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'Canadian citizenship is valued the world over, and with good reason. This is a society that values equality of opportunity and excellence, and that sees diversity as a virtue rather than a weakness. In Canada, inclusiveness is a key value, which means that every Canadian citizen should have the opportunity to help shape this country for the better, regardless of background or ethnicity.' - Governor-General David Johnston

Mr. Johnston administered the Oath of Citizenship to 50 new Canadians from 34 countries during a special ceremony held at Rideau Hall this week. Here are portraits of 13 of them. They explained why they became Canadians at a round-table discussion organized by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, which was founded by former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson.

Zhanna Ter-stepanyan (43), Mariya (10), Yuriy (6), Russia via Ecuador

Accountant and students
What does Canada mean to you?
Our home.
What makes you feel at home in Canada?
Warmth that people share with each other.
What does it mean for you to be here today?
This is special day for our family. We feel that we became the part of the Great Family of Canadians.

Maryam (16), Ezaldeen Al-Karawi (11), Iraq

Students
What does Canada mean to you?
It’s our home.
What makes you feel at home in Canada?
Being involved in the community and interacting with everyone we meet.
What does it mean to be here today?
It means a lot to us. We are finally Canadian. And a part of this country.

Sihem Benali (35), Algeria

Entrepreneur
What does Canada mean to you?
Canada means opportunity.
What makes you feel at home in Canada?
Tim Hortons makes me feel at home in Canada.
What does it mean to be here today?
Honour and achievement.

Karina Redneris (34), Venezuala

Financial institution/management
What does Canada mean to you?
Canada means to us an open door to do and dream whatever we want to do. It’s a country where everything is possible if you set your mind to it.
What makes you feel at home in Canada?
My fellow co-workers and the kindness of the people we meet.
What does it mean for you to be here today?
It’s amazing. We are so lucky to have had this incredible opportunity to have experienced this in the house of the people.

Aneela Rahman (17), Bangladesh

Student
What does Canada mean to you?
Canada is our new home.

Kamal Benmoussa (40), Morocco

Biomedical engineer
What does Canada mean to you?
A life project of freedom, opportunity and commitment. Relief makes me feel at home in Canada. Today is a very special day, proud.

Rowland Gordon (33), Jamaica

Hospitality and event professional
What does Canada mean to you?
Canada means a country of endless opportunities where cultures embroil to create great communities.
What makes you feel at home in Canada?
I feel at home here in Canada because of the freedom and the opportunity to raise my family in this welcoming nation.
What does it mean to be here today?
Today is a great accomplishment. It’s a celebration for the milestone that started from Jamaica.

Eidel Ibrahim (28), Somalia

Housekeeper
What does Canada mean to you?
I am happy in Canada.
What makes you feel at home in Canada?
The four seasons.
What does it mean for you to be here today?
I feel hope and honour.

Nabila Fairuz Rahman (26), Bangladesh

Retail, an electrical engineering grad (2014)
What does it mean for you to be here today?
[Tuesday] was special for me because I felt relieved that everything finally came to place. We had been waiting for this for a long time, so seeing it finally happen was a dream come true.
What makes you feel at home in Canada?
I feel at home in Canada because even though there’s a diverse culture here, people are understanding and tolerant, which is very nice.

Selina Rahman (50), Bangladesh

Teacher
What makes you feel at home in Canada?
We feel welcomed here. We feel accepted, the diversity creating unity.
What does it mean for you to be here today?
We’ve been waiting for this for five years. It’s a very exciting experience.

Photography and text by Cole Burston

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