The first Canadian Citizenship ceremony held in Prince Rupert since the start of COVID-19 saw a city woman refuse to postpone taking her oath on Aug. 19, despite third-degree burns to her body.
Jeseema John-Nixon has waited more than 15 years since arriving in the country from Sri Lanka to call herself a Canadian citizen. A fire from a cooking accident six weeks ago has left John-Nixon in a wheelchair with nasty burns to her feet, hands, hip, and legs from hot oil.
Lacking internet services at home she was wheeled into the Settlement Services Dept. at Hecate Strait Employment Development Services. Not being able to walk, wear shoes, and being in excruciating pain as she attended the supervised online ceremony, John-Nixon said nothing was going to stop her from becoming a Canadian citizen, and she would wait no longer.
Citizenship ceremonies were shut down in March 2020 due to the global pandemic affecting John-Nixon’s dreams of becoming Canadian. Ceremonies resumed as of Nov. 30 in a new online ceremony format.
The online ceremony, which had more than 40 new citizens across Canada sworn in, was presided over by British Columbia Judge Carol Ann Hart, from Vancouver, who reminded all the participants now they are citizens, they can vote in the Sept. 20 election.
“I am so excited. After living in Canada for 15 years, I have never voted. I watched everybody else go voting. I am so excited, and this time I can do it. Even in Sri Lanka, I did not vote. I am 45 years old. This is the first time in my life I am going to vote,” she said.
“As a woman in today’s society, this makes me feel very strong. I can’t believe I have been able to come here and do this. This is what I love about Canada. This is what Canada is. It is not just me — it’s the people around me in Canada. That’s what makes me feel strong. As a woman in Canada, you are not alone.”
It was an emotional ceremony for John-Nixon, who became overwhelmed with tears and pride.
“I feel very emotional at this moment. When I was singing and taking the oath of citizenship, I felt for the first time that I am a proud Canadian woman. I can do anything,” she said, mentioning that she amazed herself being able to sit through the two-hour ceremony with her burn injuries. She said her joy was outweighing her pain in the moment.
Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP Incumbent for Skeena-Bulkley, said Jeseema’s determination to attend the ceremony despite her injury and become a Canadian citizen is nothing short of inspirational.
“It reminds us how fortunate we are to call this place home and enjoy the benefits of citizenship. It’s something we should never take for granted,” Bachrach said. “I can’t wait to meet Jeseema and congratulate her in person.”
On Nov. 26, Canada became the first country in the world to offer citizenship testing online. Only a limited number of people were invited to use the online platform so the new system could be monitored. John-Nixon was one of the few. She waited months after taking the test to be able to swear the oath of allegiance and finalize her Canadian citizen status.
The online ceremony is divide into three portions, with registration occurring first, the second part being the explanation of the rights and responsibilities of a citizen, and thirdly with the permanent residents reciting the citizenship oath cementing their relationship to their new home country with the signing of the national anthem. Finally, the new citizens engage in the symbolic cutting of their permanent resident card into four pieces.
Citizenship fees of various kinds add up to about $630 per adult and roughly $100 for a child. Immigrants need to have lived in Canada for three years to qualify for citizenship.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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