by Phil Ambroziak

At least one new name can added to the list of eligible voters when Meadow Lake residents head to the polls come this fall’s municipal by-election and the following month’s federal election.

Fatima Jalili, who arrived in Meadow Lake from Iran more than seven years ago, was officially sworn in as a Canadian citizen following a recent ceremony held in Saskatoon. Jalili described it as a dream finally realized noting the long process involved in obtaining her goal.

“I received my Canadian citizenship July 30,” Jalili told Northern Pride. “I wanted to become a Canadian for a long time because I really wanted to have a Canadian passport. It was really important to me and I really enjoy having that. I can also vote now.”

Not wanting to stay in Canada on a work Visa, Jalili gained her permanent residency within 10 days of arriving in Canada. This was granted because of the fact she possessed a certain skill set – hairdressing, which she quickly put to good use by securing employment at Cathy’s Hair Place on 2nd Street East. She still cuts hair at Cathy’s to this day.

“If you have money, you can come,” she said. “If you have a high education, yes, of course you can come, or if you have a special job skill.”

However, newcomers to Canada are required to stay living in the country for three years before they can apply for Canadian citizenship. They are also required to familiarize themselves with the English language and pass a written test.

“The test took about an hour,” Jalili said. “There were 20 questions and included questions such as, ‘What’s the capital of Canada? What is on the back of the nickel?’, that sort of thing. They also ask about the federal government, prime ministers and so on.”

When Jalili first decided to come to Canada it took about three years before she could make the move. Her uncle had been living in Toronto for 18 years and recommended for her to come over.

“He talked about Canada a lot and said it is the best country in the world,” she said. “You have freedom, they respect women, it’s peaceful and the people are so friendly. I trusted him, so decided to make the move. I also Googled Canada, read about it, saw photos and knew it was the right choice.”

As for why she chose to come to Meadow Lake, Jalili said, at first, it was because it was an option that allowed for a speedier process of getting here, but the community quickly grew on her and she came to love it.

“I was only going to stay two months and I’ve been here for seven years,” she said.

According to Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison, the province’s minister of immigration and career training, more than 100,000 newcomers have come to Saskatchewan in the last 10 years from countries all over the world.

“That’s a rate of growth we haven’t seen here since the 1930s.” Harrison said. “This increase brings tremendous and significant benefits as most of these newcomers are economic migrants. They have skills, they have training and they have jobs, all of which adds up to a huge benefit for the province as a whole.”

Meanwhile, early next month Jalili plans to return to Iran to visit family and friends.

“I’m going back Sept. 3 because I miss my parents and my country,” she said. “It’s still my country. I was born and raised there and have lots of relatives and friends there.”

A big reason as to why she left Iran in the first place, Jalili said primarily had to do with the state of the Iranian economy.

“I’m happy to now be a Canadian citizen and I say thank you to all the people who have supported me, accepted me, trusted me and who have helped me,” she said.