My eBook, How To Immigrate To Canada For Skilled Workers: The Authoritative Guide To Federal And Provincial Opportunities is available now on Amazon and other online retailers. Get your copy of the essential guide to Skilled Worker class applications today!

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Also available is my new eBook, "How To Immigrate To Canada In The Family Class: The Authoritative Guide Including Québec And Super Visa Opportunities". Get it at Amazon or the other e-retailers noted above.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Holiday break

Just a note to let you know that the MInd will be on a break for the holidays. Check back for the exciting tales to come in 2006. It's bound to be another year of commentary, adventure and who know, perhaps the beginning of relocation and finally the beginning of the realization of a dream? Thanks for all of your support in the last year and Merry Christmas and Happy New year too! - J

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Conservatives 1, Liberals 0 on immigration

Well, from watching the Friday debate, I can tell you my scorecard is in on the immigration issue and it's Harper by a reindeer's nose. I've been trying to find a transcript online, but haven't had any luck yet (are the ones on CTV and CBC edited?). The question came from a recent immigrant, who asked the candidates what their plans were to change the landscape where qualified professionals were unable to have their skills recognized, and thus were underemployed.

So from what I recall, Martin's "Bridge to Employment," simply seems to be a solution plugging more money into programs that are currently failing (re-education, language studies, internship progams) - a solution that proposed no modifications to the status quo.

Harper on the other hand, actually talked about change - setting up agencies that would review credentials and validate experience in relation to Canada's standards and open up opportunities. He didn't have a fancy name for it, but he had a plan - a different plan.

Layton pumped change, but had no specifics, and Duceppe sees everything nowadays as a provincial issue.

So for this round - points for for Harper.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Same story, different day

The Globe and Mail: Is the current model of immigration the best one for Canada?

You have to wonder, after reading article after article on Canada's immigration policies, whether anyone in the government pays any attention at all to public feedback. Here's yet another Globe and Mail article that brings up the same points made in the past once again:

1. Canada's immigration policy is considered a model worldwide
2. Canada is historically dependent on immigration for economic growth
3. Canada is not keeping it's promises to immigrants
4. Canada is under-utilizing immigrant capital
5. 80% of all immigrants settle in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal (and the majority of those in Toronto, where there is the least support for them)
6. Immigrants fail economically because Canada does not recognize their credentials
7. 1/3 of immigrants, failing to integrate into the economy, are moving back home or TO THE U.S.!
8. 700,000 potential immigrants are in line, with wait times now averaging three years

And then, there's the anti-immigration lobby, for whom facts regarding the need for skilled labor matter little:

"Demographer David Foot says Canada doesn't need more immigration yet, because the echo boom - boomers' children born in the 1980s and early '90s - are entering the labour market en masse. He says more immigrants will be needed in 10-15 years."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Steven Harper is the Tin Woodsman

I've been away with holiday happeneings for family and work keeping me away from my blogging. The Leafs are on a losing streak, it snowed today in Toronto, the election campaign is ready to enter it's third week. With so much going on, you all couldn't have missed me much.

I've been really enjoying Stephen Harper's horrible - and I mean HORRIBLE ads for the Conservative party. Now I always thought the criticism of Harper as wooden was a little out of line - until i saw the two ads they have running right now in BC. The format of both ads are the same - Harpet in a TV studio, where a host is "taking questions"...softball questions about Gomery and tax cuts. Harpers answers are so lacking in enotion, so flat and the production so amateur, that is really feels like you are watching an episode of "This Hour has 22 Minutes". How can you make fun of him when he does such a good job himself?

Team his personality with the fact that a number of his policy initiatives aren't due to kick in until his second(?) administration (his GST cut isn't due to 2011) and I'm not impressed. In fact, I'm a little worried. I'm beginning to believe it's better the devil you know (Martin) than a party that clearly does better in am opposition role, than when they are given a chance to lead.

Harper better come home from OZ and hire a new PR firm if he's looking for more public traction. I hear there are some ad agencies in Quebec looking for work these day.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Questioning myself

Lately, and maybe this is a question that must be borne as a natural burden of any Quixotic battle; lately, I ask myself "why?" I guess it's healthy to second guess my motivations and my determination and my commitment to seeing through the frustration of the immigration process. As the weeks and now months are passing since the end of my relationship, I ask myself, do I want to go through this on my own because she couldn't hold on with me? To prove to Her that I can hold on alone? If that's true, then it's not a healthy motivation. I can't do this thinking that seeing it through will win her back, or will change anything now between us. I need to remember that love is between two people and true love cannot be torn apart. I need to remember that this was about us, but now it's about simply me, my life, my future, my choice. Why do I choose Canada? I need to read my own blogging...

Canada still makes intellectual and emotional sense to me. I don't feel at home in the US anymore. I haven't for a long time. I don't much care for this society and what it stands for. This isn't an anti-Bush thing. We are all responsible for the state of this nation. We have ruined it. We have created what I see as a hateful, suspicious, self-centered and self-serving culture, bloated on fast food, fast living, slow dying, with no concept of what the words "liberty" and "justice" mean. We are unforgiving, but cling to a national Christianity. We would rather jail our population than help them. For those who have been jailed, there is no hope of rehabilitation - too expensive - only hope of livng the rest of their lives in a permanent underclass. And then we wonder why we continue to see crime problems.

I could go on and on, but tonight's entry is more about reminding myself "why." I do want a new life in a new country. I know Canada has it's own troubled history and it's not perfect. But Canada still has more hope of being what America once dared of aspiring to than America will ever have again.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Holiday blues

Just spent my first holiday in 4-years without her. Not really looking forward to December right now. We had great Christmastimes together, even with the strain of travel and separation. Our first year together we happened on a Santa taking pictures and thought, why not? It's a happy picture of a happy time. New Years were always together there or here, and though we could rarely stay awake, especially if we were on West Coast time, we still shared the hope of the year to come together. I miss even being able to look forward to that now.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Minister Joe Volpe will Fix You

Immigration Minister Announces Significant Investment in Fixing Canada's Immigration System

Well here I am celebrating another American Thanksgiving Day and what do I read in the RSS feed from the government of Canada but this holiday offering. Immigration Minister Joe Volpe plans to put $700 million CDN over the next five-years into fixing the chronic problems within his ministry.

