When Chuan Ken Koh and his wife, Chian Ling Chiu, first visited British Columbia in 2000 on vacation from their native Malaysia, they were so impressed that they immediately discussed making Canada home.
Almost 20 years later, with their two daughters, Yan Yi Koh, 18, and Yan Qun Koh, 20, joining them, the Koh clan from Rossland officially became Canadian citizens Tuesday afternoon at a ceremony at the Ramada Inn Conference Centre in Kelowna.
The Kohs were joined by 75 others, from more than 20 countries, as they proudly sang O Canada after the swearing-in ceremony.
The Kohs came to Canada in 2014 seeking permanent residency and have spent the past five years completing all the paperwork necessary to become citizens.
“When we came to Canada back in 2000, we visited Niagara Falls and couldn’t believe it,” said Koh. “It was so big and beautiful . . . when we got home from that trip, we decided one day we would like to try and make Canada our home.”
Koh is a recently retired doctor while his wife is an anesthetist. His oldest daughter is studying at the University of Waterloo, while his youngest will enter his first year of studies in chemical engineering at the University of Victoria in the fall.
Koh said becoming a Canadian citizen easily marks one of the happiest days of his life.
“We found out six weeks ago,” he said. “Being able to do this with my wife and kids is very good. Canadian people are so nice and they accept people of all cultures, and we really appreciate the diversity and inclusiveness of all Canadians.
“We have travelled around the world and been to places like Australia and New Zealand, and Canadian people are the friendliest. Canada is number one.”
Koh’s wife said she will never forget Tuesday.
“It was very touching to see so many people from around the world joining us as new Canadians,” she said. “We always tell people we meet to come to Canada . . . you will never regret it.”
Hector Marina Pastor, 32, from Spain, came to Canada eight years ago and is thrilled to now be a Canadian citizen.
He came on a working visa and has worked various jobs in Nelson and Whistler most of the time he’s been in Canada.
He’s an avid snowboarder and skier and says Canada’s natural beauty is what brought him here and made him choose to pursue citizenship.
“I go back and forth, depending on the season,” he said. “I am a registered massage therapist and I work specifically on athletes, so there’s a lot of work for me in these two places.”
As a world traveller, Marina Pastor agreed Canada’s acceptance of immigrants from around the world is one of this country’s most appealing traits.
“It’s such an open, accepting and diverse country,” he said. “They easily accept people from anywhere. I’m young and not sure if I will stay here the rest of my life, but if I have to live only in Canada, I would not be sad.”
Judge Carol-Ann Hart, a provincial court judge from Vancouver who officially swore in the new Canadians at Tuesday’s ceremony, welcomed the 79 new Canadians and stuck around after the official ceremony to have her picture taken with most of them.
Hart encouraged the new Canadians to travel across the land to see how much the world’s second-largest country has to offer.
“If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend that you travel throughout our beautiful country, exploring our amazing national parks and enjoying the extraordinary natural beauty of our majestic land as you go,” she said. “It has been my absolute pleasure to have shared this meaningful day with you, and I extend my heartfelt pleasure and congratulations to all our new Canadian citizens. Welcome to the great Canadian family.”