“Congratulations and welcome to Canada!”
These were the words pronounced by the Canadian Citizenship official that drew a bright smile from Heinrich Bueckert at his August 23rd virtual citizenship oath ceremony. An eruption of applause followed, as well as the waving of hands from Henry’s wife sitting beside him in the MCS office and from the other official on the screen. There was a sense of relief and excitement. Up to that point in the whole ceremony, Heinrich sat respectfully still, paying close attention to the instructions coming from the screen. Due to COVID-19, in-person ceremonies are suspended, so MCS had offered to help him set up this virtual appointment with citizenship officials. It has been a long journey since April 27, 2019, when Heinrich and his wife Katharina arrived in Canada for the first time.
MCS staff recently sat down and visited with Heinrich and Katharina about what the last two to three years have been like. Their main reason for coming to Canada was financial. Heinrich and Katharina experienced many blessings in the Mennonite village in Durango, Mexico, where they used to live. It was home: where they grew up, where they met, where they married, and where they welcomed six children into their embrace. But finances were tight. They remember the stress of working and working but gaining very little. They couldn’t keep up with their payments. They owned a few head of cattle but the income was insufficient for a growing family. They also felt it was important to ensure their children had opportunity to become Canadian citizens. They realized their children may wish to live and work in Canada at some point. So, in 2018 Heinrich and Katharina began preparing to immigrate to Canada.
As is the case with many Low German families, Heinrich and Katharina had Canadian ancestors. Because of these ties, they had Canadian Citizenship certificates even though they had never been to Canada themselves. During their preparations to move, it became apparent that Heinrich’s document might not be valid. There had been some talk in the village about renewing Citizenships before he turned 28, but nothing had been very clear about whether it applied to him.
Regardless of the uncertainty of Heinrich’s citizenship status, they were willing to take a risk to move for a better future for their children. They hired a driver to drive the family to Ontario. Katharina remembers the difficult adjustment after they arrived. Heinrich’s income from his job on a farm was much higher than in Mexico but so were the expenses.
“People talk about earning thousands of dollars. But they don’t always tell you how expensive everything is,” Katharina says.
And then there were the daily tasks she had to relearn, like going shopping for groceries. She recalls walking into a store and the clerk asking her if she wanted a bag.
She had not understood what they said or known how to respond. It was overwhelming.
It was a great help when they began receiving family benefit payments. Shopping for necessities was also easier once Heinrich got his Ontario Driver’s Licence and they did not have to rely on rides, after MCS staff helped him find a way to translate his Mexican Licence. After a few months, they also moved into a home with cheaper rent which also helped out a lot. They are very grateful to their landlord for the opportunity to move into the house where they are living and all of the people who helped them along the way.
In October 2019, Settlement Staff sat down with Heinrich to discuss his citizenship status. It was hard to hear that his citizenship had indeed expired on his 28th birthday. Staff were able to walk him through the process of applying for a Resumption of Citizenship and Permanent Residence for the youngest children.
During the same fall, their children began attending school.
Katharina also remembers how happy and excited her children had been in November of 2019 when the big yellow school bus picked them up to go to South Ridge Public school.
“The children like it here more than we do, so much better than in Mexico,” she says. “They love going to Sunday School at the Old Colony Mennonite Church.” Sunday School was not available in Mexico and they appreciate that the church in Ontario has something for children. And the children enjoy school so much, they want to stay in Canada.
After the children were approved to become Permanent Residents, MCS staff also helped the family apply for health cards and Social Insurance Numbers so that the older children could work over the summer months. Heinrich enjoys teaching his children to work on the fields. His own position is yearlong, for which he is very grateful.
When asked what kinds of things helped them along the way, Katharina states,
“I don’t know what we would have done without the help of MCS to get to the bottom of all the papers.”
Others have helped too, like community helper Eva Janzen in Perth County and friends in the church. “It has all been such a big help.”