COVID-19 researcher gains Canadian citizenship through historic virtual ceremony

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A University of Manitoba professor who has gained government funding to research solutions to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic was granted Canadian citizenship — without having to leave his home.

Dr. Adolf Ng took part in the first-ever virtual citizenship ceremony Wednesday, according to a social media post from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, in order to meet what they called an “urgent need to facilitate COVID-19 research.”

“His new Canadian citizenship and passport allows him to perform essential work related to combatting COVID-19 and saving Canadian lives,” the ministry said in a follow-up Tweet.

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Citizenship ceremonies and tests have been otherwise cancelled due to the pandemic and resulting public health orders prohibiting large public gatherings.

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Ng, who teaches supply chain management at U of M’s Asper School of Business, received $258,900 from Research Manitoba last month for research projects in both Canada and China, to find solutions to supply chain issues in Canada.

The research project is one of dozens that have been partially funded by the federal government in order to ramp up Canada’s research and development into solutions to battle the pandemic, including searches for possible vaccines.

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Ng told Global News the study will require him and his research team to travel to parts of China, including Wuhan, at specific times to monitor supply deliveries and grocery stores. Having Canadian citizenship and a passport will ensure he can travel and return home safely, he said.

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“You actually have to go there at a particular time and a particular situation so you can actually look at those things and identify those problems directly, and based on that … we can develop useful strategies for policy-making and develop more resilient supply chains,” he said.

Ng — a British citizen who has been living in Canada for eight years — said he applied for his Canadian citizenship in September 2019 and had his citizenship test set for this March.

He said the shutdown of citizenship operations didn’t bother him at first, as he had no plans to travel outside of Canada until his research proposal was accepted for funding.

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Ng said he plans to set up a date for a physical ceremony with IRCC “once everything gets back to normal,” but praised the officials who conducted the virtual ceremony, which was “as close to what I imagine a physical ceremony would be.”

Until the day comes when he can recite the Oath of Citizenship in public, Ng says he’s just proud to be serving his new homeland by helping find solutions to the pandemic.

“This is such an extraordinary situation, and I feel like I’ve developed a stronger sense of responsibility for Canada,” he said.

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“This isn’t the end of getting my citizenship, this is the start of my opportunity to serve Canada and the world.”

Ng expects his research project to begin late this month, once the university approves a safety and contingency plan for him and his team.

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