One of Kingston’s first virtual citizenship ceremonies was held Wednesday Aug. 12, 2020 for the Al Khalaf family, whom arrived as Syrian refugees on February 26, 2016.
Prior to March of this year, group citizenship ceremonies were held in Ottawa, and participants were issued their certificates in person. Due to COVID-19, ceremonies are being conducted online via Zoom and certificates are mailed to the new citizens.
Immigrant Services Kingston and Area (ISKA) prepared a room at their Weller Avenue office to ensure the process ran smoothly, says Gaitree Oogarah, Coordinator/Settlement Worker with ISKA.
The family of 11, who spoke no English when they arrived in Canada, have been supported by ISKA, along with their private sponsors (the Frontenac Refugee Support Group), throughout the immigration process, from finding housing to helping with applications for health cards and social insurance numbers, says Oogarah.
“Today I become a Canadian citizen,” said Afraa Al Khalaf, the daughter of the family. “This is a very meaningful day and I feel a better sense of belonging. My family can feel safe growing up in Canada and know that they are welcome here.”
“I am happy that it is online as we are a big family and travelling somewhere else would be a hassle and an extra expense, and having it hosted by ISKA is special because from the beginning they have been with us, supported us and helped us through our settlement in Kingston,” Afraa added.