Sweeny Karande, an ER nurse in Hay River, already calls Canada home. On July 1, she took the oath of citizenship to make it official.
Karande is originally from Naquelin village, in India’s southwestern state Goa. She landed in Canada in 2011, completed her personal support worker courses at St. Lawrence College in Cornwall, Ont. and her nursing degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S.
“I am so grateful to this country,” she says. “When my family is thousands of miles away from me, I don’t feel alone. I feel like I belong here, and that is what Canada is about. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, it just welcomes you with open arms.”
While NWTers typically have to fly down to Edmonton to take the oath in person, this Canada Day celebration of new citizens will be brought into the fold virtually as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event features remarks from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, amongst others.
After waiting to become Canadian for so long, having the ceremony online may have been a disappointment for some. For Karande, however, it means that she gets to become an official citizen surrounded by friends in her home of NWT.
Karande has known she wanted to be a nurse from a young age, but with prices for schooling in India, she couldn’t afford the fees even working a part-time job while she studied. Eventually, a teacher recommended she look into moving to Canada.
Her siblings pooled their money together to help with the costs.
“In Canada, I knew I had more opportunity to be a nurse and to be what I really wanted to be,” she says. “here I was able to get scholarships and apply for student loans and grants, there’s so much opportunity to grow here. And that is why I love this country.”
Karande moved to Hay River after completing her degree in 2019.
While studying at Dalhousie University, she heard a speaker talk about northern nursing and sought out ways to learn more.
“I based all of my nursing research on Inuit people and Aboriginal people, and I was just so intrigued,” she says. “As soon as I graduated I moved up to Hay River as fast as possible and I love it.”
Even though she initially found maple syrup to be too sweet, and the winters to be too long, Karande couldn’t be more proud to be Canadian. She says that especially to go from knowing no one in Hay River, to having the ceremony surrounded by friends “is such a special moment.”
“It means so much. I have wanted to have the Canadian citizenship for so long and it’s finally happening. I will be able to vote, I will get a Canadian passport, I have already been calling this my home, and now I can officially say it and be proud of it. It’s a huge achievement for me.”