Moved by his citizenship ceremony, new Canadian encourages old country to follow suit
"I wanted to let people in Finland know how Canada celebrates its new citizens."
This story is part of Becoming Canadian, a year-long project sharing stories of struggle and triumph from new Canadian citizens.
Janne Laikola had such a profound experience at his Canadian citizenship ceremony that he wrote to a newspaper in his home country of Finland advocating the Finnish government adopt a similar process to welcome its new citizens.
Laikola lives in Barrie, Ont., with his Canadian-born wife Elisa and their two Canadian children, Joel and Javika. He took his citizenship oath at a ceremony in Scarborough, Ont., in August, 2016.
"After moving to Canada, I felt for a long time that I am just a visitor in this country, but after the citizenship ceremony something changed in my thinking," Laikola says. "I started to feel that I belong here, and I understood that I have the same rights and responsibilities as anybody else in this country."
Laikola was born in Finland, and he met his wife there 11 years ago (Elisa was born in Canada, although her family is also Finnish). The couple moved to Canada six years ago and started a family.
"My wife is Canadian already, and my kids too, so I wanted to become Canadian as well. In a way, it kind of unites our family," Laikola says.
After his ceremony, Laikola saw an article in a Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, raising the question of whether there should be some kind of ceremony for new citizens of Finland.
"After reading that article, I decided to write an opinion column about my experiences of becoming Canadian," Laikola says. "I wrote briefly about the citizenship application process and all the different steps that were involved in it. Then I described the citizenship ceremony, and I also mentioned that all the new Canadians got a cultural access pass, that allows them to visit many museums and interesting places for free."
With the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment throughout much of the world, Laikola recognized the different approach in Canada.
"I wrote the article because I wanted to let people in Finland know how Canada celebrates its new citizens in such a wonderful and respectful way," Laikola says. "I wanted to tell them that in Canada immigrants are seen as valuable new members of the country. I also mentioned that all new Canadians were thanked in the ceremony that they have chosen Canada for their new home. I think that it is something very special these days, when many countries turn their back for the newcomers and build walls instead of welcoming them."
I think that it is something very special these days, when many countries turn their back for the newcomers and build walls instead of welcoming them.
Laikola works for the Canadian Pacific Railway in track maintenance. "I'm very grateful that I got this job. I've been working there now about five years, and I've seen all of this country's beautiful scenery," he says.
While Laikola works to build train tracks across the country, he now recognizes his role building a new Canada.
"I don't need to be ashamed of my accent or background," Laikola says. "It truly hit me, that this country is built with the help of newcomers like me."