By RON FANFAIR
Nearly 35 years ago, Celina Caesar-Chavannes and her family were sworn in as Canadians. On Canada’s 149th birthday last Friday, the Grenadian immigrant and parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Canada’s newest citizens at a ceremony in Whitby.
She, along with her older brother and their parents, migrated in 1975.
“My swearing in was more of a family affair and I wasn’t quite sure at the time what it meant,” said Caesar-Chavannes, the Member of Parliament for Whitby. “As I looked at my citizenship card recently, I thought about how important and critical that day was.”
Just 16 years ago, Caesar-Chavannes was a forklift operator with an undergraduate degree. She later attained an MBA, but was rejected by employers for being overqualified or lacking managerial experience.
The married mother of three children started a clinical research management company and, three years ago, completed an executive MBA at the Rotman School of Management before entering the political arena in early 2014.
Honoured to be chosen to represent the federal government at the event in her riding, Caesar-Chavannes urged the new citizens to make full use of their Canadian citizenship.
“On this day, we celebrate the freedom, diversity and inclusion that have become defining characteristics of our great country that has been a leader in abolishing slavery and promoting democratic values,” she said. “Like many who have come before you, you have made enormous sacrifices so that you, your children and future generations can know the unique freedom and opportunity that come with being Canadian. You have chosen to make Canada your home because of the values it holds dear.”
Caesar-Chavannes also reminded them that immigrants have made significant contributions to Canada.
“We see in our history that people coming from around the world have helped to make this country what it is today,” she said. “I have no doubt that you will contribute to making Canada an even stronger country. I hope I will see some of you running for political office. When you become a Canadian, you also inherit responsibilities to your family, community and to your country and you must proudly exhibit everything that your citizenship represents.”
By taking the oath of citizenship, Caesar-Chavannes told the proud new Canadians that they are expected to vote in elections, protect the environment and help others in their communities.
“You have inherently become part of the legacy of those that came before you and the values that have defined the character of Canada,” she said. “Preserve this heritage, embrace your culture and share it with everyone around you. We are strong and unified as a country because of and not in spite of our differences.”
Eritrean-born Abeba Yohannes, who lived in Italy for 15 years before coming to Canada in 2011 and Safiatou Diallo, who came from Guinea four years ago, were among the new Canadians celebrated on Canada Day.
“I feel like if I am born again,” said Yohannes who has a media & communications degree from an Italian university and a marketing management & financial services post-graduate diploma from George Brown College. “This is such a special day for me and I am so proud to call Canada home.”
Yohannes came to Canada to join her boyfriend, Aklilu Okbay – he’s also from Eritrea – who has been here for the last 11 years. They met in Italy while he was vacationing there several years ago.
Diallo said she made the right choice in choosing Canada to be her new home.
“I love the diversity and I feel as if I am at home,” said the French-language public school teacher. “I just don’t feel like I am a stranger.”