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O Canada

Wednesday, 10.19.2011 / 6:35 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer  - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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O Canada

It fell to a man from Utopia to represent Canada.

“I live in Utopia, Ontario, very close to Barrie,” said Mounted Police constable, first class, Terry Russel.

Russel, in red tunic and dress uniform, stood near the blue line at Air Canada Centre, Wednesday, overseeing the official oath and the extension of citizenship to 58 candidates.

For the second time in as many years, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment hosted citizenship court.

Last year the event was held in the Leafs’ dressing room. This time the event was convened on a stretch of carpet on the ice in front of friends and relatives sitting in the Platinum seats.

The man from Utopia is here because his parents arrived from a continent ravaged by war. His Dad was German, his Mom a Pole. Immigration officials changed their name from Ruszel to Russel to make it sound more Canadian.

“It’s the only starting line in the world where when the gun goes off, everybody will go in a different direction toward what we offer them in relation to education, jobs, religion,” he said.

Deslyn Gidharry came from Grenada in 1999.

“I would talk to people from all over the world and they would tell me about how great Canada was,” she said. “This, for me, is the land of dreams. “

She touched down in Toronto in the middle of a snowstorm.

“I was so excited I reached down to touch the snow,” she said. Then she scrunches up her face. “I didn’t like it,” she said.

Ryan Du, a student at Guelph fought back tears as he took the oath from citizenship court judge.

Du is a rabid Leafs fan.

“I was speechless when they said we would be taking the oath here,” he said. “I can’t think of a better place.”

Raminder Gill came to Canada 43 years ago and worked as dishwasher and security guard to finance his studies. Now he is Judge Raminder Gill, and he issued the citizenship oath to the candidates.

Fifty-eight candidates brought countless stories of old home and new. The ACC, said MLSE Chief Operating Officer Tom Anselmi, was a perfect place to share them.

“The game is part of our culture. The team is a symbolic icon of Canada. To tie it into something like this is awesome,” he said.

Such a woman is Carolyn Matondo, a native of the Philippines who came to Canada and works as a caregiver.

Matondo isn’t a whole lot taller than the sandwiches they served after the ceremony. She came to Canada because she couldn’t find work at home. She came because she wanted the right to choose the essential elements of her life: where she lived, who she loved and what she loved.

Take the choice of her most beloved sport.

“Basketball,” she said.

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