‘I’m very thankful’: Temporary foreign workers become Canadian citizens

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WATCH ABOVE: After years of hard work two cooks from the Philippines have achieved a huge milestone, they are now Canadian citizens. Sarah Kraus reports.

EDMONTON – After years of hard work chasing the Canadian dream, two women from the Philippines have been sworn in as citizens.

Vilma Casimiro and Shirley Fortez first came to our country as temporary foreign workers in December 2007.

They came from “average” families in the Philippines but wanted more for themselves.

“Buying an ice cream was a luxury to me,” Casimiro said. “We couldn’t afford it.”

Both women were hired by Century Hospitality Group as cooks. They became fast friends, living and working together as they transitioned into a new culture.

But it wasn’t an easy road for the pair.

“I always cried, every night. I wanted to go back home because I felt so, how do you say that? Out of place,” Fortez said.

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The ladies left their families, their language and their culture behind for an uncertain future in Canada.

“I don’t know what will happen to me, in my future,” Fortez said. “If I will manage to stay here more than a year or if I will go home a loser.”

But the cooks’ passion for food and dedication to making a life for themselves impressed their new boss, well-known chef Paul Shufelt.

“Both showed great work ethic and commitment to the job and just gratitude for the opportunity,” he said.

Shufelt said people often have the wrong impression about temporary foreign workers.

“I just think there’s this misconception. Either that the employees aren’t good or they’ll work for less money and take a Canadian’s job. That’s just not the case.”

The cooks like to bring a little flavour from home to the plates they serve at Workshop Eatery.

“Just to introduce the culture, the food, the taste of the Philippines to the Canadians, that’s what I do,” said Casimiro.

On Tuesday, after years of hard work and a long application process, the pair held small Canadian flags and snapped pictures with a photo of the Queen as they became Canadian citizens.

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“I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t help but cry and be thankful to God and Canada,” said Fortez

“That’s the reason why I came here,” explained Casimiro. “Not just to be a temporary worker, but to become one of the Canadian society.

“It’s just so amazing. I’m very thankful,” she added. “I always say that I will be forever grateful to the Canadians for sharing this amazing country for me and my family.”

The friends feel citizenship is yet another step towards a brighter future.

“I need to work harder for me to be able to get what I need from my life right now. It doesn’t stop here,” Casimiro said.