Forty-one people from 17 countries became Canadians at a community citizenship ceremony on P.E.I. Wednesday.
During the ceremony at Stratford Town Hall the new citizens had a chance to share their stories with community leaders.
“Instead of just a ceremony where they just come, get their certificate, and leave, it's a chance really to meet some people in the community and to really have more of a celebration,” said Heath Steel with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.
Many participants are newcomers to Canada from places like China, Japan and the Philippines, reflecting P.E.I.’s changing demographics.
“I’m proud to be a Canadian. It’s a good country and we both [have] good jobs here so it's good place to raise kids. But Sri Lanka will stay in our hearts forever,” said Gayani Sudasingha.
The formal part of the ceremony was presided over by a judge who was once herself a newcomer from Jamaica:
“I think it's great for everyone to be reminded of what they can contribute, and how the society can be stronger because of their effort,” said Veronica Johnson.
Several of the new Canadians have lived here many years, but finally decided to take the plunge.
Jayne Arsenault, originally from England, has lived in Canada for 44 years.
“I didn't have to, but I wanted to. So, emotionally, for me, it's a homecoming,” she said.
The personal stories told range from those who came seeking prosperity, to those who fell in love.
“Well, I met Bob online,” said Carol Raffo from New York. “And for two years we went back and forth. I'm a gamer, once a gamer, always a gamer, and I came for two week, and I was going through a divorce at the time, and we just hit it off so I just up and left.”
Many of the new citizens expressed gratitude for the opportunities that living in Canada affords.
“It's like the freedom you have here,” said Robert Schicht, from Germany.
“There's more freedom here for individual person, more room to excel, more room to go, follow your dreams.”