Today I watched as fifty people became Canadians - fifty people, from twenty four different countries. I hope you join me in thinking this is an amazing thing.
Years ago I was lucky enough to help a dear friend study for her citizenship. I'm sure when she asked me that both her and I figured I would be a helpful tutor, being the good Canadian that I am. I'll be honest though, and I remember admitting this to my friend, I didn't know a lot of the answers to the questions on the exam. I was humbled and filled with so much respect for anyone who decides to become a citizen and write our exam. You can imagine my joy when my good friend officially became a Canadian.
Of course I thought about this when watching the fifty new Canadians take their oath this morning. I thought about the time they had spent studying for the exam and the effort they put in to officially joining our country.
Before the ceremony we were asked if we had any advice for the new citizens. I thought about this for a while, what sort of thing did I want a new citizen to know? It's cold here, we love hockey, make sure you vote, play in the snow - there are so many things they will learn and be able to experience. But something that I wanted them to know was this:
Be proud to be a Canadian, but be equally as proud of where you are from, never lose that because our strength is in the coming together despite that diversity.
And I truly mean that. Being a Canadian is a wonderful thing, we are an amazing country but we are an amazing country because we are made up of so many amazing people. When our individual experiences are valued and applied to our collective being we become a community of such strength. When we listen and accept, when we educate and inform, when we empower and support, when we value and give voices to everyone - we are Canadian.