New Canadians praise opportunity and safety of adopted home

Forty-one people from around the globe were sworn in Thursday as Canadian citizens in Moncton.

'I feel like the country has given me a lot and I feel obligated to give back to the communities'

Alvin Yorke, who was sworn in Thursday as a Canadian citizen, says Canada has given him a lot of opportunities. (Pierre FOurnier/CBC News)

Two things stand out about Moncton for Alvin Yorke — the friendly people and the cold winters.

The 27-year-old moved to Canada with his family as Nigerian refugees in 2013. Since then, he's come to love his new home.

It means everything to me to have this opportunity given to me by this country, and I'm hoping to give back to the community someday soon.- Alvin Yorke, Moncton

"I feel like the country has given me a lot and I feel obligated to give back to the communities."

On Thursday, Yorke got the chance to make it official by becoming a Canadian citizen.

In celebration of the 150th birthday of Confederation, 75 special citizenship ceremonies were held across the country by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

It's a day Alvin Yorke was waiting for.

"It means everything to me. … You can do what you want to do peacefully. It means everything to me to have this opportunity given to me by this country, and I'm hoping to give back to the community someday soon."

Yorke is a child and youth care worker and is studying policing and corrections. His dream is to become an RCMP officer.

New Canadian citizens had the opportunity to meet each other and share stories at a roundtable discussion before the citizenship ceremony in Moncton. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

"The people are friendly, they're nice," he said. "Freedom and then opportunities — there are a lot of opportunities here and I grab every opportunity that comes my way."

Yorke said that while the people are warm, it has taken some time to get used to the cold climate.

He remembers the first time he saw snow.

"I've seen it on TV back home," he said. "It's different seeing it in real life. It was amazing seeing the snow for the first time I was looking, and everybody was looking at me like ... yeah, it was amazing seeing the snow.

"I didn't take any chances from the beginning. Like I'm from the warm country. We only have two weathers, so I dress like a snowman, yeah!"

Feeling proud

It's been a long journey for Dr. Rafat Al-Rejjal.

Originally from Jordan, he settled in Bathurst five years ago.

Al-Rejjal said he had friends in the region who wanted him to practise medicine in northern New Brunswick. And he's glad he and his family made the move.

Dr. Rafat Al-Rejjal is from Jordan but now practices medicine in Bathurst and says he and his family are proud to call Canada home. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

"Canada is a land of multicultural origin backgrounds, so we see people from all over the world," he said. They're all safe,  they're all equal, they're all secure. It's a land of freedom, so this is a very strong point — that we are really liking here and we want to continue having this freedom and living it for our kids."

Al-Rajjal and his family arrived at the ceremony early, eager to become citizens.

"You really feel proud about that," he said. "It's a beautiful country and we love it."

Roshini Kassie, the manager of volunteers at the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, said this ceremony started with a roundtable discussion, allowing the new citizens to talk about their experiences..

Roshini Kassie of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship says the roundtable discussions give new citizens the opportunity to share their hopes. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

"Usually the path to citizenship for a lot of people is normally filling out forms, paying fees, passing tests," Kassie said. "And so this is really more about what does it mean to become a Canadian citizen, and what the significance of citizenship is in Canada and the significance of the day, their hopes and dreams for Canada."

It's an experience she understands well.

"I came to Canada when I was about six years old about 30 years ago from Trinidad. Five years later, our family got our citizenship. We have that special picture hanging up in our dining room, and it's such a special day to become part of the Canadian family."

The citizenship ceremony took place at the Free Meeting House, the oldest building in Moncton.

Forty-one people from around the globe were sworn in Thursday as Canadian citizens in Moncton. 0:58