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Oct. 19, 2021 | Tuesday
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NOTL's Mike Scott presides over college's first citizenship ceremony 

When Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Mike Scott presided over a citizenship ceremony at Niagara College’s NOTL campus, the event held a “natural connection” for him.

The ceremony was an obvious first for the 20 new Canadians who were welcomed as citizens on Thursday, but it was also a first for the college.

Scott, past chair of the college’s board of governors and a member of the Order of Canada, has been associated with the school for years. He said he planted the idea of holding a ceremony there years ago and he was happy it finally came to fruition.

“I’ve been connected to the college for a long time, so for me to be able to participate in the ceremony there was incredible,” he said.

Ceremonies are often held at the Immigration Centre in Niagara Falls, but occasionally they hit the road to welcome new Canadians in locations around the community.

“I believe they do it because they want the public to see the process, of course. Anything that gives the people a sense of celebration. So, they like to partner with community organizations to get this out to the public.”

Scott said there can sometimes be negative news about immigration, but the citizenship ceremony is “such a positive thing.”

“This is the most joyous ceremony I’ve ever participated in. Everyone is so happy, so thrilled. It’s the end of a long journey. So, to get that positive feeling out there so people can see that this a great thing that is happening,” he said.

“We hear so much about people struggling and the difficulties they face getting to Canada and all that, so I think this is sort of like the happy ending of the story.”

Scott has been part of 12 ceremonies since he took up the position of volunteer presiding official about a year and a half ago, he said.

“I’m so committed to the college; I think it’s just such an amazing place. To be able to bring another celebration and to have one of the students receive their citizenship here was wonderful,” he said.

Mahmoud Nahle said he finally let out a “sigh of relief” after receiving his official Canadian citizenship on Thursday morning.

It was fitting he be sworn in at the college, he said, where he is currently in his first semester of the international business program.

“It’s a great school and I’m very excited,” he added.

“Honestly, I wanted to get a degree, and this would benefit my business,” he said about his decision to study international business at the college.

He moved to Canada in 2009 and lives with his wife, Sarah Kassem, who as a born Canadian jested she was a little jealous of her husband’s ceremony.

“I never got a fancy citizenship party,” she said.

Though she said it did take a lot of dedication for him to get to this point, adding that “he earned it.”

Nahle said he’s been lucky to not have experienced any hardships since arriving to Canada. Receiving his citizenship won’t change much in his day to day life; he’s felt welcomed and accepted in Canada since he arrived, he said.

It will make his work life much easier though, he added. He owns a business called Rugged Books Inc. in St. Catharines. It supplies durable laptops and handheld devices to industry. He travels a lot for work and having his official Canadian citizenship will make each trip that much smoother, he said.

Scott has been involved in helping to shape the future of the country in his various roles throughout the years – this position is just one of the ways he can continue, he said.

“Everything I do seems to be connected to young people and people that are going to be the future of Canada. So, the young people that will join the military and the thousands of young people I’ve worked with for scouting over the years,” he said, as well as the new citizens he’s helped to welcome through the ceremonies.

Scott, who has been involved in scouting for more than 50 years, co-chaired the World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia this past summer.

During his opening remarks Thursday, he encouraged new Canadians to take the opportunity to volunteer and give back to the community.

“This is the final step in your journey to becoming Canadian … You are following the footsteps of great Canadians who have come before you,” he said.

College president Dan Patterson said he’s proud the college is the first Canadian experience for the many international students who attend each year.

“Niagara College prides itself on being a global college,” he said, adding he was happy to be able to participate in what will likely be his only citizenship ceremony as president of the college as he will soon be retiring.