I wish I had the picture. I was standing beside the speaker’s chair in the Yukon Territorial Legislature in Whitehorse. Beside me was a Mountie clad in red serge and I had just sworn my oath of Canadian citizenship with a group of other new Canadians.
A co-worker of mine from the Yukon News snapped my picture but I never got a copy of it. Maybe someday I’ll go back and peruse the News’ photo archives and get it because it was a momentous day in my life.
I didn’t consider myself a new Canadian at that time. I had been in the country about 20 years by then, having immigrated to Canada with my family when I was eight years old. I had long lost the lowland Scottish burr that my parents retained their whole life, even though they actually became Canadian citizens before me.
Having graduated from university and out on my own career path, I finally felt a settled enough to pursue my Canadian citizenship. While working as a reporter for the Yukon News, I became a “$50 Canadian” as my dad joked. The cost back then of getting your citizenship was around $50.
I had gone through the application process and made sure I knew all the information about Canadian government and society.
The swearing in ceremony was held in the Yukon Territorial Legislature before a citizenship judge. I was there by myself except for my friend from the News who was there to cover the event for the paper. My fiance was in Vancouver studying at UBC.
The guest speaker at the event was another friend of mine – my boss’ husband, actually – who had immigrated from Ireland many years before to become a Canadian. It meant a lot to him when he did it and it meant a lot to me, as it does all new Canadians.
Having just gone through another Canada Day, I make sure I participate in many of the events because it’s a chance to celebrate not just a national holiday but also a personal milestone. It’s unlikely I’ll ever live anywhere else.
In the 25 years since getting my citizenship – and in the 46th year living in this land – the only other country I’ve ever been to is the United States. And it doesn’t really count as foreign travel because its attached. That’s just a joke, of course.
I do hope to go back to Scotland some day. But just to visit. And there’s other places in Europe I’d like to see but returning to Britain would be like some kind of pilgrimmage that I need to get out of my system.
In the meantime, I live in the greatest country in the world, fortunate for the circumstances – beyond my control as an eight-year-old – that brought me here.
So, I salute the flag, sing Oh Canada when I’m asked to, turn on a hockey game and plan my next canoe trip.
Happy being Canadian, everyone.