Path to Canadian citizenship started at doughnut shop

It was doughnuts and coffee that brought Ramelyn Wade to Canada, but it was a citizenship ceremony on Wednesday that gave her a seat at the national table.

Wade, accompanied by her husband, Leeroy, and their two young boys, was one of the first people from the Philippines to enter Canada to work at Tim Hortons.

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On Wednesday, Wade was one of 85 people from 23 countries to recite the oath of Canadian citizenship at a special ceremony at Duntze Head, with a view of CFB Esquimalt’s naval harbour.

When Wade left her home in the Philippines, it was for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Her only plan then was to send money home to family.

She stayed in the UAE for four years before leaving.

When she landed in Canada to begin work in the Tim Hortons shop in Colwood, she immediately noticed some differences.

It wasn’t the rain, the temperatures or the trees, it was the Canadians. “All the people were so nice and everyone was so friendly,” she said.

“I’m very happy to be here now, very happy.”

Citizen judge Gerald Pash congratulated all the new Canadians and told them they could defend and honour Canada by being good citizens.

“Now you are a Canadian citizen and have the right to a seat at the table,” Pash said. “When you first arrived, you were a guest.”

“Now, that oath is the bond between you and your fellow citizens,” he said.

Pash challenged the new Canadians to live up to their citizenship by contributing to their community whether it’s working with neighbours, on behalf of the environment, looking for reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations or standing as an international symbol of peace and stability.

“Citizenship demands engagement,” he said. “Don’t hang back.”

The ceremony started and ended with a song from First Nations singer Bill Stewart of the Ahousaht First Nation, near Tofino.

Seeing the pride of place and the deference to Indigenous people was a welcome sign to Hugo Guerrero Fuentes, from a village in the Oaxaca region of southwestern Mexico.

Fuentes, a chef, is a member of the Zapotec peoples. He still honours his Indigenous culture, perhaps even more than when he lived in Mexico.

“To be honest, since I moved to Canada I feel even more in touch with my Indigenous side,” he said. “It’s who I am.”

“I’m really happy to be in a place where Indigenous cultures are recognized and the country is looking for some sort of reconciliation with them,” he said.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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