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New Canadians celebrate journeys at citizenship ceremony

Ceremony sees 47 people from nine countries take oath and become Canadian citizens

Minutes after becoming a Canadian citizen, Mary Jane Bagui said that one of the things that make her proudest is that she is free to pursue her dreams without discrimination.

Bagui has first-hand experience in both pursuing her dreams and helping people pursue theirs in her jobs in Human Relations at the Thunder Creek Pork Plant.

“It’s really nice to be able to live here without discrimination and without biases and favouritism,” Bagui said. “From an HR perspective, it’s really mind-blowing that we don’t put this in a resume because we don’t do recruitment based on if they have this background or that background. Everybody is equal and not judged by their colour or where they are from…I want to be part of that country where they exercise freedom and rights.

“For me being a Canadian and giving back is exercising my right to vote.”

Bagui — or MJ from MJ as she cheerfully introduced herself — was one of 47 people from across southern Saskatchewan who was sworn in as a Canadian citizen as part of the citizenship ceremony that was co-hosted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

Bagui earned her degree Bachelor of Science in Psychology in the Philippines but wasn’t able to put her degree to use. Instead, when she arrived in 2013 she began life in Canada by working at Subway and Dairy Queen. She returned to school at Saskatchewan Polytechnic and completed her studies in human resources.

“I had to start from scratch. I think I had less than a thousand bucks in my account. I had no car. I moved here because my brother and his family were in Humboldt. I literally had nobody here, no relatives. It was hard,” Bagui said. “I started in the service industry, but after a year I decided I wanted to go back to school and upgrade what I have. The reality is that my education from the Philippines is not equivalent here. It is what it is.”

Alfred Vasallo has lived in Swift Current for 11 years and became a citizen Tuesday. He said he moved to Canada because there was more opportunity for him and his family.

“I had a decent job there, but it was not enough to provide for them,” said Vasallo who said his family encouraged him to emigrate.

Vsasllo said the spirit of volunteerism in Canada and everyone taking care of each other really struck him. He was beaming during the ceremony but said the journey hasn’t always been easy.

“It was a big change. It’s a culture shock, actually,” Vasallo said. “When I first came I was excited. When I arrived in Regina at the airport, it was actually November. It’s really cold that month. We went to Swift and my employer was the one driving and we encountered a blizzard already. So, yeah that was a bit of a shock.”

Adapting to a new country and often a new language and climate is difficult. That was also true for 19-year-old Alexia Gardoque, but she was just happy to be able to see her mother every day. That hadn’t been the case as her mother left the Philipines not long after she was born.

“The first seven years of my life she was overseas. First, she was in Hong Kong for two years and then she was finally able to move here to Canada and she lived in Carrot River,” said Gardoque who took the oath of citizenship with her brother, father, and mother.

“It was hard, especially for me growing up. When I was in the Philippines I was waiting for her every year to come and attend my year-end school events. It was really nice to finally be reunited.”

Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie told his own immigration story of his grandparents leaving Glasgow during the Second World War and seeking a better life.

“I want to welcome you to our country, to our province and to our city because today the city is better because of who you are and because of what you have done today,” Tolmie said.

The ceremony opened with Aaron Tootoosis from the Guns of Poundmaker drum group singing a song written by Chief Piapot on the occasion of the signing of Treaty 4 in 1874. Ha’Keen Maneso, a Grade 11 student from Vanier whose mother is a fourth-generation Saskatchewan resident and whose father is an Ethiopian immigrant, sang O Canada in both official languages.

 “The future of Canada — our freedom, our democracy, our peaceful society, equality under the law, prosperity — the future of all of these things now depends on you,” said citizenship officer Akuokor Ninepence addressing the new Canadians.

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