What it’s like to become a new Canadian citizen — in the center of the field, in the middle of a CFL game

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« I’ve been waiting for this for so long but now it’s happening »

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Twenty-five new Canadians raised their right hands and red and white flags in front of a crowd of thousands of Ottawa Redblacks supporters and took the oath of citizenship Thursday night.

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The seats at TD Place Stadium were overflowing with smiles and cheers as these foreigners from 15 different countries proudly sang their new national anthem in the center of the pitch. This is not your typical halftime show.

The new Canadiens were celebrated in a ceremony that began before the Rougenoirs-Montreal Alouettes game, hosted by Citizenship Judge Rania Sfeir. In her remarks, Ms. Sfeir acknowledged the significance and importance of the path these new Canadians traveled to get here, noting that it was a path she herself had traveled years ago. .

“Many of you have come here from very far away and probably left behind families, friends and memories,” she said. « You came here on an adventure into the unknown, in search of a better life. »

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The judge recalled how proud she was to become a citizen of a country « which respects and protects all the rights and freedoms of each of its citizens ».

During halftime of Thursday’s Canadian Football League game, citizenship candidates were brought to center field, where they took the citizenship oath and sang the national anthem with Redblacks fans and the anthem singer Marlayah McLeod.

For some, the journey to citizenship has been long, but also rewarding and happy.

« I’ve been waiting for this for so long but now it’s happening, well it’s already happened and I’m super happy about it, » said Sandra Dominguez Alatorre, 37.

Sandra Dominguez Alatorre was one of 25 newest Canadian citizens to be sworn in at a special citizenship ceremony hosted by the Ottawa Redblacks.  Photo: Hafsatou Balde
Sandra Dominguez Alatorre was one of 25 newest Canadian citizens to be sworn in at a special citizenship ceremony hosted by the Ottawa Redblacks. Photo: Hafsatou Baldé Postmedia

Originally from Mexico, Alatorre came to Canada 15 years ago to study and has since made Canada her home. She married a Canadian and has two sons born in Canada.

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While holding permanent residency, Alatorre and his family began considering citizenship nearly three years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic made the process a bit longer than expected, but after almost three years, she and her family are happy with this important milestone in their lives.

Born in Brazil, Leandro da Costa, 31, arrived in Canada in 2014 for a three-month internship at Carleton University.

« It’s an amazing time not only to become a Canadian citizen, but to do so in person in front of a large crowd, » he said.

The 25 candidates were encouraged to take the oath of citizenship in English and French in the stadium and to sing the national anthem with their fellow Canadians.

« I absolutely loved it. I’m honored to be part of this country, to feel at home and anyone can come to this country, » da Costa said.

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Leandro da Costa was one of 25 new Canadian citizens to be sworn in at a special citizenship ceremony hosted by the Ottawa RedBlacks at halftime of their game against the Montreal Allouettes.  Photo: Hafsatou Baldé
Leandro da Costa was one of 25 new Canadian citizens to be sworn in at a special citizenship ceremony hosted by the Ottawa RedBlacks at halftime of their game against the Montreal Allouettes. Photo: Hafsatou Balde Photo by Hafsatou Baldé /Postmedia

After his three-month internship, the Brazilian-born then received a scholarship to do his master’s degree at Carleton and decided to stay a little longer in Ottawa.

After two and a half years of master’s degree, da Costa moved to Kingston to work, and he finally applied for permanent residency in 2018.

« It was much faster than expected, » he said of his citizenship process, which began in March 2021.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says the current processing time for citizenship applications can take up to 27 months. Da Costa said some of the new citizens at the stadium with him had applied since 2019 and early 2020.

Even with long processing times to obtain citizenship, people continue to apply and wait for the opportunity to become Canadians.

« I think Canada is a great land of opportunity and my best advice to people is just to persevere and hold on because I know the start can be very difficult, » da Costa said.

« Nothing is impossible, » Alatorre said. The mix of culture, country and community in Canada is worth the wait, she added.

Ottawa Redblacks fans watch the big screen as 25 new Canadians sing the national anthem.  Photo: Hafsatou Baldé/Postmedia
Ottawa Redblacks fans watch the big screen as 25 new Canadians sing the national anthem. Photo: Hafsatou Baldé/Postmedia Photo by Hafsatou Baldé /Postmedia

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