The goal of this spending is to decrease the huge backlog of applicants as well as fund programs to evaluate and fast-track those applicants who have job skills Canada is looking for.

Of course, the government and business probably have differing ideas of the profile of those skilled populations. The press release specifically mentions "...moving to actively recruit those who best meet Canada’s labour market needs—such as temporary foreign workers and international students already in Canada..." Which seems to imply those who would populate the lower levels of the labor market (temporary farm workers and entry level professional services), rather than the "Skilled Worker" class - where Canada is by all reports in desparate need of talent.

Perhaps this indicates the political nature of this announcement. It surely couldn't offend anyone: backlog of applicants gets cleared up, labour needs are addressed, but no current citizen's job is threatened. Brilliant!

Let's hope now that this plan is on the table, that should another government inherit the leadership in the coming election, they will still choose to follow through on the core ideas it represents.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A clear night before the snowfall

The forecast says snow, but there hasn't been a sign of it all day...This is a panorama taken over time using the remote-controlled web cam on top of Panorama and composited in Photoshop. Click on the image to see the full-sized version.

From "Experience the breathtaking view from Panorama's restaurant patio, atop the Manulife Centre at Bloor and Bay Sts., and change the scene with full pan, tilt and zoom controls. "

Monday, November 21, 2005

Millions into Ontario immigration - a few years from now

The Globe and Mail: Ottawa putting millions into Ontario immigration

Let's hope this isn't just another pre-election bartering tool, but the Liberals are finally stepping up to cut a deal with Ontario to help with the expenses associated with new immigrants. Everyone in the government is well aware that of all the Provinces, Ontario is the number one destination for new immigrants to Canada, and Toronto is the primary destination within Ontario.

The only big issue with this announcement is the time it's going to take to implement. Minister Volpe says 5-years. That means only a fraction of the 625,000 immigrants to Ontario over the next 5-years will benefit from this boost in spending.

Provincial Conservative immigration critic Frank Klees also argued the impact of Monday's announcement will be too slow in coming.

"Why has this minister signed an agreement that's going to take five years to phase in," he said.

"It's couched with waffle words that mean nothing to the fathers and the mothers who are desperate today for an opportunity to earn an income and to work in their professions."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hockey Night

I love Saturday nights. On Saturday nights, even from Seattle, I feel connected to home. Why? Because Saturday night is Hockey Night in Canada!

The CBC shows a double-header each weekend during hockey season, hosted by Ron McLean, with the pre-game show starting at 3:30pm on the West Coast and games running on to the post-game ends around 10pm. It's a lot of fun to watch the games. I get together with my brother and we cheer on the Maple Leafs (who are fortunate enough to get on many weekends), and depending on who else is playing, we may be at odds. Still - it's a fun night that I look forward to each week.

On Hockey Night, I feel connected to my adopted Canada. I know all over that country to the north that many folks are gathered, just like me and my brother to watch and cheer. We hope Matts scores, we hope Ty wins whatever fight he gets into, we scream at Eddie to "STAY IN THE NET!"

Hockey is an amazing sport. The greatest sport, if you ask me. I can skate, barely, and when you know how difficult simply skating can be, then you really appreciate hockey for what it is. These players are moving at 15-20mph (convert that into kilometers if you must), keeping a small frozen disc moving between them , getting hit, stopping and turning on a dime, and trying to place it within one of five holes that the goalie may or may not make available.

In the "new" NHL, it's fast and it's fluid and it all adds up to equal a blast to watch.

One day I'll enjoy a game at the ACC. But that'll be , like I have learned to say about the Leaf's playoff hopes - next year...

(p.s. The Leafs won tonight!)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tick, tock, and Ka-ching

I was thinking the other night that, much to my surprise, time still is flying by. It wont be very long until I'll have to get serious again about getting all my documents together to prepare for my submission to CIC. One of the big decisions I have to make is whether to engage an immigration lawyer or not. Fankly, the last time around my ex and I worked with two of them, and they were less than sensational. One was a joke and the second really didn't prepare us for what would turn out to be the key issues of our case when it came down to it. So I'm really thinking carefully about it this time around. It's expensive for one thing...$3-5000 CDN on average. And it's difficult - more difficult now for me to work with a lawyer in Toronto that I'll not be seeing throughout most of the process.

Other expenses are coming soon too - need lots of cash in the bank ($10K CDN) because there isn't any support for skilled workers coming in...$400+ US for medical exams - again...and if I'm landed, another $1000 CDN landing tax.

So time to earn and time to save, because time to spend is coming soon. The clock is ticking.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Too heavy - let's have some fun

I noticed the blog was getting a little too heavy, so I thought today that I'd share some places with you to have fun in Toronto, if you're so inclined. At least these are places where I have had fun there.

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St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday morning (92 Front Street East). Be sure and check out the cheese shop! Yum.

Nathan Phillips Square in the Winter (100 Queen St. W.). Bring your skates and trip around the ice. Get some fries and poutine from the van on Queen Street W. when you get cold.

Toronto Eaton Centre
anytime at all (The Centre is bordered by Dundas Street (north), Yonge Street (east), Queen Street (south), and Bay Street (west). Conveniently located on both the subway (TTC) and PATH system). If you like to shop - and who doesn't sometimes - there is more to see at Eaton Centre than you can shake a fist at. And there's always a good people watching show going on at Dundas Square.

PATH - "PATH is downtown Toronto's underground walkway linking 27 kilometres of shopping, services and entertainment. Follow PATH and you'll reach your downtown destination easily in weatherproof comfort." This place is fun to get lost in - though you're never really lost. Nice weird shops to discover on a winter day.

The Entertainment District (bordered by Queen Street W., Younge Street, Lakeshore Blvd. and Spadina Ave.) Go on, see a show! There's always something cooking at night. The district is so big, there HAS to be!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sad use of political power

I just came across this article in the Star from a few days back. It's a sad example of politicians and their impact on people they will never meet.

