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Becoming a Canadian emotional moment for Syrian immigrant

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Jake Romphf

Thirty-six people became Canadian citizens at St. Patrick’s high school earlier this month, and among them was Rimon Shalash.

Shalash arrived in Canada from Syria in 2009, two years before his homeland erupted in civil war.

“I loved it here,” he said. “I loved the people, the culture, and the giving of the people with everyone volunteering and helping each other.”

He considered returning when a peaceful uprising against President Assad turned into full-scale war, but decided instead to try and bring his family here.

“It was all the work and the effort of the Canadian people who helped me, supported me, and became a family for me,” he said.

Today, his mother and father, three sisters, a brother and nieces and nephews have escaped the ravaged country and made it to Canada.

So the act of becoming a citizen on May 8, reciting the Oath of Citizenship in English and French, and receiving the certificate, was an emotional experience for Shalash, who shed a few tears.

“In my head, I went through all the difficult times, all the good times and the bad.”

The Citizenship Court ceremony was overseen by Judge George Springate and brought together local government representatives and Sarnia’s fire and police chiefs.

Springate, who turned 80 a few days later, is a former police officer, politician, Grey Cup champion and Order of Canada recipient.

“You’ve selected the greatest country in the world and we are delighted to have you,” he told the new citizens.

It was the sixth straight year civics teacher Blake Morrison had arranged to have the ceremony conducted at St. Pat’s and witnessed by more than 400 students in Grades 10 and 11.

“It’s very, very, very cool to have students, who part of their curriculum is to learn about civics and citizen responsibility, witness 36 immigrants to Canada becoming citizens,” Morrison said.

But it might be the last. Judge Springate is retiring and Morrison said he isn’t sure if the school tradition will continue next year.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley told those gathered the special ceremony brings together old and new Canadians.

“We all came in different boats to this country. We’re all in the same boat now,” he said.


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