'I was shocked': Newcomer invited to celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill
Yasser Al Asmi met with several Canadian dignitaries during his visit to Ottawa for Canada Day
A Moncton man who recently won a major award, was invited to Ottawa to celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill.
It was Yasser Al Asmi's first time outside New Brunswick since his family came to Canada two years ago to escape the war in Syria.
Al Asmi was asked by Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to come as one of the dignitaries on the red carpet.
"I knew that no matter what, I'm not going to miss this chance," said the high school graduate.
The request came after he was awarded the prestigious Roméo LeBlanc Scholarship to the University of Moncton.
The scholarship is awarded to the student with the highest grades from an anglophone high school in Atlantic Canada.
During the phone call, the newcomer took a minute to think about the invitation but quickly accepted before taking too much time to process what was happening.
"I was shocked," he said. "It was all great."
A passion for working hard
On his trip, Al Asmi met Sophie Trudeau, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, among others, and walked the red carpet in Ottawa.
Over the weekend, Al Asmi said he was a bit nervous but happy that Canada recognized him in such a way.
"I had [the] motivation to work hard and reach high places, but I never expected to have all of this in this early time in my life in Canada," he said.
A warm welcome home
Al Asmi said the invitation speaks to how Canada welcomes newcomers.
"This was a very warm welcome," he said. "I felt my new country recognized my humble efforts."
Two years after arriving in Canada with his parents and three younger siblings, Yasser mastered English and French with the help of YouTube, mobile apps and the people of Moncton.
Al Asmi will study in French as a pre-med student this fall at the University of Moncton. The scholarship will cover all his tuition fees at the university.