That anyone who doesn't understand the human toll of their power over the lives of others is put in a position of authority is a sad injustice. I know this isn't unique to Canada. It's just sad.

Spite takes human toll
2005-11-11 20:35:37 [Editorials]
It would be a shame if even one woman were to miss her Canadian grandchild's first steps just because six opposition MPs on the Commons immigration committee felt like delivering a slap on the wrist to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe.

Funds for the landed, not for the limboed

Some details have been presented regarding the Liberal plan to pump $1.3B into immigration programs, and it turns out that these funds will be directed toward "settlement services" with literally not a single dime going to clear up the backlog of 700,000 awaiting the glacial progress of the CIC, according to an article published in yesterday's Toronto Star ($5B boost for workforce 2005-11-15 00:47:45).

If it wasn't clear that the Liberals are "buying votes with the people's money," then the application of these funds to the problems of immigrants proposed by Goodale and Martin should help us understand. None of this money is going to help fix chronic problems with the CIC. It is all going toward those that are already landed in Canada. I'm imagining a number of those that would benfit would be individuals who, after struggling for years to integrate into the population and job markets, are actually citizens who actually vote.

Get it? "Vote Liberal, we help."

In the meantime, there are still families that are separated, skilled workers who can't get in and business visitors who can't get more than 30-seconds of an official's time.

"But Goodale's mini-budget offers no funding to tackle the chronic problems that face the immigration system now, such as a backlog of 700,000 people caught in limbo abroad, waiting to come to Canada.

Those problems are a "work in progress," an immigration department official said yesterday.

And while the document talks about the need for more immigrants — federal Liberals have mused about boosting Canada's annual target to 320,000 a year — there's no extra money earmarked to open Canada's doors any wider."

Get it now? Goodale and Martin's plan are simply ploys to gain votes as far as I can see. Where is the leadership on immigration issues and their value to Canada? This is exactly something the Prime Minister should be addressing or at least insisting that Immigration Minister Joe Volpe develop an agenda for.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Election money for immigration

It's clear that a federal election is in the making in Ottawa with the announcement of $97 billion dollars to be returned to Canadian taxpayers over 5-years according to Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, with an immediate cut in tax rates to individuals earning under $35K from 16% to 15%. And there's more - $1.3b in aid for new immigrants too!

But of course...only if the Liberals are re-elected.

It's interesting that this money was "found" in the Federal Budget on the eve of an election...It seems like a sweet late Fall carrot dangled in front of those with something to gain from the Liberal agenda. Include those businesses that would benefit from corporate tax breaks and it looks like you'd have to be, well, a critical thinker to vote for any party but the Liberals.

But ask yourself, Canadian voters - where was this accounting throughout the Liberal's agenda over Paul Martin's term? Why now? Clearly, this play for your wallets is a play for your votes.

The Liberals have a pretty poor record with overall fiscal management, especially in light of Gomery. While I have to applaud a government that will take no more than it needs and work to return the rest, I have to wonder, when I hear so much about improvements needed in access to healthcare and other federal programs (including an understaffed CIC), why the taxes collected wouldn't go to these much needed improvements.

I do hope that despite which party ends up in power after the next election, that programs are supported and new ones created that will assist immigrants. The $1.3B Goodale wants to pump into immigration would certainly be welcome - by me and 700,000 others who reportedly want to eventually make Canada their home.

It will be interesting to see if Canadians vote for their wallets or for their country and each other's best interests (whatever they determine those are) come January.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Condo go Boom!

Ever since I started making plans to come to Canada, there has been a condo building boom going on in Toronto. I haven't known the city I love without construction cranes. My ex told me you had to be careful in buying into new construction - there wasn't enough labor to build them half the time and occupancy that should occur in a couple years would drag on to 3, 4...or never at all as the developer went insovent and took your deposit with him to Cuba. Scary.

Now that I have a little time on my hands, I'm sort of glad for all the activity of this frenzied market. From what I can tell, there's a lot of speculation in the market and a lot of overbuilding. Sure, all of us new Torontonians are going to need housing, but come on - not at $500K a pop. Not when we're (stereotype) driving taxis while you consider our credientials!

But good old basic economics tells us is that where there is supply in excess of demand; prices drop.

So come on housing bubble - BURST! But not until I'm ready to come to town.

If you're looking for a place, check out the MLS for Toronto Central. I have my own preloaded for a nice price pocket. You also might want to check out the hilarious Brad Lamb (masterful self-promoter and "King of the Lofts"). His team are actually some pretty cool people (personal experience).

Though...when I think of it...I just might rent.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Things to do for those who are waiting

Any of you who are readers here will know that I've been in this immigration process for awhile now. And due to the change in my situation, I will have to get used to waiting some more, unfortunately. But they do say good things come to those that wait, that Toronto wasn't built in a day, and that patience is a virtue. So I keep all that in mind. This is a change that will, once made, last the rest of my days, and tomorrow will come, and it's not like there isn't a lot to do in preparation, as well as ways to keep the energy up.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few ideas with you on how to spend the idle time while Buffalo or whatever CIC office you are dealing with is working on your file.

Getting ready to relocate? Then do yourself a favor and pare down now. Sure you can take it with you to your new Canadian home - but do you really need it? I have a rule that says if I haven't used it in a year and it's not for an emergency, then I bet someone else could get some use out of it. Donate, garage sale, heck - I did pretty well on eBay even with some stuff. The idea here is to enter your new life with just the things you need. You'll have years to accumulate the things you don't!

Study your new home. There is a lot to learn about Canadian history, current events and culture and many resources to help. Read books on Canada, read online newspapers and watch webcasts (as I'm Toronto bound, I read the Star and Globe and Mail, but I also watch CBC Toronto, the "Canada Now" evening news segment)...Heck, I even subscribe to a couple magazines. The idea here is to begin to become conversant in your new home and society. This is one of my favorite ways to pass time.

Make contacts. Even if you don't know a lot of people in Canada, you can make friends via the Net - email penpals, for instance, that can answer questions for you and give you valuable advice. In addition, if you are a professional, make contacts with employers and with professional groups. This will help you hit the ground running when it comes to securing employment - not the easiest chore for a new immigrant in Canada, according to many of the reports in the press.

