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Canada At July 1 citizenship ceremony, new Canadians mark first day of new lives

Lhundup Gyatso, 41, and his son Sangye Tenzin, 10, who are from Nepal signs papers to receive their Canadian citizenship during a special Canada Day ceremony in Toronto's High Park on July 1, 2015. Gyatso, who is Tibetan, has never been recognized as a citizen in any country before this day.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

More than most, Lhundup Gyatso understands what it means to be a citizen.

The 41-year-old was born in Nepal, but didn't have equal status because of his Tibetan ancestry. Without it, higher education and a professional career were impossible dreams.

Seven years ago, he came to Canada as a refugee and on Wednesday he and his young son became Canadian citizens at one of many ceremonies held across the country on Canada Day.

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Although official papers will come later in the mail, the replica document he clutched in his hand illustrated how far he's come from his precarious former life.

"Finally, I got a citizenship of a great country," he said.

Mr. Gyatso was one of dozens, young and old, from all over the world, who stood to recite the oath of citizenship in unison at a flag-draped ceremony in Toronto's west-end High Park.

The threatened rain held off as citizenship judge Wojciech Sniegowski counselled them to give back to their new country as volunteers and told them multiculturalism meant not having to give up on their past. Before the ceremony closed with the crowd singing O Canada, federal Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair offered a few words.

"What could be more special on Canada Day than to welcome dozens of new citizens to the greatest country in the world?" he said, backed by fellow NDP politicians.

"My wife is an immigrant to this country and I can remember her citizenship ceremony. Our children and I share her citizenship, as well. And that's the beauty of Canada, isn't it? No one has to subtract anything when they become a Canadian citizen, we just keep adding."

Listening in the crowd were Mr. Gyatso and his 10-year-old son, Sangye Tenzin. Both wore colourfully decorated traditional Tibetan shirts, Mr. Gyatso topping his with a blazer that had a Canadian flag pin in the lapel.

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After Mr. Gyatso arrived here in 2008, he did get in to school, this time to study English. For the past three years, he has worked in a shipping and receiving company.

His son joined him a few years ago, arriving from Asia with his mother, who is not yet eligible for citizenship because she has since made a trip to visit family, resetting the clock on her path to citizenship. But the father and son were quietly thrilled to be taking this step. Sangye described it as "so exciting" and Mr. Gyatso called it "very special" to get their citizenship on the day that marks the country's founding.

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