Newest Canadians swear oath to country in mountain-top ceremony

Against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, 60 people were sworn in as new Canadians in a unique citizenship ceremony at the peak of Banff's Sulphur Mountain.
Citizenship judge Joy Dirks congratulates Ochuko Ofiuvwo, 11, on becoming a Canadian citizen. ((David Gray/CBC))

Against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, 60 people were sworn in as new Canadians in a unique citizenship ceremony at the peak of Banff's Sulphur Mountain.

Federal officials decided to hold the ceremony at the breath-taking summit of the Banff gondola to entice more people, but particularly new Canadians, to visit the national park again in the future.

For many of the immigrants, including Daniel Ofiuvwo and his wife Marian, it was the first time they had seen one of Alberta's most treasured attractions. 

"We were planning that we would be there [Banff] in this summer and it came around on a platter of gold.  I was like, oh yeah, bring it on!" said Daniel, whose 11-year-old daughter, Ochuko, also became a Canadian citizen at the ceremony.

At the request of citizenship judge Joy Dirks,  everyone in the room — from park wardens to kitchen staff to reporters — joined the new Canadians in saying the oath of citizenship.

"Those of us who were born here sometimes tend to take it for granted and I don't think we should," Dirks explained later. "I think it's important for all of us to step away a little bit and say the oath of citizenship."

Family moved by symbolic action

Daniel, Marian and Ochuko Ofiuvwo could not hide their grins as they held their citizenship certificates. In 2004, the family moved from Nigeria during political upheaval to Calgary, where some of their relatives were living.  

Canada was the first country to move its embassy out of Nigeria at the time, which Daniel saw as a symbol of Canadian courage against an oppressive Nigerian regime.

"That was the first time Canada actually struck a chord in me. That was the first close contact that I had with Canada and so when we were thinking of moving out of the country, Canada was the first one," he said at his home on Thursday before the ceremony.  

Daniel works as a computer programmer while his wife is an accountant. But no matter how much time they spend in the city, there's one adjustment they have yet to make.  

New Canadian Marian Ofiuvwo helps daughter, Mercy, with her homework. ((Monty Kruger/CBC))

"In Nigeria, we don't have snow at all, that was my first time seeing snow," said Marian. "It was when we came here that I actually experienced the snow."

Though the couple say they miss Nigeria's warm weather, food, and the more communal way of life, Canada has now become home.

"I don't see my kids [they also have a daughter, Mercy] going back to Africa or to my country to settle there," said Daniel. "One basic fact is that they have a better education, better facility to be able to learn and train, so that is there. So everything adds up at the end of the day, that they have better futures here."

Shalini Garg and her husband Anurag, who also rode the gondola to the ceremony, experienced culture shock when they moved from Delhi, India — a city of about 14 million people — to much-smaller Calgary, but they consider it a blessing.

"You don't feel like something will happen. Like in Delhi, it's a big city and life is not very safe over there. So safety is the main reason I think for kids," said Shalini, a mother of three. 

The couple visits India every few years to visit family and so their children — one born in India and the other two in Canada — can understand their heritage and appreciate where they live now.