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New Canadian citizens welcomed on centre-court


The Toronto Raptors’ pre-game festivities included an extra element of celebration recently when 31 new Canadian citizens joined the team on the court to sing the national anthem.

These new citizens represented a group sworn in earlier in the day at a special community citizenship ceremony hosted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) and the Toronto Raptors.

Earlier in the day at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the new citizens were officially welcomed by Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Jamaal Magloire, Raptors Basketball Development Consultant, Community Ambassador and alumnus. The ceremony included round-table discussions on being Canadian with Raptors’ Superfan and longtime season seat holder Nav Bhatia and a reception where new citizens and their families ate cake and posed for photos with the team’s mascot, the Raptor.

CIC and the ICC work to bring citizenship ceremonies into communities across the country to connect new citizens to their new home and encourage all Canadians to celebrate citizenship.

In Canada, one of our greatest strengths is achieving unity in diversity, and as Canadians, we know that sports have the ability to bring people of all cultures and backgrounds together as one,” said Alexander. “That is why I can’t think of a better place to welcome Canada’s newest citizens than right here at centre-court. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate these new citizens on making a permanent commitment to Canada and embracing Canadian values and traditions.”

Dave Hopkinson, Chief Commercial Officer, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, agreed.

This was a very special day. MLSE is honoured to have joined Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship in hosting this event. With our We The North mantra, our team is deeply rooted in Canadian culture and we are hopeful that after making Canada their official home at this ceremony and watching the game later this evening, these new citizens will make the Raptors their official team, too. The Toronto Raptors are Canada’s basketball team and we are thrilled to welcome 34 new citizens to our great country.”

MLSE gave each new citizen a pair of tickets to catch a Toronto Raptors game.

Polina Buchan, a new citizen who immigrated from Russia, was thrilled to have her journey to citizenship recognized in such a significant way: “I feel really lucky – like a celebrity. It is privilege enough to become Canadian, let alone be sworn in on the Raptors’ court and then join them in the singing of the national anthem.”

We are thrilled to share the magic of our Building Citizenship program with the Toronto Raptors,” said Charlie Foran, Institute for Canadian Citizenship CEO. “I can’t think of a more exciting way to welcome new Canadian citizens into their community. This was truly a celebration of citizenship for all.”

The ICC’s Building Citizenship program organizes special community citizenship ceremonies with round-table discussions where community members are invited to guide conversations with new citizens. 

Posted: Mar 2, 2015

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