Mid-Vancouver Island enjoyed a sudden influx of new Canadians Friday morning, but no hospital delivery rooms were overwhelmed.
Dozens of residents from communities stretching from Nanaimo to Campbell River and Powell River swore the oath of citizenship before Judge Gerald W. Pash, then sung O Canada while waving small maple leaf flags to close the ceremony at Parksville Conference and Community Centre.
“It’s so cool,” said Greta Wratislaw of Qualicum Beach, who hugged family members and shed tears after being presented with her citizenship certificate. “I’ve been here since I was four, so it’s kind of like a validation of my entire identity, really. It’s like the best day of my life.”
The new citizens hail from countries as nearby as the United States and from as far away as India, Scotland and New Zealand, from which Wratislav moved with her family 14 years ago.
In addition to Pash and staff from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Feb. 3 ceremony was attended by Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre, Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell and Susan MacVittie from the constituency office of Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Marc Pelletier, commander of the Oceanside detachment, served as Sergeant-at-arms and posed in red serge for photos with Pash and the newly minted citizens.
“I asked many of you, when you came by to get your certificates, where you were born,” Pash said after they had sworn the oath. “But now, all of you, where are you from?”
“Canada!” the crowd yelled in response.
“Good answer,” said Pash.
Wratisav, who recently graduated from Kwalikum Secondary School, has enrolled at the University of Aukland in her native New Zealand. But after hopefully attaining her degree in marketing and commercial law, she plans to return to Canada to work in brand management.
“I want to be able to go live in New Zealand, my home country, and be able to come back, raise kids here and have the ability to do all that,” she said.