In a ceremony at Olympic Plaza on Wednesday, July 19, 60 people were sworn in as Canadian citizens. Around 150 people were onhand for the event, which moved some to tears.
"This is one of the proudest days of my life!" exclaimed Tony Twort, who wore a tie emblazoned with dozens of tiny Canadian flags.
A ski instructor for Whistler Blackcomb, Twort lives in Whistler with his wife Hazel Boyd, who was also sworn in. "We just love Canada. And I love teaching kids to ski — it's my passion."
The ceremony was led by Charmain Crooks, a five-time Olympian and Order of Canada recipient.
During her speech, Crooks tied the ceremony to her personal journey — she immigrated to Canada 40 years ago with her family — and Canada 150, the national celebration of Canada's sesquicentennial.
"The 150th anniversary of Confederation is a fitting occasion to celebrate Canada's identity — its ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity, and its rich history and heritage. Canada is a model of diversity. And it's thanks to that diversity, and not in spite of it, that the country is prospering."
The event also highlighted Indigenous voices. Both Josh Anderson of the Lil'wat Nation and Travis Billy of the Squamish Nation took part, with Anderson delivering a prayer to the Creator that opened the event.
Sea to Sky MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones looked solemn during the swearing-in ceremony, caught up in the weight of the moment.
"The words are identical to the words you say as a public office holder. And it reminded me of not only the personal commitment we are making, but also the public commitment we are making to safeguard that public trust that is Canada," she explained after the event.
Goldsmith-Jones also began her speech with a traditional First Nations greeting.
Goldsmith-Jones' Liberal government has made efforts to reset Canada's relationship to First Nations, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling it his most important relationship.
But despite their efforts, Canada 150 celebrations have been met with some resistance by First Nations, who feel that it is disrespectful of the difficult history they have faced, which includes forced assimilation and residential schools.
During a conversation following the event, Goldsmith-Jones said that it is important to educate new Canadians of the fact that First Nations have been on this territory for thousands of years.
"As many of my Indigenous friends would say, it's Canada 150 plus thousands of years," she said. "Our history together, there are bright spots and there are dark spots, but Canada is a country that is continually improving and pushing ourselves to be more and more open inclusive and diverse. That's the nature of being Canadian."
For Crooks, who played a role in planning the 2010 Olympic games, being back in Whistler felt special.
"This is very unique because of the inspiring setting. This is a community that gathered the world during the Paralympics and the Olympics in 2010, and here we are again welcoming Canadian citizens," she said.
"To be a part of this and see the smiles on peoples' faces — it's an honour."