosted the ceremony to give the high school students a learning opportunity.
Principal Balan Moorthy spoke to the 50 new Canadians who live around the Lower Mainland, and their family and friends, detailing his journey as a boy born in Borneo who would be brought to Canada as a two-years-old in 1969.
“In 1975, that young boy would go through a Canadian citizenship ceremony,” Moorthy explained.
He went on to become an educator and eventually be principal of Walnut Grove Secondary.
He choked up in describing his immigrant story and “ending up in an amazing place,” with a wife and four children.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is being a Canadian citizen,” Moorthy told the crowd.
Moorthy was one of those at the event who re-affirmed his citizenship by taking the oath, as he did when a child.
Citizen judge Gerald Pash and Langley-Aldergrove MP Mark Warawa encouraged these new citizens to get involved in their community and their country, whether through volunteerism, the military, a police service, public office, charities, or the education system.
Warawa, whose family emigrated to Canada more than a century ago, noted that in many countries around the world, people cannot meet their politicians. That’s not the case in Canada and he encouraged the new Canadians to contact their local, provincial and federal politicians.
Pash provided them with a brief history of their new nation to emphasize that the rights and freedoms were fought for and must still be protected.
He added that each of those taking part in the ceremony had a very different story on how they ended up here.
“You wrenched yourself away from all this is familiar,” Pash noted.
Some came as students. Some came as tourists who fell in love with the country and maybe someone in Canada, he added.
“But it’s possible that in a group like this, there’s someone who spent months or even years living under a tin roof, living under canvas in a refugee camp, wondering if you’d ever be safe,” Pash said.
The Soler family of Maple Ridge have ended up having family and friends in the area just by chance, and they were able to all gather for the Solers citizenship swearing in.
“We are all immigrants from Honduras who by sheer coincidence were neighbours, classmates and work colleagues growing up in Honduras,” said Fernando Soler. “We all applied at different times, under different programs for Canadian immigration and without any particular effort ended up in the Lower Mainland.”