The Lupai family had something particularly special to celebrate at Thanksgiving this year.
Their recent walk across the floor of the UFV Envision Athletic Centre to receive their citizenship certificates was the culmination of a very long journey that included fleeing worn-torn South Sudan and a migration across the Middle East, before their arrival in Canada six years ago.
Refugee claimant Anthony Lupai, his wife Viola and three of their four children joined about 55 newcomers and their families at a special citizenship ceremony at the University of the Fraser Valley on Oct. 4.
Canada's newest residents, who hailed from around the world, solemnly clutched books of faith or little red and white flags in one hand while raising the other to swear oaths of citizenship.
Then former residents of all ages and genders, whether from the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe or South East Asia, crossed the gym to obtain their proof of Canadian citizenship.
Some wore serious faces reflecting the gravity of the moment while others could not contain smiles of joy.
Viola led the Lupai family down the receiving line of dignitaries closely followed by daughters Joy, 11, Celina, 8, and Grace, 6.
Anthony, clutching the hand of four-year-old son Samuel, born a Canadian citizen, ended the procession.
"I'm so happy," exclaimed Viola afterwards.
"Finally! I've been waiting a long time for this moment."
The 29-year-old mother said it was particularly special to gain citizenship at the same time as her family.
"The three girls are so happy. I'm so blessed."
At age 13, Viola fled the violence in South Sudan with her mother to Jordan in 1996,
Anthony fled the southern capital of Juba around the same time when he was 19 years old.
He also made his way to the relative safety of Jordan to attend seminary school.
The couple was attempting to escape the second round of decades-long civil war between the north and south in their country, which featured a brutal, bloody conflict between the central Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
They were part of the millions of Sudanese civilians displaced by the conflict.
Anthony and Viola met and married in Jordan before making their way to Syria where they applied to come to Canada with their three daughters, eventually joining Anthony's sister here in Abbotsford.
Anthony, 35, now works at Abbotsford's Phantom Screens and is a pastor for the Christ Ambassadors Christian Assembly.
He is grateful to have gained citizenship 12 years after making it his objective.
"A lot of Sudanese people are living in the Middle East. They escape to Syria or Egypt but their lives are in danger because of wars."
When things got difficult during the long journey, Anthony, like many Canadian immigrants, said thoughts of his family's future kept him focused.
"In my country we had war," he said.
"In Canada, you have rights in a peaceful place that's good for the children and the future."