Jennifer spoke at the citizenship ceremony at the council chambers at City Hall. Below are her words to these new Canadians to welcome them to Waterloo Region.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of Immigration Partnership Waterloo Region, I congratulate all of you on this special day.
Immigration Partnership Waterloo Region is a community partnership of agencies from settlement, health, social services, business, employment and education agencies all working together to assist the successful integration of newcomers into the Waterloo Region.
Our mission is to shape this Region into a community where immigrants and refugees want to settle, work and belong.
As you arrived into the Region, you may have worked with settlement agencies such as KW Multicultural Centre, YMCA Immigration Services or the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support, just to name a few.
To start your first job in the Region, you may have worked with the Working Centre to brush up your resume or attended many events provided by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce.
Immigration Partnership Waterloo Region works with and through various local agencies to facilitate the successful settlement and engagement of immigrants and refugees, both old and new, to build a vibrant and thriving community that all of us want to call home.
Out of settlement, employment and belonging, belonging is the hardest and longest undertaking for us. We may assist you to find a place to live and to work, but your sense of belonging to this community is much more difficult to achieve. Today, as you choose to become Canadian citizens, you start your new journey to belong to Canada. For that, we are so honoured to share your celebration.
Legally speaking, to obtain your Canadian citizenship, you not only applied, but also went through a thorough investigation, language & knowledge test, and waited to earn your right to belong to this great nation. What about your heart? Right after receiving my Canadian citizenship, along with my mother & younger siblings, my younger sister asked me “How come do I not feel like a Canadian? Nothing changed.” Do you feel more like you “belong” to Canada with your citizenship today? Most likely not.
Just having your Canadian citizenship certificate on your living room wall will not make you feel you “belong” to Canada tomorrow than now, just as you don’t lose any weight simply by having a gym membership in your wallet. You must use your gym membership to exercise to become a healthier person. In the same way, you must exercise your Canadian citizenship to feel a sense of belonging in Canada. Do you lose all your weight by going to your gym only one day? No. In the same way, being a Canadian is an on-going journey to feel belong to Canada.
For me, I came to Canada 30 years ago from South Korea. When I look back my 30 years of journey to become a Canadian, three words come to my mind – Chance, Choice, and Celebration.
As a little girl, I had many dreams – as dreamy as I want to be a princess, but as seriously as I want to help the world. Every time I shared my dreams, I was told that they were not possible, mainly because I was a girl. As I got older, I was told what I should be when I grew up – like a nurse – a good job for a good girl. There was only one problem – I hate blood! I used to throw up whenever I saw blood! You can see why becoming a nurse was not a good option for me.
Then, as I turned 16, my family moved to Canada as immigrants. I still recall how scared I was to go to my first class because I did not know how to speak English. In my music class, my teacher asked me what I would like to play. After much body language, with my English/Korean dictionary, I told him “I want to learn how to play the flute”. My parents could not afford lessons back home. He looked at me with an odd expression – then, I thought “here we go again; I can’t because I am a girl”. Next day, I went to my class and saw a black box with a music book on my desk. When I looked at my teacher, he motioned me to open the box – it was a flute. Then, he wrote on the blackboard – “you can learn anything you want, because you are in Canada”. That’s when I knew that I got a CHANCE. If I dream, I had a chance to live it out because I was in Canada. Mind you, I did not end up learning how to play the flute because I had no musical talent. But, when I saw my Chance to dream, that’s when I wanted to belong to Canada.
After living in Canada more than 3 years, I was told that I could apply for my Canadian citizenship, just like you today. Since I was over 18 years old, I had to CHOOSE if I wanted to be a Canadian. Here comes my second word – CHOICE.
I was given a right to choose Canada as mine, not by an accident of birth, but my conscious CHOICE to claim Canada as mine. So I did. It was not an easy decision for me because I had to give up my Korean citizenship as a result. However, by becoming a Canadian citizen, it was my public declaration that I wanted to belong to Canada, regardless my skin colour, my native language or my ethnic heritage. You just made such declaration today.
For those of you who are under 18 years old, I know that your parents made that choice for you. As a mom, I can assure you that they did so, believing it was in your best interest – their Choice to bless you with your Chance to live your dream freely in Canada.
After taking your Chance to live your dreams in Canada, after choosing your right to live in Canada as citizens, here comes my third word, Celebration. This is for “AFTER” today. You celebrate your citizenship by contributing who you are into what Canada can be & what Canada should be. You celebrate your success in Canada and join in celebrating with others’ success in Canada. This is a great year to brag about Canada since Canada is celebrating its 150 birthday! Why not show off what Canada has given to you? Why not brag what you did for Canada? Why not celebrate your heritage, like me with my Korean dress? Canada is such a generous nation that not only accepts me as a person but my Korean heritage in full. So I am proud to be a Canadian with Korean heritage today.
My mother is celebrating her 70 birthday this year. Her English is not still fluent and her favourite meal is still rice and kimchi. However, since she got her Canadian citizenship in 1993 – 24 years ago, she has not missed a single election to exercise her right to vote. Indeed, in November 2015, she bragged how she helped the Liberal party to win with her vote. Now, that’s her way of expressing her belonging to Canada.
Today, along with me, many of you, just like those who are born in Canada, have finally reached your dream of calling Canada your “home and native land”. After coming to Canada, learning the language, building your life and working hard, you finally got your right to call yourselves Canadians. How would you like to exercise your right as a Canadian? How would you like to celebrate Canada in your own way?
I can’t wait to see how you celebrate your Canadian citizenship, by participating in all things locally, provincially and nationally to create a better Canada tomorrow!
Thank you for joining us, Canucks, and Welcome Home.