The Journey to Canada: Reflections on a Citizenship Ceremony

by Marcia Da Costa
March 12th, 2014: Fourteen Hundred Hours
Western Development Museum, Saskatoon, SK

It was icy out. It was typical Saskatchewan mid-March weather that I have come to know well during my last eight years living in the province. Stumbling though the parking lot, I managed to remain vertical until I reached the front entrance of the museum. I laughed and remembered Brazil, my native country, with joy. No ice, no snow… but I repeat what I personally believe in: “-40 over +40 any day.” I like Saskatchewan weather.

Posters at the front doors welcomed people to the event being held at the premises. I purposefully ignored the sign and asked my husband, who walked next to me, some ridiculously lame and out-of-place question, also known as my first attempt at avoiding embarrassing and unsolicited tears. I had been waiting for this day since the day I spent a good 25 minutes talking to a city council candidate who came to my door. It was a great conversation that ended with me giving him his flyer back, saying “Sorry, I can’t vote. I’m not Canadian.” Now it was here.

Attempt number two at no tears happened after a chaperone congratulated me as I walked into the large room of McLeod Hall. I proudly held it together after quickly making a joke less than mildly funny (which currently escapes my memory). There was still hope for no tears. I had a system that worked.

Emotional speeches went by, beautiful words, and examples of past generations…all connected with me and the other 92 people in my situation present in the room. I tried to count them all a few times, trying to guess who was an official invited attendee and who was a guest. I looked around the room a few times – when the gap between 360 room inspections became smaller and smaller I had to return to Plan A and mix it with Plan B as previously attempted: I made another out-of-place claim to my husband, followed with a, now, not even close to funny joke. But I didn’t cry. Nope…no sir…I didn’t cry.

Then my name was called.

I went on stage to receive a certificate, actually signed by Stephen Harper.

Two or three tears came out. But I managed to stop them.

Then…they did it…. The anthem…the national anthem started playing…and it was now MY anthem too! “Oh Canada…”
I broke down.

by Larry Goodfellow
One of my passions is photography. When I heard that Marcia, our panel manager, had passed her citizenship and was to be sworn in, I volunteered to take the photos.

The swearing-in ceremony was held at the Western Development Museum, an unlikely but perfectly appropriate venue for such an event. Against a backdrop of the history of the settlement of Saskatchewan, new pioneers from many countries were being welcomed.

To my surprise, when I walked in, I found that 90 people would take the Oath of Citizenship that afternoon, and during the week over 800 people in Saskatoon would receive their citizenship, representing almost 40 countries.

The judge opened the proceedings with welcoming remarks that spoke of the values that make us Canadian and how those values had originated with pioneers from many countries. He talked about the hardships these early settlers had endured to build the country and society that these new citizens would soon be part of. He spoke of the hardships that many of those being sworn in had endured to make it to this moment, including one individual who had waited 57 years to become a citizen.

Surrounded by their families and loved ones, the applicants stood to repeat the Oath of Citizenship. Pride, accomplishment, and optimism were evident in their faces as they repeated the words.

As an observer, I had tears in my eyes and pride in our country.

I hope these photos capture some of this experience.