For many of us, our shared experience of being Canadian provides us with a sense of pride and a special bond that unites us in our quest for a better life for ourselves, our family and friends, and others in our community. Last year, we featured Gary Apruebo, (pictured far left), a Production Employee from Lakeview Planer Division in Williams Lake, BC who at that time was still in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen. We’re happy to report that as of March 2021, he and his family are officially Canadians! We would also like to introduce you to Collins Ahize, (middle photo), a Technical Specialist at Lavington Division, and Hash Al Hebshi (pictured far right), a Ripline Technician at Athabasca Division who are making the journey to becoming Canadians.
CC: When did you become a Canadian citizen/permanent resident?
Gary: My family and I officially celebrated becoming Canadians on March 18, 2021. Originally, the location for the Oath taking held at the IRCC office but due to the pandemic everything from the exam down to the Oath ceremony was virtual.
Collins: I officially became a permanent resident in February 2021. An in-person ceremony could not be held due to COVID-19 restrictions, but those in my social “bubble” were able to share this proud moment with me.
Hash: I’m not a citizen just yet, but a permanent resident. I anticipate that it will become official in 2024.
CC: How did the pandemic impact your citizenship application, and what was your biggest challenge?
Gary: We passed our application back in August 2019 but the usual six-months-or-less-than-a-year process turned into two-and-a-half years of waiting, which we cannot control because of the pandemic. Now we truly understand and appreciate the value of patience!
Collins: My greatest challenge was retrieving documents from my home country. Thankfully, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) were very considerate with deadlines and that helped alleviate the stress a bit.
Hash: Due to COVID-19 the process of my application took much longer than expected. My biggest challenge was that my SIN number expired, so I couldn’t work until I got a new SIN number!
CC: What do you appreciate the most about becoming a Canadian?
Gary: “Respect for differences”! I believe that Canada has brought out the best in us. Canada accepts you as you are and gives you the chance to do well if you work hard. I’ve been able to discover and learn a lot of new things and enhance it to helped me contribute to the company- the company that gives me and my family a better future! And to Canada, now my country of citizenship- thank you for bringing the best for myself and for my family.
Collins: I have always been drawn to Canada. Something about being here gives me a sense of safety, comfort, and community. From the moment I got here, I’ve always felt like I belonged. My love of nature, being outdoors, and exploring meant that activities like hiking, camping, swimming, and skiing were all like second nature to me!
Hash: The thing I appreciate most is that I finally have a place to call home and I have rights, like being able to speak my mind and being able to work anywhere.
CC: What do you find most gratifying during your journey to becoming a Canadian?
Gary: My wife and I really started from scratch and we are so grateful that we’ve been given an opportunity to build a life here in Canada. I’m also thankful to our parents who really strived hard to raised us, it’s time to give back. This journey instilled in our family the importance of patience, perseverance, and humility.
Collins: Becoming Canadian has been a dream of mine for a long time. The journey took a lot of work, dedication, and sacrifices. I first visited Canada in 2006 for an exchange program and lived with a homestay family, the Stewarts. Cheri, Frank, George, Wil, and Ben were my first exposure to what it means to be Canadian. I owe them an immense debt of gratitude.
Hash: I came here to Canada as a homeless immigrant who lived in shelters for a year and a half with no family or friends for support to a permanent resident of Canada who has a full-time job, a car, and a place to live. I also got married recently!
CC: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with readers about your experience?
Gary: To everyone with a dream, know that your dreams are valid. And on your path, you are never denied but only redirected.
Hash: I didn’t have an option to avoid becoming homeless or live in shelters, but life put me here. I had moments when I wanted to give up, but thankfully I was able to get through it. It’s made me a better, more mature person who can handle anything that life throws at me.