New citizens celebrate Canadian pride
Okotoks: 75 new Canadians from 35 countries receive citizenship July 1
By: Roxanne Blackwell
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 09, 2014 03:23 pm
The first day of July wasn’t just a day for 75 people to celebrate Canada, it was the day they were finally able to call it home.
Okotoks commemorated Canada’s birthday by once again holding a citizenship ceremony on Canada Day in Wylie Park, where people from 35 different countries took the final step in the process by reciting the oath, officially making them Canadian.
“I can’t imagine what it must be like to leave your home country and settle in a nation where you don’t know the language or people, but I want to thank you for what you will contribute to our country,” said Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson. “We are thrilled that you have chosen to live here.”
Among the new citizens were the Bates family – Paul, Karen, Lauren and George, who moved to Okotoks from England five years ago. They were thrilled to step forward and accept their new citizenship certificates. Karen said they felt it was an important step to officially become Canadian.
“We feel Canadian, so we'd love the opportunity to be more involved, to vote and just be a responsible Canadian,” she said. “You just feel more a part of things. Permanent residency is ok but to be a citizen means you actually belong, which is more important.”
Paul said they’ve enjoyed the freedoms that come along with living here.
“We came here for the kids, obviously living in Okotoks there’s so much for them to do, it's been so much better than we imagined when we came over,” he said.
“And it's reasonably priced,” Karen added. “Being from the UK it would cost a lot more. Whereas even the splash park is amazing and it's all free – the parks, the cycle paths, we can do something every day. There's twice as many people in England as the whole of Canada, so there's just so much space, and everyone is a lot friendlier so we are happier and the kids are happier.”
There are some things about England the family misses, mostly the people they left behind.
“That’s the hardest thing, I think everybody will tell you that leaving family is the hardest thing, however they love to come and visit,” Karen said.
Paul’s mother, Sue Bates, made the trek to Okotoks from England to watch the family officially become Canadian and she said she was glad to have witnessed it.
“It’s very special,” she said. “It makes me feel very proud of them all. I usually come during the summer anyway, but it was just nice to be part of the ceremony. I miss them dreadfully, but I don’t blame them for making the step. Canada is such a beautiful place.”
And while nine-year-old Lauren is still hanging on to her British accent, she’s excited to call herself a Canadian.
“I like it,” she said. “It's nice to have a change. It means starting a new life.”