Those three area should keep you out of trouble, but if they don't and you are restless, I can think of one other thing you can do while you wait....

Start a blog!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Employment pressures and opportunities

Naomi Carniol, Business Reporter with the Toronto Sun has posted an intersting article on the state of employment in Canada in October - Pushing "full employment" . It's heartening to see a convergence of need and policy as appears to be happening now. Unemployment in Canada is reportedly at a 30-year low and employers are crying out for skilled labor: the government is responding by increasing the number of immigrants it will welcome. I hope the govenment will not simply up the ticker, but also work with those firms in need of skilled labor to help bring the best and brightest to Canada.

And on a personal note - I hope I'm one of them!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Texan asked "Why?"

I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Liberal. I'm not a Conservative. I'm not NDP nor Bloc Québécois. I'm just me. And I love Texas.

I love Texas because it's really unimaginably big. I love Texas because I spent a lot of weeks there working with nice people. And I love Texas because I still have friends there.

One of those friends called me tonight. She was driving in East Texas on her way from one small town to another smaller town. She knows all about the disintegration of my relationship and the sorrow and loss. She's great to me. As we spoke about the future, I said, "You know, come April, I'm going for it - I'm getting back in line to immigrate to Canada."

There was a pause, followed by a long, Texas-style, "Whhhhhyyyyyyyy?"

Good question. And my response was something like this...

"It's not a matter of having my significant other there anymore, obviously. What it's about now, is that over the years, I've come to love and appreciate Cananda. I love Toronto. Now I know Canada isn't perfect, but there is an alignment with my pace of life and my values that is non-existent in the US. I believe we should all accept and take care of each other. I believe that we are all in this together. I believe in tollerance. I believe in peace. I think Canada, as a nation, believes in those things too - even if they aren't perfectly realized.

"In addition, I have skills that Canada can use. American firms have a track record of using people up and then tossing them off. I've made millions for firms here, but there is no sense of appreciation, and no safety net. This is a country of "Economic Darwinists" - Americans believe in survival of the richest. If you don't have money, you DESERVE to be poor. Tough...get a job, bum. Good for the few at the top of the pile. The rest of us are simply widgets to be used. This is experience talking. I know that I won't have a safety net in Canada either - not until I become a citizen (God willing) - but at least there isn't an illusion there.

"I want to live in a country that seeks to balance individual opportunity and social responsibility. I want to live in a country that seeks to make the world a better place.

Canada hasn't welcomed me yet - in fact, it's been difficult. But I still believe in Canada."

My friend from Texas said - "Oh....I get it. That makes sense."

It does if you dare to dream of a better life than this.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Run to the border

Canada urges U.S. to 'take time' on border IDs
2005-10-31 19:01:54 [National]
OTTAWA — Canada urged the United States on today to "take the time to get it right" in developing new border identification requirements, cautioning it to not throw the baby out with the bathwater in its bid for tighter security.

Ahh - you gotta love the voice of reason. And once again, that voice is Canadian. You may remember me writing about the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) in blogs gone by. This is the brainchild of reactionary breaucrats who believe that making every Canadian who enters the US have some sort of passport is a great way to promote cross border coorperation and security.

Of course, "Only 23 per cent of Americans and 40 per cent of Canadians have passports, and obtaining one is costly and can take weeks." That's great for the budgets of the US Consulate, I guess - but for everyday Americans and everyday Canadians, it's a burden and an expense.

Canada is asking the US to hold off until a reasonable policy is developed around cross border security and ID requirements - one that doesn't impede tourism or trade.

Myself? I'm all for opening the borders of North America - one great big travel and work zone, from Canada to Mexico. If you have any typical form of ID, you are welcome to enter and if you can find a job, you can work. Oh wait - that's GOTTA be too complicated!

Still - leaders do have until 2008 to do something that illustrates real leadership.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Open the door, then help immigrants succeed

Canada to open doors to 255,000
Oct. 31, 2005. 05:09 AM
Canada will open its doors to up to 255,000 immigrants next year, the federal government will announce today. But what the government won't announce is its plan to dramatically boost immigration levels by an additional 100,000 newcomers a year, writes Bruce champion-Smith.
[Full Story]

The above article was published today in the Toronto Star and gives an overview of Minister Volpe's plans to increase the levels of immigration, possibly up to a staggering 320,000 new immigrants a year.

But immigrants face problems coming into Canada, especially skilled workers who are trying to break into jobs that require Canadian certification or that are protected in some way. If the Minister wants to bring in more new Canadians in order to bolster an aging population with low national birthrates, then he has to clear the way for them to both enter the country and to succeed. Here are a few ideas:

Less cash - Lower the amount of money a skilled professional is required to have in the bank - currently, skilled professionals with no family support in Canada need to prove they have $10,000+ CAD in the bank in order to qualify for immigration. How many Canadians have that much in savings?

Revise qualifications requirements - Those with high marks from University and with years of professional practice should score higher than those who don't have those marks or experience, yet, there is no differentiation. What about points for the industry you have proven skills in? If Canada wants to build its pool of high tech professionals, for instance, then award more points for that.

Lower professional barriers - Eliminate restrictive practice requirements or develop equivalency measures. Doctors, engineers, and other professionals who immigrate to Canada should have a rapid, government supported path to validate their skills to Canadian employers. Don't ask them to come to this country only to tell them that they have to pay for new education or certification to prove to others what they already know. If they fail the tests, then absolutely they should get additional training at their own expense, but if Canada wants rapid assimilation, then they need to take down the walls.

Social assistance - Provide social assistance for those working outside their profession. Heresy, right? But if you are inviting people in to build a strong economy and your promises aren't true, shouldn't you take some responsibility for that?

Employer-sponsored immigration - Employers should be able to sponsor individuals and their families. They would assume the risk in this case, just like a regular sponsor. Talk about a direct path. Employers get the talent they desire, and immigrants get the assurances and support that they need.

