On Friday, Anas Alargha Almasri became a Canadian. On Monday, he will vote here for the first time.
You couldn’t stop him if you tried.
“Because that’s my responsibility,” he explained as he waited for Friday morning’s citizenship ceremony to begin.
“I need to return to Canada what she gave me. She gave me space. I will give my voice because I need to build this country. This country is now my country.
“I am so happy, with my family,” he said, wearing the biggest smile you could fit onto a human face.
They have been here for three years and seven months and spent four years before that in Jordan after fleeing the war in Syria in 2012. The family originally lived in Damascus.
Today Anas and his wife, Eman Awad, live in a co-op in Sandy Hill, which they found with the help of a group of strangers who came together to sponsor them.
They have three children, Lilyan, 13; Tarek, 12; and Yousef, five, who also became citizens Friday. (Their mother is still waiting.)
And there are plenty of other brand new Canadians eligible to vote. Kathryn Jarrett-Ekholm, an official from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, handed out citizenship papers to 80 people from 30 countries in one of three ceremonies on Friday.
Elections Canada confirmed that all they needed to do was to be able to prove their identities and addresses and they could register at polling stations on voting day.
Canada has taken in 58,000 Syrians since 2015, Jarrett-Ekholm told the newcomers and spectators. “This year, many of them are becoming citizens and some of them may be among us today.
“You have the right to vote,” she told them. “As our newest Canadians you have the fundamental right to vote, and I would encourage you all to take advantage of this.”
Jerry and Cathryn Fortier, two of the Alargha Almasri family’s sponsors, watched Friday’s ceremony.
“They’ve done super-well. They are extremely motivated and they have his brother here already. There is a big sponsorship group of about a dozen people who are closely involved and another 20 or 30” who also help, Cathryn Fortier said.
“I think the language is the biggest stumbling block, and Anas has such a drive and such a sparkling personality to learn it.”
The group has supported the family while Anas has been in school learning English, counting on this to pay off with job prospects in the long run, “and he has responded in spades,” Jerry Fortier said.
The sponsors didn’t know each other in the beginning. They all attended a meeting for people who wanted to learn more about sponsoring, met there and coalesced from that. They include a lawyer, someone who works in real estate, another who runs a daycare and others with a range of expertise and community connections.
And they raised funds: $35,000 in the first year since there was no government financial support during that time except for the Canada child benefit.
“So we were doing the leg work, but there were lots of people giving money,” Cathryn Fortier said.
“We set them up with a budget and very soon they took it over and managed it themselves,” Jerry said, “and they responded beautifully.”
There were hugs all around after the ceremony after the seven-year journey from Syria through Jordan and on to becoming Canadians was finished. And photographs. Lots of photographs.
“Different lives, different culture, everything here is different,” Anas said, “but so beautiful because Canada has so much culture that makes Canada a unique country.”