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at last!

August 13, 2014

Yesterday Jude and I joined 92 other folks from 22 other countries to become Canadian citizens.  We drove down to Nanaimo, home of jazz great Diana Krall, first lunching with our friend Tim.  He gave us cowboy hats to celebrate the joyous event, and even picked up the tab.

We followed Tim to the community centre where our transformation would begin.  He hugged us in advance because he had to get to his mum’s for her birthday.  There were about 300 people in the room where we were sworn in.  Most of them were family and friends of the soon-to-be-brand-new Canucks.

A court official explained the drill to us in English and French.  Three members of the RCMP marched in and one of them officially started the ceremony.  A judge and a local politician came in.  To insure our sincerity to this commitment, the judge had each row of us, from back to front, stand up and –one by one– look him straight in the eye, raise our right hand and say “I” and our full name.

Then we repeated the oath of citizenship in unison.  We swore or affirmed allegiance to the Queen of England and her heirs and successors.  It struck me that that included Prince George, so we were all claiming loyalty to someone still in diapers.  That wasn’t much of a leap for me.  I had already done basically the same thing for my kids, grand kids and great-grand kid.

I’m not much for ritual, but there were some parts of the ceremony that were really touching.  The judge mentioned that this was the third time he’d done this that day.  In an earlier version, the group had included two young women from Palestine.  They told him they’d talked to their father just before the oath, and could hear bombs exploding in the background.  Other participants had spent time in refugee camps.

What was most heartwarming to me was — as each of us spoke our name — the variety of cultures and accents of people gathered for a single purpose.  I was engulfed by our genuine oneness.

After we repeated the oath in French, we filed past the judge to receive our certificates.  He asked me where I had immigrated from.  I wanted to say “the Peoples’ Republic of California”, but I was swept up in the moment, plus I wasn’t going to do anything flippant to risk him grabbing the certificate back.  So I just said “the Bay Area in the U.S.”

However, when I shook hands with one of the Mounties, I said “I gotta tell you.  You look just like one of my drill instructors from Marine Corps boot camp, especially with that hat.”  He laughed and did not take back my certificate.

Then we sang the national anthem (lyrics thoughtfully provided).  The Mountie called the ceremony closed, we had a celebratory maple-leaf-shaped-and-flavoured cookie and headed home.  To symbolize being officially Canadian, we bought thermal hoodies, a cordless drill and two of those new Asian crunchy shrimp wraps from McDonald’s.

Jude and I talked about what was next as we drove home, Elton John in the background.  I don’t know if we’ll be as fine a Canadian as Diana Krall or James Cameron, but I think we can do better than Justin Bieber and Rob Ford.



We promised our friend Tim that we’d post a photo of us in our hats on the ferry ride home, but we didn’t have our camera then.  This is a re-enactment in our mudroom.  Thanks again, Tim.

citizenship,cedar log 004



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