New Canadian citizenship offers mixed blessing

On a day when 60 people – originally from 29 different countries – officially became Canadian citizens, the atmosphere at the Toronto Reference Library was generally upbeat.

For 27-year-old Elio Ramirez, however, becoming a Canadian citizen is bittersweet.

“I have mixed emotions, but I know that sometimes you have to sacrifice to get a better life,” he said. “I know I have rights now.”

For Ramirez, who came from Honduras five years ago, citizenship week in Toronto has given him a different perspective on life. He appreciates everything he has in Canada, but he realizes he is only here because of unfortunate circumstances in his native country.

“Honduras is a beautiful place to live,” he said. ”So is Canada, but my ancestors are there and my heart is there… If there wasn’t any political unrest, maybe I would still be there.”

Manuel Ramirez, Elio’s father, came to Canada two years before his son did. He immigrated with hopes he could get settled and start a better life for his family. After becoming a citizen himself in 2007, Manuel Ramirez only sees the positives in his son’s becoming a Canadian citizen.

“I couldn’t be happier or more proud,” he said. “There was no income there. There was no money there. Now he has an opportunity.”

For Elio Ramirez that opportunity is the chance to do something he has always wanted. In Honduras, he worked for an NGO helping underprivileged children. Now he’s a part-time student at the University of Toronto studying history. He hopes to help young people in another way.

“I’ve always loved teaching,” he said. “I want to be a teacher.”

As with the Ramirez family, there was a unique story for every new Canadian at the ceremony today. But and as far as presiding official Judge Patricia Phenix was concerned, this is only the beginning.

“I see a lot of young faces in the audience today, so I am confident I am looking at a future prime minister,” she said. “Anything is possible in this country.”