Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Exams put off for citizenship

New Canadians excited by opportunity

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As far as excuses go for postponing your final exams at university, flying across the country to become a Canadian citizen is a good one.

Benjamin Nkana Bassi took the citizenship oath with his wife and two children at the Manitoba legislature on Wednesday after travelling from the University of Moncton, where he's only four months away from earning a law degree.

"I'm supposed to go back to finish my exams, but I didn't want to miss the oath," Nkana Bassi said with a smile.

Thirty new Canadian citizens originating from 13 different countries took their oath in Winnipeg on Wednesday, affirming their allegiance to Queen Elizabeth under painted portraits of past monarchs.

Dwight MacAulay, Manitoba's chief of protocol, was the presiding officer.

"You will look back on this day as one of the most important in your life," said MacAulay in his opening remarks to the aspiring Canadians. "A new path of opportunity and freedom is ahead for you and your family. There is an entire nation waiting to welcome you."

Nkana Bassi was born in Cameroon and then lived in France before moving to Winnipeg with his family five years ago. He said they came here for the quality of life and because his wife, now an electrical engineer with Manitoba Hydro, wanted to learn English.

Nkana Bassi's nine-year-old son, Junior, said he doesn't mind the cold winters here and he's become a big hockey fan.

"It's an honour to be a Canadian. I've been waiting a long time for this," he said.

Marivic Lopena had also eagerly waited for this day, along with four of her family members who moved to Winnipeg from the Philippines six years ago.

"We're so honoured, so happy," Lopena said. "It took 30 months (after applying for citizenship), but it's worth the wait."

Lopena said they have extended family in Manitoba and moved here "to be reunited and to have a better life."

Her daughter Yzoebel, 8, said she was very happy to finally be a citizen. Asked what her favourite thing about Canada is, Yzoebel thought for a few minutes before shyly saying: "Tobogganing."

The ceremony featured singing by the Dakota Collegiate Choir and an address from Christine Melnick, Manitoba's minister of immigration and multiculturalism.

"You don't have to forget who you are or where you come from," Melnick said to the new citizens after they took the oath. "In fact, in Manitoba, we want to know."

brian.platt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2012 A6

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