Eighteen immigrants living in Newfoundland and Labrador officially became Canadian citizens Thursday.

Lt.-Gov Frank Fagan welcomed the new Canadians at a ceremony in St. John's.

Fania Jaoudat, who's originally from Syria, said she felt pride following the event.

"It's very exciting. I'm very proud to get the citizenship of a very developed country," said Jaoudat, who lives in Clarenville with her physician husband, and their three children.

Prisa Azizi, who was born in Afghanistan, said she's also excited about her new citizenship.

"Right now, I'm very happy because I give vote, and I give the passport, like I'm very free," she said.

Azizi said she also plans to stay in the province with her husband.

Conservative MHA Dan Crummell, the parliamentary secretary for the department responsible for immigration, encouraged the new Canadians to stay in the province to fill upcoming vacancies.


Conservative MHA Dan Crummell encouraged the new Canadians to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador to fill upcoming vacancies. (CBC )

"We certainly do need more people in this province to contribute to the opportunities that are before us," he said.

Government has said for months that it needs more people to fill positions becoming available through retirements and new projects that are looming on the horizon.

In January, the government appointed Ross Reid to the new position of deputy minister responsible for the province's population growth strategy.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale stated at the time that it's an important issue.

"We've got to find a way to grow that population. This is not some trivial job [and] we are taking care of one of our political helpers. This is real work that needs to get done," she said.

But in its recent budget, government cut funding for its Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism almost in half, and laid off staff.

NDP MHA George Murphy said it's a move that won't help the province's population growth strategy.

"We know that Newfoundland and Labrador wants to have much larger growth than what it has, but that does nothing to encourage growth," he said. "We need to see the provincial government come back and re-examine the cuts that they made to this program."

But Crummell said the cuts won't get in the way of population growth.

"We're very comfortable and confident with the resources that we have in place," he said.