The Current

What being Canadian means to new, and soon-to-be, citizens

On Canada Day, The Current spoke to two immigrants about what Canadian citizenship means to them as the COVID-19 pandemic changes citizenship ceremonies for newcomers.

'It seems like I just fulfilled one of my biggest life dreams,' says Dhiti Nanavati

Chris Kidd, right, pictured with his wife and two children, became a Canadian citizen on July 1 in a virtual ceremony. (Submitted by Chris Kidd)

With the COVID-19 pandemic putting gatherings on hold, Canada Day looks quite a bit different this year — and for one new Canadian, that means a citizenship ceremony like no other.

Chris Kidd has been waiting seven years to become a Canadian citizen, and on July 1, he officially took the oath of citizenship in a virtual event from his home in Ashdale, N.S.

"I've certainly seen the impact of failed states, of a lack of democracy and the wars that have ravaged east and central Africa, and this is a chance for me to fully commit to the community that I'm part of here in Ashdale, to take on that responsibility of being a citizen," said Kidd in an interview with The Current's guest host Rosemary Barton in an interview ahead of the event.

Originally from Scotland, Kidd spent a decade working in Uganda. He says he was drawn to Canada because of someone he met while working there.

"The short story is I chased a girl. I met the love of my life in Uganda, in East Africa, and almost immediately I broke a [foot] in an accident and had malaria and left," he recalled.

"My now wife followed me to Scotland for a few years where I finished my doctorate … and as the time came to start a family, we considered our options, and I followed her back to Nova Scotia."

My daughter's four and she keeps running up to me and telling me, out of context, that she's so excited that I finally get to be a Canadian.- Chris Kidd

Kidd says after his years in a rural Ugandan village, and his memories of Scotland, he was concerned that he and his wife, Heather, would struggle to find the right fit in a new home.

Nova Scotia, he told Barton, offers many of the "same qualities" as his hometown on the west coast of Scotland, or east and central Africa.

"It's a small community. Everyone's relying upon each other," he said.

Though he's been anxiously awaiting his citizenship for years, he says he "couldn't be more delighted" for the ceremony to take place now, even online.

"My daughter's four and she keeps running up to me and telling me, out of context, that she's so excited that I finally get to be a Canadian," he said.

"I asked her the other day, what did that mean to her? And she said, it means we can all be the same."

The hosts of 'The Secret Life of Canada' podcast discuss Canada's history and their belief that education and understanding the past are essential in order to create change. 9:20

Citizenship ceremony postponed

For Dhiti Nanavati, citizenship can't come soon enough. She told The Current that her citizenship ceremony was set to take place in March — but was cancelled indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was very disheartening. I had been preparing for this moment, and to have it cancelled was really sad," she told Barton.

After years in both the United States and England, where she studied economics and earned an MBA, Nanavati was encouraged to move to Canada by her parents.

"They were really keen that I get to experience the Canadian culture and get to live in a country that's truly inclusive and diverse," she said.

Dhiti Nanavati's citizenship ceremony was to take place in March, but has been cancelled indefinitely due to the pandemic. (Submitted by Dhiti Nanavati)

But her journey to becoming a Canadian had a rocky start. Despite having advanced qualifications, Nanavati says she worked a number of "odd jobs," including one packing lipstick in a cosmetics manufacturing plant, to get by.

"It was a major struggle because I came with expectations and dreams, and I knew that all immigrants have a learning curve ahead of them, but I didn't expect mine to last this long," she said. 

Today, things are looking up, she says. Nanavati is a marketing manager for an information management company in Toronto, and assists newcomers with immigrating to Canada.

"I knew that I had to pay it forward because when I was struggling, there were people who helped me out, who gave me guidance," she said. "And it was really heartwarming to see the number of people who tried to go out of their way to help me."

Asked what becoming a Canadian citizen means to her, Nanavati was emphatic.

"It seems like I just fulfilled one of my biggest life dreams," she said.

Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Joana Draghici