Do you have some ideas about helping immigrants succeed? Drop a line and share them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Tonight I'm thinking about Toronto again, having flashbacks, I guess. I'm flashing back probably because it's closing in on four years since I first set foot there, and it's been so long since I've seen my adopted city, and I know so much has changed, that I feel as if writing about it will keep it alive for me until I can see it again, and see it as a new immigrant, not just a visitor.

There was a winter day at Nathan Phillips Square, sitting watching children and their parents ice skate. One particluar little boy, noticing my love and I noticing him, who would make his long way through traffic under the arches over and over again, to pause and do a hockey stop, or turn to skate backwards, trying not to fall as he looked our way. Did we notice his effort? Of course. I still remember it.

There were Saturday brunches on Queen West at Bar One or Sugar, followed by walks back east to the heart ofthe city, stopping at every interesting shop possible. My favorite always being the vintage guitars at Capsule and the paper store nearby.

Memories that for most are minor, for me still stand out - late night drives from Niagra Falls, into the city on the QEW, the sharp loop of the exit at Younge. The advertisments created from shrub and gravel that line the freeway west out of town. Younge Street waking up in the morning...the brown ceramic tiles of the northbound line subway stations...students rushing to the University...getting lost in the PATH...

I don't know if I relive these memories over and over again. I may even have mentioned them here before. I have so many more personal ones that will stay private.

Tonight I'll remember again that it wont be long until I am home again, and that no matter what has changed (Eaton's hadn't even been bought by Sears when I was there initially), it will still be familliar and still be home.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Less talk, more action - Before fixing system, find out how it works

You probably notice that the Toronto Star is a big source for me on reports about immigration issues. That's mainly because Allan Thompson actually writes about the subject on a regular basis. Try as you might, you wont find this kind of coverage in the Globe and Mail, and if you did, it would probably be for "subscribers only" premium content. No offense - I know they have to make a buck. I just appreciate that The Star makes this available.

For those of you interested, the article I have linked to above gives a quick overview of the Liberals political use of the immigration carrot when elections are near - as they appear to be now. Martin and Volpe and even Pettigrew are all talking up a storm about opening the borders up to skilled workers. But as Thompson points out - this kind of talk has been a source of warmth for Ottawa winters since 1993. For those of you who don't want to count - that's 13 years.

Let's hope there's some action coming behind this talk. Let's hope there is government suport to put more employees to work for the CIC to start, to both lower the processing times as well as increase the quality of service. Let's also hope that (as was noted in an earlier entry in this blog) those who put their heart, soul and cold hard cash into the effort of making a professional contribution to Canadian society get more than 30-seconds of attention.

The Epatriate Mind inspires change! - Site users have spoken

It's nice to feel like you are able to make some small change to better a situation for others, and I have to believe speaking up in this blog, as well as dropping a note to
ALLAN THOMPSON of The Toronto Star succeded in doing just that.

If you all remember, back in June, your humble blogger made mention fo how the CIC website made it very difficult for applicants to find the information they needed to get their applications in process; noting that in some cases the links to information - like family class applications, had been disabled.

After an email to Allan, he wrote a politiely critical article about the site in The Star, and the result has been some action...

"In an Aug. 13 column, I suggested that the website should be much easier for use, so people could find simple, clear answers to standard questions about immigration procedures. By coincidence, it would seem, the immigration department put a notice on the website a few days later, on Aug. 18, releasing details of surveys it conducted in the winter with thousands of website users."

Now of course, nothing has been immediately implemented, but at least the CIC has gotten the message - and Allan promises he'll hold their feet to the fire come Winter time.

I'll be sure and drop him another note to remind him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Mind goes on...

Well, I am almost through the shock of initial separation and have been thinking about what it means to me. It obviously means there are profound feelings of sadness at the toll of this process on my relationship with the woman who loved me once. There is sorrow. There is uncertainty. My Family Class application is over. I no longer have a conjugal partner. Sponsorship is withdrawn. The official documents of our love will go into a bin, never to return...

So let's light a fire for them and watch them burn bright. That's what I did in my heart and in my mind - mourning the loss...but then - like a Phoenix from the ashes of dissapointment, something new was born in me. A revalation of love.

For despite losing my love, my angel, I have not lost another love for Canada, that is.

I saw a new flame alight and it was one for myself. Love for my life and my future, despite the troubles and hurdles...The government after all is looking for Skilled Class workers (of which I qualify), and perhaps there is still a chance that I can make a new life in the country I love, in the city I love, even if it is not with the woman I loved. Born now is my goal - I will make a new life in Canada.

So the Mind goes on...I'll keep you all posted as I make my way through the new process, and I'll try and catch up on my commentary and observations of the immigration process, news, CIC and all that.

Thanks for your support! I have a dream again, and it's still a beautiful one!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Goodbye my love

As I suspected when I last wrote anything of substance here, this immigration battle has claimed a casualty, and that casualty is my love. As I worried when she last came to visit, she came to say not I love you - but goodbye. So after almost four years together, and three years in the process of trying to start a life together in Canada, three years of being blocked by CIC, the fight is over. She gave up, she gave in, she said goodbye.

I'm sure that oneday I'll remember these days gone by with simple fondness, but for now there is only sadness and tears. For this is the time when memories go into boxes that will rarely be opened if ever at all, where those things that still have some use go where they will be most welcome.

All these adventures, the things we've seen, the places we've been, the good, the bad, now, all of those memories, just tears in rain. Maybe if we are lucky, something beautiful will grow from them.

Goodbye my love. I will miss you more than you will ever know.

Goodbye Canada...of maybe just see ya'll later, eh?

