South Surrey senior Marion Jansen has always believed in the importance of voting, but hasn’t been able to over the past 30 years that she’s lived in Canada due to her American citizenship. That all changed Monday, when she became a Canadian citizen. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Desire to vote drives South Surrey senior to reach longheld dream of citizenship

Marion Jansen, 92, became a Canadian on Monday

It’d be hard to blame Marion Jansen for feeling a little heady this week – after decades of dreaming about it, the South Surrey senior finally became a Canadian citizen.

“I was a nervous wreck, I hardly slept the night before,” Jansen laughed Tuesday, recalling her anticipation of the Feb. 24 ceremony in Surrey.

“It was so much and I had planned for so many years, and then hadn’t gone through with it. I had papers done probably 20 years ago, and just didn’t follow through. I can’t remember the reasoning.

“Since I became a widow, I just decided this is something I really want.”

READ MORE: Connected to Canada (page 17, 18; This is the Life)

Jansen, a self-described minimalist who turned 92 in October, became a Canadian alongside 56 others during a morning ceremony at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s office in North Surrey. The presenter was well-known horticulturist and entrepreneur Brian Minter, of the 32-acre Minter Garden.

Seated in the front row, Jansen said she was among the first to receive her certificate, and Minter delivered it directly to her.

The whole experience, she said, was “really quite nice.”

Born in northern Minnesota, Jansen has called South Surrey home for the past 30 years, and has long-missed one particular privilege of citizenship – voting.

“That was the big one,” she said, of her reasoning for pursuing her official standing in Canada.

It’s a right she remembers being eager to exercise as a young adult in the U.S.

“I don’t remember the first time I voted, but when I got to be 21, I was there,” she said. “I sure was waiting for it.”

Jansen said she was “kind of” active politically in her younger years, working on some campaigns – “but I wasn’t important,” she quipped – visiting the legislature and even meeting Muriel Humphrey Brown, the wife of Hubert Humphrey, 38th vice-president of the U.S.

Jansen said during her and husband Bill’s 40 years together in Minnesota, she “always” voted.

After the couple moved to South Surrey in 1986, she continued to keep an eye on the happenings south of the border, and acknowledges she has opinions on the current administration – none she wants to state publicly, however.

“People are always talking about the goings-on in the U.S. I try not to say a thing,” she said. “You do have a right (to have an opinion), I just don’t want to get too involved with it.”

As for Canadian politics, “this country is is known as a much more gentle country, and I believe that,” she said.

And while she couldn’t predict the outcome of the next federal election, Jansen said she thinks the current prime minister “is probably in a lot of trouble.”

“I feel sorry for him,” she said.

Jansen’s first opportunity to vote as a Canadian is still 20 months away, in the October 2021 provincial election. Marking her ballot is not a step she’ll take lightly, she said – an uninformed vote doesn’t do anybody any good.

“You’ve got to be involved. They can get by with all sorts of things if you don’t,” she said.

“I want to have all the sides, then put it together, then make my decision. It’s not fair if you don’t.”

Still “dizzy” from the excitement of becoming a Canadian, Jansen said she’s not quite finished with her to-do list. Now, she wants a Canadian passport.

“They said wait two days, well I’m going to wait at least a week,” she said. “It’s not that I’m going to go anywhere, it’s just something I want.”

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