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2013-12-04 at NOON

Becoming Canadian

By Jodi Lundmark,
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Rawan Saliba has been dreaming of the day she would become a Canadian citizen.

That dream came true Wednesday morning when she was one of 39 people who received their citizenship during a ceremony at Confederation College.

"I've waited for this day for seven years," she said. "Every single day I wake up and I wish I was a Canadian citizen. Today I am so excited, so happy."

Saliba came to Canada from Israel in 2006 with her parents who wanted a better life for their children.

Her parents eventually moved back to Israel from Toronto and she spent a few years in Ottawa before moving to Thunder Bay this June.

"Canada is such a great country and being Canadian, it just makes me feel great," Saliba said.

"It makes me feel like I own the world."

Saliba loves this country because it's peaceful and everybody is equal.

"I can choose whatever job I want and I can work anywhere I want. Equality is great and I didn't experience that in the past unfortunately," she said.

It was also a special day for Aram Teymurazyan.

Teymurazyan left his home country of Aremenia and came to Canada in December 2009 after spending time in the U.S., Russia and other parts of Europe.

"Canada is one of the most welcoming places; it's probably the most welcoming place I've ever lived in, so that's why I chose to stay here," he said.

Mayor Keith Hobbs attended the ceremony and addressed the new citizens. He said it's important to welcome new Canadians because immigrants have had a large hand in building the country and Thunder Bay.

"We're such a diverse city," he said.

Hobbs came to Canada from the United Kingdom with his parents and two siblings. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs and their family later grew to include another six siblings.

And although it was 30 years ago, he remembers the day he became a Canadian citizen well.

"That was a very proud moment," he said.

The ceremony was officiated by citizenship judge Harry Dhaliwal, who shared his own story of arriving in Canada from India.

"I have gone through all the stages. I worked on a farm. I drove taxi. I went back to school. I participated in all the civic obligations we have here and charities," he said.

It was about four years before Dhaliwal became a Canadian citizen and another 29 years before he became a judge.

He likes to share his story with new citizens to motivate them.

"I can relate myself to where they are in their story and then encourage them and empower them from that point onward," Dhaliwal said.

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