- J

Monday, August 29, 2005

Last Night Ever

by Jarvis Church

Lets stay here together you don't have to rush home
Now you know I'm not a player, I just can't be alone tonight
Outside the world is ending, but still somehow
All that I'm thinkin' about is you and me right here, right now
We're outa time, we're outa time, we're outa time

Cause this is the last night ever, and nothing else matters right now
Just you and me together, holding each other in our arms
Trying to figure out, the things that we care about

If you could go back, tell me what would you change
Would you rewrite a line or would you tear out a page
And lord knows we've had our problems, but now they seem
So insignificant with you in front of me lookin' like a vision out of a dream
We're outa time, we're outa time, we're outa time

Cause this is the last night ever, and nothing else matters right now
Just you and me together, holding each other in our arms
Trying to figure out, the things that we care about

There is only you, and if it's broken we can fix it babe
Sometimes it takes the fear of loosing everything to appreciate what you have
Lets not give up (no) lets not give in
Keep your eyes on where we're going, girl, not on where we've been
We're outa time, we're outa time, we're outa time

Cause this is the last night ever, and nothing else matters right now
Just you and me together, holding each other in our arms
Trying to figure out, the things that we care about

Friday, August 19, 2005

Standing on shakey ground

Every now and then, I worry that the end is near. I don't mean the end of our waiting for this horrible immigration crap to's the kind of end that makes this whole thing moot. It's the end that says there is no more relationship - that the strain of this process has done it's job, done it's worst, done exactly what it shouldn't do, which is tear love apart.

She called me to say that this is too much to bear right now. She called me to say that the waiting and the lonliness and the isolation have taken their toll. She called me to say she's not sure. She didn't call me to say the only words I ever want to hear. She didn't call to say, "I love you."

She'll be here in Seattle tomorrow, for a week. We're a city of earthquakes, and I'm on shakey ground. She's not packed yet and it's 1am in Toronto. What does that tell me? That this is a trip she doesn't want to take. What will I see in her eyes when she arrives? Will I see the someone I love, or will I see a stranger, who looks like her, but is just going through some of the motions until she reclaims her life?

Pray for us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - Attractive website buries vital immigration facts - Attractive website buries vital immigration facts

I wrote about this topic a few weeks back when I discovered the Family Class links had been disabled on the CIC website. Knowing that only a handful of people read this here blog, and checking again to see that the CIC hadn't fixed things, I dropped a note to ALLAN THOMPSON at the Toronto Star, hoping that maybe he'd stir up the mud. And sure enough - he DID! Thanks, Alan. I hope the CIC folks read his feedback about their site. He was much more gentle than I, but then - he isn't waiting to come home...

Check out his article and let him know what you think. He does excellent work keeping us would-be immigrants informed.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Canadian attitudes harden on immigration

The Globe and Mail: Canadian attitudes harden on immigration

"OTTAWA; TORONTO -- In a country that prides itself on embracing multicultural, a new poll finds a large number of Canadians say immigrants from Europe are far more likely to make a positive contribution to Canada than those from Asia, India or the Caribbean.

One leading race-relations organization said the findings show that Canada has a particular problem with anti-black racism, while others say they're largely a reflection of the increasing difficulties immigrants face."

I found this article in yet another catch by my RSS bots and again, the news out of Canada is a bit distressing. I want to say to those who participated in this poll, "If you take away something from 9/11, and in particular, the US response to it - PLEASE don't let it be fear of foreigners!"

I'm not so ignorant as to believe that some racism - maybe even a lot, still exists in Canada. I know that hurdles to the integration of immigrants is well documented in the national press. Still - for a country that is the poster-child for multiculturalism, the following quote should give one pause...

"But 41 per cent of Canadians believe the country an immigrant comes from is linked to their likelihood of success in Canada. Among those polled with such views, there were also clear notions of which immigrant groups are more likely to make a positive contribution.

"European immigrants -- who tend to be predominantly white -- topped the list with 76 per cent, followed by Asians at 59 per cent. Less than half of that subsection of Canadians, at 45 per cent, believed Indians make a positive contribution and West Indians were viewed favorably by only 33 per cent."

I really want to encourage you to read this article - it's balanced overall. The government sees the issues associated with immigration and integration and is taking some steps to cure both the perception and reality.

I am enough of an optimist to believe that is there is anywhere in the world that immigrants can have hope of a better life and of equality, it is Canada.

Canadians - soften your hearts - open your arms. There is nothing to learn from your neighbor to the south here...We live in fear and jealousy and are closing our borders. Please do not follow this path.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Giving back - some select resources from my bookmarks...

Thought I'd give a little something back by posting some of the links I've come across related to Toronto over the last couple of years. This list includes some of the lighter side of things. I'll post some News and Immigration resource links in posts to come. For now, follow on and enjoy!

Shopping stuff
Avenue Flower - the Best flower shop in TO! Ask for Betty!
Craigslist toronto - classifieds for jobs, apartments, personals, for sale, services, community, and events - Craigslist is a great free-form classified ad site. Chances are someone has what you need! - Toronto Restaurants, Dining Guide Toronto

City Info and guides - City guide to entertainment, events, movies, restaurants and more
City Of Toronto - General information on our fair city including some interesting statistics
TOMaps - Cool maps with satillite overlay of beautiful TO.
Toronto - The official City of Toronto Web site

City of Toronto RESCU traffic cameras - The Younge Street cam is your starting place to check out traffic cams in the big TO
Greater Toronto Airports Authority - Here's the Pearson Airport site. Cool resource that displays a 14-hour rolling window of flight information for all airlines coming and going from the airport.
GO Transit system map to find schedules available - Need to find a GO train route? Here's the place.

Toronto - Canada - Current Conditions and 5 day forecast - The weather is always changing
WXnation Weather Radar, Live Cams - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sports Team Schedule for the Toronto Maple Leafs - Go Leafs Go!
Toronto Maple Leafs

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Canada's Business Leaders Irked By Hypersensitive Visa Process.

Here's an article I came across that may be suprising to many but to those who have been exposed to the capiciousness of the immigration process in Canada, it shouldn't be suprising. This article details the random nature of the visa process in Canada related to business professionals attempting to get short term visas to enter Canada to do business. I'll pull quotes from the article that really stand out for me:


"In the few minutes immigration officials abroad devote to each application, they are primarily seeking assurance the person will not stay illegally or claim refugee status once here. Immigration officers are also trying to stop applicants who may pose a national security risk or have a criminal record. Finally, they are on the lookout for those with medical conditions that could burden the health care system in Canada. The government usually doesn't have to defend its decision to turn down applicants."

