On August 10th, a group of 108 individuals from 24 different countries gathered in Cranbrook to celebrate a feeling and a fact that was both unique and permanent for the rest of their lives. They became Canadian citizens.
Coming from countries as close as the United States and Mexico but as far as the Switzerland and Israel, the group gathered at the Royal Alexandra Hall to take their oath of Canadian citizenship and sing the national anthem as Canadian citizens for the first time.
Of the 108 in attendance, 34 came from different areas of the Columbia Valley including Kimberley, Invermere, Windermere, Golden, Canal Flats and Radium.
This is the second time the hall held the ceremony since holding it in 2014, said Char Murray, executive director for Cranbrook History Centre. She said they enjoy hosting the ceremony when they get the chance, as it is a great way to integrate people into the community with a touching ceremony.
Karin Lang, who lives now in Invermere, and works as a chef at Pynelogs Caf in the summer and a pastry chef for CMH in the winter, was one of those celebrating her citizenship after moving from Switzerland to Canada in 2007.
It was always my dream since I was 14 to come to Canada, she said. I was a waitress in a little restaurant and my boss went to Canada and she came back with maple chocolate and I said, I want to go there.
Working as a trained chef on a work permit and enjoying the relaxed lifestyle, she eventually decided to stay in Canada and became a permanent resident in 2011.
After filling out her application to become a citizen last year, she learned she would be accepted as an official Canadian in Kelowna earlier this year. The only problem was that by the time she found out, the date had already passed.
I was crying, she said. I opened that letter and I was crying because it was awful and noticed the mistake of the wrong address.
Thankfully, she was able to attend the Cranbrook ceremony that she said will make her proud to be a Canadian.
It makes me so proud that Im allowed to be somewhere forever, she said. You dont have to worry about papers anymore, not worry about applying for work permits or residence. You always had to be on it.
Joining Ms. Lang from Invermere was co-owner of Saftas Restaurant, Roi Golan. Mr. Golan first came to Canada in 2007 after meeting his now-wife KD while backpacking in Thailand following his mandatory service in the Israeli army. After she returned to Canada, Mr. Golan decided to follow her and the couple married in 2009.
Similar to Ms. Lang, he enjoyed the Canadian lifestyle, especially once he arrived in the Columbia Valley.
I think we lived in Calgary for a few years and it was OK, but coming and living here in the Valley, just living that valley life, I just thought, yeah this is it, he said. This is what I want.
As a surprise for his birthday last year, his wife filled out the citizenship application for him, making it easy for him to submit it for approval.
Mr. Golan said he was impressed with how professional the ceremony was last week given how emotional everyone receiving his or her citizenship was.
The girl next to me was hysterical the whole time, laughing and crying and saying the oath and singing the anthem, he said. Its a very emotional time and its very touching.
He said the biggest difference he will notice is shorter travel times crossing borders as he and KD formerly had to account for more than an hour delay at international borders with Roi travelling under an Israeli passport.
Every single time we have to pull over, theyd make us come in and interview me, fingerprint me, and they ask me about the army service and if I had a gun, he said, noting they are currently working on the application for a Canadian passport.
Like Ms. Lang, Mr. Golan said hes going to relish in the fact that the process is over and hes now a permanent Canadian citizen for life.
I think what being a Canadian means to me is officially being a member of Canada and always being able to stay and always being able to go home to Israel for as long as I want and being able to come back, he said. This is my home now and I can stay and leave whenever I want, but this is home.