Among the hundreds of MaRS initiatives that I have been engaged with over the past year and a half, the annual Canadian Citizenship Ceremony stands out as the most humbling and rewarding event I’ve had the pleasure to work on.
MaRS hosts this annual ceremony in partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) to welcome new Canadian citizens. The 2013 event took place last week, on February 22, and in the months leading up to the occasion I couldn’t help but think of my own family’s experience emigrating to Canada. As a first-generation Canadian whose parents and siblings emigrated from Trinidad 31 years ago, I appreciate the sacrifices involved in moving to a new country.
At this year’s ceremony, a total of 57 new citizens, as well as their families and special guests, gathered here at MaRS to share in this momentous occasion. At the oath-taking ceremony, members of the platform party, including MaRS CEO Ilse Treurnicht, Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of Toronto Community Foundation, welcomed these new citizens. They also shared personal anecdotes about their own experiences as newcomers to Canada, highlighting a common bond that we share as recent and long-standing citizens: how lucky we all are to live in a nation that celebrates freedom, democracy and the differences that make us all unique as Canadians.
Another highlight of the event was the roundtable discussions (which were held prior to the official ceremony) where these new Canadians and their families shared emotional stories about the long and, at times, difficult journeys they took to arrive at this special day.
The tales that emerged from these discussions were full of hopeful excitement and were truly inspiring. They evoked my memories of hearing about how and why my own parents made the decision to uproot their lives to move to Canada. It became more evident to me exactly how hard it must have been for them to leave friends and relatives behind to provide their children with opportunities that simply were not available in their country of birth.
It’s so fitting that this ceremony took place at MaRS, an organization whose mandate is to foster an atmosphere of collaboration and where new and innovative ideas are embraced. From a quick glance around the hallways and offices here in the MaRS Centre, I see a very diverse group of people from a range of backgrounds working together in this building. MaRS’ vision recognizes that the contribution of individuals from around the globe is what strengthens our communities and that the convergence of these efforts and perspectives will create a more prosperous Canadian society.