A few minutes - that's all immigration officials have to spend on applications - applications that may take the applicant months to prepare...


Some business leaders believe the government's visa process isn't transparent enough.

"It's a bit of a black box, is how it comes across," says Yuen Pau Woo, Vice-President and Chief Economist of the Asia Pacific Foundation in Vancouver. "[Foreign corporations] have heard there is a very high degree of fraud in terms of documentation, and the true intention of visitors coming from Canada. But of course we have no access to documents to verify if fraud is involved. We have heard anecdotally that many of these applicants appear to be bona fide businesspeople."

Prashant Ajmera, an immigration consultant with the firm Canada Immigration, echoed Mr. Woo, saying restrictions on prospective investors and customers are too tight, particularly for small companies. "[The immigration] officer spends 30 seconds on a particular file and makes a yes or no decision. Meanwhile, this person has spent so much time and energy exploring Canada for business. The whole exercise is frustrating. And there is nothing that you can challenge if you're turned down. You could go to federal court but that is too expensive and long. The trade show would be finished by then."

Is it any wonder that those in the family class andother classes that deal with the CIC experience troubles when this is the experience of those who are offering to bring economic gain to Canada? Let's hope Parliment will look into the broken nature of immigration administration in Canada - we all deserve more than 30-seconds of our government's attention.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Canadians More Positive Than Americans About Impact of Immigration

"Canadians More Positive Than Americans About Impact of Immigration" (Canada NewsWire Group) "Most Canadians (60%) feel immigration has a positive impact on the quality of life in their communities, but only 43% of Americans feel the same way." Ok - this post is a bit late, but you gets in the way of blogging sometimes!

My home, my fortress, my America. Does it surprise anyone that Canadians have this view of immigration and believe Americans don't? Sure doesn't surprise me. But it is disturbingly accurate in my experience.

Where I live, there are cultures upon cultures, visible minorities everywhere you turn. And I love it. And I know this isn't unique in America. Come on - it's a NATION OF IMMIGRANTS...But somehow, this country has lost track of that key premise on which this country was built. Now Americans seem to view immigrants as a drag on the economy, a drain on the social services sector; crack-smoking, drug-selling, 7-11 running yard workers, taxi drivers and hotel maids. We've come a long way down.

Still, according to this survey, Canadians also believe that the US provides a better opportunity for immigrants than Canada does. And that's a reality check for Canada. With the ongoing special interest controls over many areas of professional services, coming to Canada may mean escaping a bleak future somewhere else, but it is still far from the golden north of opportunity.

I believe in Canada. I believe in its promise. Maybe because I have yet to experience the reality of making a living there, of trying to sell my skills into the market. But that's not why I believe. I believe because acceptance is still the norm in Canada, while here in the US, intolerance rules the day.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Love those photoblogs

Spent my spare time in the last few days going through the GTA Photobloggers and found quite a few beautiful shots of Toronto to save and maybe make a personal little slide show from or just to have something to look at when I'm missing the city and my love.

To think that I have to wait until next year to get back in line really kills me. I feel like such a broken record, but the waiting, the faith and patience required to...the hurdles thrown in the way...I know it will all be worth it, once I am home again to stay.

And in the meantime I have my photoblogs to keep me up to date - my love doesn't like taking city pictures for me, so ya'll will have to fill in for now. Thanks!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Nobody said it was easy - no one ever said it would be this hard...

Jobs scarce in Canada for skilled foreigners

I wrote about this a few weeks back, but checking out one of my RSS feeds, this article caught my eye. From the Indian Express, it talks about the lack of professional work for qualified immigrants.

"About 25 per cent of recent immigrants with a university degree are working at jobs that require only a high school diploma or less, government data show. Over the last decade, the country has attracted 200,000 to 250,000 immigrants a year—measured as a percentage of the population, that is triple the rate in the US."

What was especially interesting to me was the comment in the article by Joe Volpe:

“We have an arcane infrastructure of professional organisations that essentially mitigate against the immediate integration of these highly skilled immigrants,” Joe Volpe, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, conceded in an interview. “It’s a shame we have a shortage of doctors, and yet we have thousands of foreign trained medical doctors and we don’t recognise their credentials,” he said. “We haven’t found an easy way of assessing their qualifications.”

I wonder if Canada will get brave and instead of looking at ways of legislating for the recognition, perhaps legislate "against" those, like the professional organizations alluded to above that work to block the integration of immigrants into professional life in Canada.

And why does assessing their qualifications have to be "easy"? Why can't it simply be fair. Certainly no one want doctors who aren't qualified to practice in Canada, but just as certainly, given the wait times of up to two or more years, something could be done to allow new immigrants who are waiting to gather the informations or take the tests required to illustrate that they were capable of practicing in Canada.

No one said your job would be easy, Joe - but I have faith you can do it!

Thursday, June 02, 2005 - Family class backlash ignores history - Family class backlash ignores history

"For nearly two decades, immigration experts have pushed the politicians to raise the threshold for admission to Canada and to whittle away the family class.

"We seem to have forgotten somewhere along the way that immigration is a social program that helps define our society, not just an economic program that brings in workers."

To read the article above and it's exposure of the metrics of current Candian immigration policy and then to read the Government's own publications on the same subject is to experience the classic "what we say" and "what we do" scenario.

The government of Canada used to tell immigrants that the reunification of families was a primary goal of it's immigration policies. Now, if you look at the CIC website ( and ) you will notice that they don't even make a mention of how to sponsor your spouse or conjugal partner. They have literally eliminated the links. I wonder how long this has been the case, since I don't keep up on the site that frequently?

I also wonder how many potential immigrants and sponsors have had their dreams of reunification stalled by one more day, one more week, one more month because this information has been hidden from them by the government? In the US, we say if you want to cut a government program that benefits the people all you need to do is put another requirement in the way - put another hurdle up. Make it harder to access and less people will use it. I didn't think that was the Canadian way, but I am beginning to wonder...

