What better way to welcome the 74 newest members of the Canadian family than a citizenship ceremony at a hockey rink just hours before the Ottawa Senators and the Calgary Flames hit the ice?
Canadian Tire Centre played host to the event in which the members of 20 families took an oath of citizenship, the final legal requirement to becoming citizens with all the rights and responsibilities that would hold.
Jim Little, who became the Senators’ chief executive officer just last week, said playing host to the ceremony at Canadian Tire Centre combined two great Canadian traditions — making people feel welcome and hockey — and he urged the new citizens to pick up sticks and try out Canada’s national winter sport. Hockey unites people, even when they are cheering for different teams, he said.
“I’ve been through the process myself, and I remember how proud I was,” said citizenship judge Rania Sfeir, who came to Canada from Lebanon with her husband and two children in 2003 and became a Canadian citizen in 2009.
“We might not be the perfect country, but we do our best,” she told the new citizens. “The future of our country depends on all of us.”
Both teams welcomed 74 new Canadians to their benches for the singing of O Canada, the final step in their Citizenship Ceremony. 🇨🇦
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 18, 2020
Tareq Hadhad, a Syrian refugee, came to Canada five years ago and founded Peace by Chocolate. The company now has 55 employees and has become the biggest employer in Antigonish, N.S. Part of the proceeds from the sales of its products goes to charities focused on mental health, immigration and refugees, he said.
Hadhad became a Canadian citizen this past week in a ceremony at Halifax.
“It’s like becoming part of a family,” he said. “This was the only country that opened a door for us.”
Ismail Ayyoub, 17, was born in Kuwait and came to Canada when he was 10. He won a gold medal for Canada in the 2019 Pan-American wrestling championships in Mexico. Now a student at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School in Barrhaven, Ayyoub is continuing his training and aims to compete in the national wrestling finals in March, and he plans to study cognitive science or business in university.
He became a Canadian citizen during a similar ceremony at Canadian Tire Centre last February. “It was a great feeling, and now I’m welcoming new Canadians,” said Ayyoub, who was a special guest at Saturday’s ceremony.
In the past decade, Canada has welcomed almost 1.7 million new citizens. Those participating in Saturday’s ceremony came from 20 countries.
Among them were Zhanna Ushkanova and Dimitry Ushkanov and daughter, Elizabeth, who arrived in Canada five years ago from Yakutsk, Siberia, in part because of the opportunities for Elizabeth, now 15. Their daughter Victoria, now 3, was born in Canada. Elizabeth is now a Canterbury High School student with her sights set on becoming an animator. Dimitry, a mixed martial arts champion in Russia, is now coaching and wants to open his own gym.
“It has been like a dream come true,” Zhanna said.
Claire McCartney and Paul Hopkins and their children Martin, Mikey, Kelly and Jude, came to Canada from Belfast, Northern Ireland, 12 years ago, when Hopkins was offered a job in Ottawa. The entire family became citizens on Saturday.
“We just fell in love with Canada,” McCartney said. “When you have that attachment, you want to make a commitment. I fly a flag on Canada Day, but this will be the first time I can truly fly a flag.”
By Joanne Laucius - Ottawa Citizen