Judge Gerald Pash walks through the halls of Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s Polson Tower in search of Aletta Upton’s room. It’s her special day – one she has been anticipating for eight years.
As Pash approaches the door to Upton’s room, her son Ken steps out to greet him. Pash dons his ceremonial gown, and enters the room, filled with family, friends, Aletta laying on the hospital bed and Canadian flag souvenirs on the white walls. Aletta is ready to take the oath of citizenship. She’s ready to be a Canadian.
“Eleven days ago, my mother had a doctor’s appointment, and I picked her up at her apartment,” Ken said after the ceremony. “She didn’t come down, didn’t answer the call, I found her unconscious in her bed.”
Ken rushed his mother to the hospital, where it was discovered that Aletta had suffered a ruptured aneurysm.
“We were told the chances were quite poor that she would survive,” Ken said. “We actually went as far as arranging a funeral. I got my sister to come from Australia. The day before she arrived, it looked like she might not get here in time.”
But Aletta rallied and regained consciousness.
“The first question she asked was can we let them know in Penticton that she won’t make the (citizenship) ceremony,” said Ken. “I think it was important to her. It was weird that that was the first thing she asked – I was surprised.”
Aletta, originally from Cape Town, South Africa, has been living in Canada since 2009. In July, she will turn 89.
“It’s very exciting for us. We’ve been here for 25 years and her grandchildren are here, so she’s pleased to become a Canadian herself.”
As Pash finished the ceremony with the singing of O Canada, Aletta appeared tired. But since regaining consciousness, she has been improving every day.
“After a week of not eating anything, she was quite weak. But (she) has now regained her strength quite enormously and seems to have made some progress.
“Today, she became a Canadian citizen.”