For 96 people from 24 countries, a two-hour Canada Day celebration in Kelowna changed their lives. Today they became citizens, with all the privileges and responsibilities that entails.
They swore their oath in a packed auditorium, with friends and families and ordinary folk like me bearing witness. The citizenship judge was Anne-Marie Kains from Vancouver. She looked in the eyes of every single new Canadian as they stood, one at a time, raised their right hand, and spoke their name.
Her charge to them had been quietly and seriously spoken. She acknowledged the challenges and decisions that led them to prepare for citizenship. She challenged them to contribute fully to their chosen land. She admonished them that from now on their actions would reflect on the country to which they now swore allegiance.
And then, when all had spoken their names, everyone in the room stood. New Canadians, Canadian-born citizens, and those of us who had adopted this country repeated the loyalty oath together.
It was a stirring moment. I felt tears gather in my eyes. I grew up knowing I was citizen of the greatest country on earth. Then travel and living abroad taught me that every country that values its citizens is a good place to live. None is perfect, but if we take up residence, for whatever reason, we owe something to the land which has welcomed us. And so I became a dual citizen, one of those fortunate people who have the opportunity to make a contribution to two countries.
So today I renewed allegiance to my adopted country and felt happy to welcome 96 others who had come to this point through their own routes. They are part of the wave of immigration changing the face of Canada, making the country more multi-cultural, more richly diverse, and more challenged to live up to its promise of tolerance and acceptance.
I have a lot of bones to pick with the current federal and provincial governments, but on this day I set aside political sentiment. I chose to focus on how fortunate everyone in the room was to be able to make the choices that brought us together today, on Canada’s 144th birthday.
Happy Canada Day!