By RON FANFAIR
Leighton Haughton and his wife, Veneita, have lived in three countries in the past 12 years.
Canada is now most certainly their final destination after the Jamaican-born couple and their two children, Sean-Ray, 11 and Chaz, 8, became citizens at a special citizenship ceremony to celebrate Canada Day at the Ajax Town Hall Council chambers.
Leighton did not have time to celebrate the occasion as he had to rush back to work at a Durham nursing home shortly after being sworn in.
After losing his job as a waiter in Negril, he went to the Cayman Islands in 1996 where his wife soon joined him and their first son was born a year later.
“He got a job in a hospital and I worked as a pre-school teacher,” Veneita said. “We were doing well. My husband, however, came to Canada in 2000 and fell in love with the country. I was very hesitant at first, when he suggested we move here, because I had heard about the harsh winters. He, however, felt we could make it here because he has a sister in Montreal and friends in the Greater Toronto Area.
“The Caymans did not give us a good send off as, just a few months before we left in 2004, Hurricane Ivan slammed Grand Cayman where we resided, destroying a lot of our personal belongings.”
Veneita Haughton said her family faced many major challenges – like most newcomers who make the transition.
“I couldn’t get a job in teaching with the diploma I received in Jamaica, so I have been a housewife for the last four years while waiting for this special day to come,” she said. “I am going back to school to study to become a nurse.”
Guyanese-born Femi Peters is proud to call Canada his new home after he, his wife, Simone and two of their three children -14-year-old Rena and 11-year-old Shanice – were sworn in. The couple’s youngest child, three-year-old Stephen, was born here.
“I can now call my friends back in Guyana and tell them that I am now a Canadian,” said Peters, who taught in Guyana and is now employed in the automotive sector. “This event means so much to me and my family that I chose to put on my best suit today. It’s a great feeling to be Canadian.”
The Haughton and Peters families were among 45 new Canadians sworn in on Canada Day.
“You have chosen Canada to be your new home and I hope you will enjoy this special day,” Tracey Vaughan, executive director of the Community Development Council Durham, told the new Canadians. “True citizenship is the ability to take action where you live. You have all come from different places, but today you are united as one.”
Ajax Mayor Steve Parish, MPP Joe Dickson and MP Mark Holland attended the ceremony.
“In the streets of Tehran and other parts of the world, people are fighting to get their voices heard,” said Holland. “In this country, you are free to express yourselves.”
Judge Philip Gaynor, who administered the oath of citizenship, urged the new citizens to embrace their rights and responsibilities.
“I know from personal experience that it’s not easy to leave the land of your birth,” he said. “Whatever the reason, you are now in Canada, a country that believes in opening its doors to people from around the world…Being a Canadian citizen means more than getting a piece of paper. It’s about sharing a common sense of values.”
Pannist and York University student Joy Lapps helped the new Canadians remember this special day with soothing steelpan rhythms while Karen Figueira sang the national anthem.