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85 new Canadians swear oath of citizenship at ceremony

Some had lived in Canada for up to 22 years, others had been in the country for just a few

For newly sworn-in Canadian citizen Vinod Yadav, it wasn’t the natural beauty or new found freedoms in Canada that caught him in awe. It was glass doors at the bank.

That, he explained, was symbolic of the difference between living in Canada and living in India.

“Anybody can break the glass and go inside and make a robbery, but no,” he said, explaining that in India the banks all have iron doors. “This is an example of the honesty. That does not happen in other countries. Everything is just tightly locked. Even in India, my house, they have all the iron doors over there.”

Coming to Canada as a temporary foreign worker in 2008, Yadav explained the opportunities he has been afforded. He went from a pair of luggage bags to owning a house and working as a chef cooking Mediterranean food.

Eighty-five people in B.C. will wake up on Friday to experience their first full morning as Canadian citizens. A citizenship ceremony, officiated by immigration Judge Gerald Pesh, was held in Penticton’s Cleland Theatre, Thursday morning, ushering dozens of excited people into full citizenship.

“Very proud,” said Preet Dhaliwal after the ceremony.

“This is my greatest achievement. It’s my milestone in my mid-age,” she added with a laugh.

Dhaliwal was born in Kolkata, India, but she’s been a long-time Penticton resident — 22 years, to be exact. Dhaliwal’s husband is already a citizen, while her children were born in Penticton, making them born citizens, but Dhaliwal took some time in India to deal with family matters, pushing back her own citizenship.

“I was so looking forward to it. I’m so overwhelmed and I’m just feeling so proud to be a Canadian citizen today,” she said prior to the ceremony. “My kids are actually, they’re very happy, they’re very glad for me, because … we have adopted this country, this province for a long time.”

While Dhaliwal said she likes to go back to India, she has settled into Canada for good. Now a Canadian citizen, Dhaliwal said she is feeling some civic responsibility.

Already a long-time community volunteer, including fundraising for the hospital and involvement at her Sikh temple, Dhaliwal said she’s inspired by her citizenship to ramp up her involvement.

“Even now, having a citizenship, I think I have more on my shoulders,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it because I think I will be doing more in the community now.”

While Dhaliwal has been in Penticton for more than two decades, others are far newer to the city and the country.

Coming from Germany, Olga Heinen and her two daughters landed in Canada in 2011, getting their permanent residence in 2012. For the most part, Heinen said there hasn’t been any culture shock, but she never saw the kind of landscapes she sees living in Kamloops as she did in Cologne, Germany.

“I’m so excited and happy,” she said of becoming a Canadian citizen. “I studied very hard for that (citizenship) test and passed it and I was so happy.”

Heinen’s daughter Lena, 12, said she has vague memories of Germany, having left when she was just six years old, but said she’s felt more included living in Canada than at home.

“Some people were sort of mean to me in Germany and so there’s a big difference here in Canada. I feel way more welcome here, and so I’m really happy to live here.”

South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services program manager Tahira Saeed said while big cities tend to get their citizenship ceremonies on, or near, Canada Day the group tried to get Penticton’s ceremony as close to Canada’s birthday as possible.

“This was the closest we could get, and we are very happy with that,” Saeed said, noting the significance of Canada’s 150th birthday coming up.

This this the third year Penticton has hosted a citizenship ceremony, Saeed said laws have changed to make the process to citizenship a little bit faster than it was last year. The 85 who participated on Thursday is just four shy of the number expected, but still a boost over the 60 who participated last year.

While the 85 new citizens just missed the most recent B.C. election by a hair, their next chance to vote will come up in fall 2018 when municipal elections come around again.

“People are excited. Especially each year, going through different elections, whether it’s municipal, federal or provincial. People are eager to participate,” said Saeed.

For now, Yadav says it’s time to pick up a passport and celebrate.

“(Feeling) very refreshed as a Canadian citizen,” he said following the ceremony. “Party tonight.”