Judge Albert Wong recently encouraged 42 candidates from 11 countries to take a moment to reflect on their journey to become Canadians during a special citizenship ceremony held at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
The session, one of the first held in person since the outbreak of COVID-19, was staged in Maanjiwe nendamowinan’s Grand Hall on March 21 in collaboration with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Judge Albert Wong, bottom left, presides over a citzenship ceremony at University of Toronto Mississauga (photos by Laura Proctor)
During the program, Wong praised the staff of the IRCC for their efforts to swear-in more than 500,000 new citizens by Zoom video call during the pandemic.
He also said March 21 was an appropriate date to hold the ceremony, noting it coincided with both the onset of spring and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination , reflecting times for fresh starts and bringing people together.
(photos by Laura Proctor)
Wong shared with the group his own immigration experience, moving to Canada from Malaysia in 1971. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces as soon as he graduated high school, eventually serving nearly 40 years before becoming a citizenship judge.
In addition to Wong, University of Toronto Vice-President and Principal University of Toronto Mississauga Alexandra Gillespie and Vice-Provost, International Student Experience Alexie Tcheuyap - themselves immigrants from New Zealand and Cameroon, respectively - attended the ceremony.
Nigerian Canadian poet and University of Toronto Mississauga alumnus Ayomide Bayowa , Mississauga’s current poet laureate , performed a special piece in honour of the new citizens.
University of Toronto Vice-President and Principal of University of Toronto Mississauga Alexandra Gillespie speaks into a microphone at top left and poses for a group photo that includes Alexie Tcheuyap, University of Toronto’s associate vice-president and vice-provost, international student experience (photos by Laura Proctor)
As they collected their certificates conferring their new status, Wong gave the group words of encouragement, reminding them that, in Canada, "diversity is our strength."
"This is a threshold moment, not the end of your citizenship journey," he said, urging the newcomers to involve themselves in Canada’s Indigenous reconciliation and social inclusion efforts and encouraging them to pursue artistic endeavours to bring "light and joy and beauty and peace" to their new home.
"Citizenship is an instrument to make our country stronger."
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