George Al Khoury of Sault Ste. Marie is no longer just a permanent resident of Canada.
The owner and operator of Georgie’s Shawarma is now a full-fledged Canadian citizen following a citizenship ceremony in Mississauga, Ont. held Nov. 2.
“It was amazing, that’s all I can tell you,” said Al Khoury, speaking with SooToday Thursday night. “I feel great, and I waited for this minute for five years and more since I applied. It’s been almost seven years since my sponsor applied for me.”
Al Khoury relocated to Sault Ste. Marie in 2017 after a five-year stint living in Lebanon, the place where he sought refuge upon fleeing from his native Syria.
He would work stints at Marconi Cultural Event Centre, Aurora’s Westside and the Sault Community Career Centre prior to launching Georgie’s Shawarma, a popular Elgin Street eatery serving authentic Syrian cuisine, in October 2019.
Al Khoury now has a family in Sault Ste. Marie; he’s currently residing with his common-law girlfriend, her two children and the son he and his partner had together, Jood, who is just over a year old.
“I try to improve and organize myself every day, better and better since I started,” said Al Khoury. “It has been great, it has been amazing.
“I’m very busy — I work at least 11 hours, 12 hours a day and I have a family to take care of.”
Al Khoury waited about nine months upon completion of his application for Canadian citizenship before he could take the citizenship test, which he took online.
He would wait another nine months or so before receiving an email inviting him to attend a citizenship ceremony in southern Ontario.
“I have a new start now, you know? I have a new home and a new place that protects me, and I have my rights here and outside of here. It feels great, especially after I left home,” said Al Khoury. “That was the plan, and here it is. Here we go now.”
The face of Georgie’s Shawarma is recognizable across the city; Al Khoury says he feels “famous” when he’s acknowledged by strangers in the Sault.
“It feels great, you know? People show you respect,” he said.
Al Khoury says he “feels stronger” now that he’s a citizen of Canada.
“I feel like I’m more part of this country and my community,” he said.