Citizenship the end of a long road for Santos-Cardoza family

February 6, 2023, 7:52 am
Kevin Weedmark

<b>Santos family proud to be Canadian citizens</b> On Feb. 1, the Santos-Cardoza family, Victor and Lesi and their two sons Victor Jr. and Edward, celebrated being Canadian citizens with the community at the Moosomin Legion.

It was the end of a long road for the Santos-Cardoza family Wednesday as the family gained their Canadian citizenship.

The family fled Honduras for Canada and applied for refugee status in Canada.

Their refugee claim was rejected, and the family was slated for deportation in 2017.

The community of Moosomin rallied around them, and on the day of a massive community rally for the family, an extremely rare ministerial order was issued to stay the deportation, the family’s visas were extended, and they began a new application for residency in Canada based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. That was accepted, and Victor, Lesi and Victor Junior became permanent residents in 2018. The youngest in the family, Edward, was already a Canadian citizen as he was born in Canada.

On Wednesday last week, the rest of the family became Canadian citizens.

The ceremony was virtual, over Zoom, but friends and supporters were there with the family in the Moosomin Legion Hall, with the ceremony projected on a screen, as they took their oath.

Victor Junior spoke for the family when he addressed the crowd.

“Today, February 1, 2023 will forever be a special day to us and to you as we celebrate our journey to citizenship and unlike many, we are privileged enough to share this very special moment with all of you, a whole community behind us,” Victor Junior said.

“Today we want to thank God for giving us this opportunity to finally obtain our Canadian citizenship. This is a new beginning for us, a new chapter in our book and now we are happy to share the same rights and responsibilities and call this place home.

“Thank you to all of you who have been with us on this long journey, from the start or halfway through, wherever or whenever you heard about us—we owe our lives to you, since none of this would be possible without you nor God. Finally we are at the end of this citizenship process and at the start of our new life as citizens.

“We want to give a very heartfelt thank you to Ralph Goodale, Dr. Robert Kitchen, Russell and Yvonne Slugoski, Kevin and Kara from The World-Spectator, Sinclair Harrison, Devona Putland, Bill Thorn, Mario Zavala and Roselyn, Murray Gray, Larry Tomlinson and the rest of the Town Council, and all the communities in Saskatchewan that were involved in different ways throughout our process.”

“Thank you Canada for allowing us to live in this beautiful and blessed country,” Victor Junior continued.

“Thank you Moosomin, Saskatchewan for believing in us, for welcoming us and for taking us in with open arms. We are proud to be part of this community and more importantly, proud to be Canadians.

“God is now starting to reward us all throughout these troubling 12 years we have spent battling it out. God sees your support and your kindness, therefore will give back to you all that you gave for us. Your actions do not go unnoticed.

“We want to confirm this as an act of perseverance and persistence. Everything is possible in this life if you believe in yourself. We learned many life lessons throughout this process and today we want to share them with you.

“We not only want to show our gratitude, but be an inspiration to other immigrant families who are on their path to citizenship. No matter how hard the end result may be, just know that all things are possible with hard work, persistence and a little bit of faith, because if you truly desire it, all things come to fruition.

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.”

In an interview following the ceremony, Victor Senior said he is breathing a sigh of relief now that the family are officially Canadian citizens.

“It’s a big relief,” he said. “I feel more peaceful, with less stress. It’s a relief off our shoulders for sure.”

Lesi said there were times when the family wasn’t sure they would ever get to this point.

“There was one time when Victor said, ‘No, no more. We’ll just give up. We can’t do anything else,’ because we had no choice, we couldn’t apply for anything else. Then some friends from the community, part of the small Spanish community, they knew that Victor had said we were going home. So they all gathered together, brought us some money, and they said, ‘We have this money. You can contact your lawyer and tell him that you want to continue with another process.’

“There was another process, like a humanitarian one, and we could still apply for it for a third time. So I said ok, we’ll see. But I said to Victor, ‘You can ask the lawyer what we can apply for or what we can do.’ The lawyer said, ‘Yeah you have this option that you can continue.’ It was at that time that we decided to go ahead. But I remember that there were times where we thought it was impossible to continue with the process because Immigration kept saying no. We didn’t have many options left, only that one option.”

Lesi says the family has always felt at home in Moosomin.

“Especially here in Saskatchewan, in Moosomin, we feel at home because the people are so friendly. I remember when we came here the first day, we came from Toronto to here and we were driving through Moosomin and everybody was saying Hi. We were like, ‘Oh how do they know us? This is the first time we’re here.’ Then Victor said, ‘Wow the people here are so friendly.’ Since then we’ve felt like we’re at home. We can go anywhere and we don’t have to worry about anything like our safety.

“We could’ve landed anywhere else but Moosomin just felt like the right destination. Especially with the people here like we mentioned previously. For example, Mario Zavala and Roselyn were the ones who encouraged us to move here and take that step, or rather that leap of faith to come here and try to apply all over again. I think it was well worth it, well worth the risk because now we’re reaping the benefits of our risk and we couldn’t be happier.”

“We owe a lot to the people in the community who helped us out,” says Victor Junior. “We owe this victory to everyone involved no matter how big or small their impact was, we owe it all to them and we’re truly thankful for the hospitality and kindness that we’ve received from them.”

Victor Senior says he wants to help others, to pay forward the kindness they received.

“If we see something. If we see problems and someone who needs help, we’re going to be here for them to help,” he said. “If they need anything or even something like advice, we are here to help. If anyone is in trouble and needs help, we are here for whatever we can do.”

The family is well settled in the community now, with Victor Senior working at the mine, Lesi working in health care and taking classes so she can move up in the health care system, and Victor Junior apprenticing at Mario Z Construction and considering a future bid for Moosomin town council.

Victor Junior sums up what they learned through the whole experience.

“It’s perseverance and persistence. Not giving up no matter how hard the goal may seem. Ultimately trusting in the community too, to help us out along the way, and taking their help. Realizing that this can’t be done alone. You do need those good people along the way, like yourselves Kevin and Kara, and the rest of the community that has helped us. It couldn’t have been done without them so I think that’s what we’ve really learned here. It was a community effort.”

Scenes from the citizenship ceremony, including local supporters and Chief Cadmus Delorme.<br />