Friday, Feb. 22 marked a special day for 57 men, women and children hailing from around the world when they officially became Canadian citizens at a special ceremony at the MaRS Discovery District.
The new citizens were sworn in by Judge Floyd Babcock, reciting an oath and officially gaining their papers.
New citizen Laura Rusike was thrilled that she and her daughter, six-year-old Chiedza, were officially Canadian citizens. Rusike, a native Zimbabwean, has lived in Canada for seven years after spending five years in the United States.
“My Visa expired in the U.S. and I couldn’t continue my education there,” she said. “Going back home (to Zimbabwe) was not an option because of everything that’s going on back there.”
Her native country has seen an escalation in human rights abuses under current leader Robert Mugabe and many face poor living conditions.
Fortunately for Rusike, her brother lives in Canada and urged her to join him here. She was able to study to become an occupational therapist’s assistant at Centennial College and now works at the Trillium Health Centre.
“I love Canada,” she said. “Canada is my home and it’s a great place.”
Chiedza is also proud to call Canada home, as evidenced by her bright smile when she officially became a citizen.
“I’m happy to live in Canada because I have a nice school and nice teachers,” she said.
MaRS Discovery District CEO Dr. Ilse Treurnicht, who also came to Canada from abroad 29 years ago, noted it was the sixth year MaRS has hosted a citizenship ceremony and spoke of the happiness she and others working there feel when they see a new group of people join the ranks of Canadian citizens.
“It’s always a very wonderful opportunity for us to pause...and reflect on what it means to be a Canadian citizen today,” she said.
In swearing in the new citizens, Babcock spoke both of their rights and responsibilities and lauded the 57 successful new Canadians on their perseverance in gaining their citizenship. He noted that some came from difficult circumstances, but acknowledged that all went through struggles.
“Most of you came here looking for a better life in a safe, prosperous and welcoming country,” he said. “You had to adjust to a new climate, you had to adjust to a new culture and you had to adjust to new ways of doing things, and that’s never easy.”
Toronto Centre-Rosedale councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Toronto Community Foundation president and CEO Rahul Bhardwaj were also on hand to congratulate the 57 newcomers on officially earning their citizenship.