People bemoan the cost of immigrants to a society, but I say look at the benefits. New ideas, new energy, new wealth...Please Canada, don't look to the US as your model - remain open, embrace families and help, don't hinder their reunification.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

On different clocks

I have two clocks in my home. One is set at Toronto time and one is set at Seattle time. I live between these time zones - always aware of both at all times. My love always teases me, "Don't you feel like you are late? By the time you get up, the day is almost half over." She tells me how the news is old because she gets it hours before me, but I remind her that's only first thing in the morning. She discounts all she misses when she's asleep at 8pm and the day goes on for another three hours for me!

The clocks we both live by are hard to adjust. On visits, there is always the jet-lag interval, which can eat up a day or two of synch depending on how busy we have both been with work and life, and in our everyday, reminding each other to eat right, getting her dinner ordered at's all a bit confusing.

But still we keep time together. We keep time together now for at least another couple of years as we are forced to be apart. We keep time in counting the days until the next visit. We keep time counting the anniversaries, the holidays and the memories we are trying to make together and the future we still have a dream of.

We're on different clocks, but we're still in synch.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The waiting is the hardest part

We learned a few days ago that we will have to wait almost a year to get in line for immigration again. This is so hard. When families are separated, lives together are on hold as lives alone go on. How can this be good for families? Perhaps expecting compassion from governments is the definition of foolishness and optimism. A government, this one or that one, is something to endure. This immigration process is such a test of endurance and faith. It's strange how similar our societies are when viewed through the prism of our bureaucrats and officials. Give someone a little power over people and watch them misuse it. It's the same everywhere.

So now we face up to a couple more years of late night phone calls, webcam visits, 4 hour flights with our friends at Air Canada...Lord willing, we will survive. That is my prayer...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Memories in the waiting time

Those of you who live in Tornto full time probably, and i'm making an assumption here, take the city for granted. I know it's true of Seattle, where I spend most of my days right now. All I have to hold me while I wait for residency and try and save the little money I have is the many phone calls each day with my love, the CBC and Pulse 24 on the Net, and memories...

I remember a snowy winter day walking home from the AGO after seeing Yoko Ono's show...the wind whipping the flakes into a white-out as I walked east, then north to catch College, obscuring everything.

I remember nightime walks with my love - the Philosopher's Walk I think it's called...cutting a path through the U of T...young lovers holding hands in the dim light cast by the few lamps here and there as she showed me a piece of her past and her own fond memories.

I remember meeting friends at...Mesis, Tony Bolognas...La Paradis...for long dinners where everyone shared everything...nights filled with laughter and potential....secrets shared and kept...Nights where you connect in a way you'll always treasure. Those were nights I thought were left in my youth, but in that magical city I experienced those nights again.

I remember beautiful spring days sightseeing at Casa Loma....catching the train uptown, then taking a nice long walk to the site. By that time I felt like I belonged, like her love had made this place mine. She is so wonderful and encouraging and inclusive. It makes these memories sweeter.

I remember sitting on the benches at Nathan Phillips Square watching children skate, getting poutine from the big blue van that parks there.

I remember Saturdays eating brunch on West Queen and reading the Star in a booth at Bar One...then off to adventure in the shops as we made our way hand and hand back to Bay Street.

These are only a few sweet dreams I keep. I offer them to remind you of how lucky you are to be albe to enjoy them each day. God willing, many new memories await us all in that beautiful City...maybe I'll see you there soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


When you travel a lot, back and forth between countries, germs are part of the risk. This has been a particularly bad year for my love and I. In the past four visits she has made out here, one or both of us has become ill. Either she got a bug from someone on the plane, or I got one from her, or we both got one from someone at the's been crazy and maddening. I can see why people travel with those doctors masks now. I'm thinking of doing the same. I am so tired of getting sick from careless, thoughtless folks who are ill. It not only takes time away from my limited time with my love, but it's expensive (drugs to buy and work missed) too.

So listen up - if you are sick, don't travel. Give us all a break. Sharing the air with 150 other people for 4-hours and leaving your germs everywhere is just RUDE and thoughtless. You should be ashamed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A snowy night in the Winter of 2005 (collage as seen from the Panorama web cam) Posted by Hello

I have skills! So you'll hire me, right?

One of the biggest hurdles an immigrant faces is finding employment in their new home. Even more difficult is finding it in the field in which they may have worked in the past.

Canada is known in the US for having cabbies with MBA's and PhD's. Same thing probably goes on here, but our businesses seem to be more open to accepting or ignoring (to the benefit of the job seeker) the credentials of other countries, and - face it - we have no idea of what the rest of the world says about us because our media protects us from that!

That last sentence calls for an you need credentials in the US? I have worked here for close to 20 years now. I have a BA degree from a good school. Has ANY employer EVER verified this? Have they verified ANYTHING? No - not to my knowledge. Here in the States getting a job is about 1. what you know 2. who you know 3. what's your rate? The end. There are any number of interviews that I have been on where my ENROLLMENT in an MBA program is mistaken as HAVING an MBA degree - even though I'm very specific about not having completed the program yet.

If you have a work permit, or are eligible for one (a little harder since the tech bubble burst) and can talk the talk and have connections, you have as good a chance as any in getting a job in your field. Especially if you're cheap and the employer thinks they can take advantage of you...Ahhh...America.

I honestly don't know how much of a problem I'm going to have in Canada finding work in my field, although I've read the stories that it will not be easy...Still - I'm optimistic. Now I have also read a lot of critical reporting on how Canada has a immigration policy specifically trying to attract skilled workers - tech professionals like myself, for example - and then doesn't do anything to assist their assimilation into the workforce.

I also know that steps appear to be in the process of making non-Canadian credentials (especially for Doctors and other health care workers who are in demand) acceptable - or at least not making professionals obtain and entirely new education in Canada for what they already know and have practiced for years.

So I have hope. And I have skills! So you'll hire me, right?

Monday, April 11, 2005

I love Vonage

When love first blossomed, so did my phone bill. It wasn't too bad if you used the calling cards and watched what time you were calling and made the most of each conversation, but let's face it - love knows no timetable, and there is a three hour difference between my cities. When I was yet again between homes, my cellphone bill rocketed to $400 a month! I was desperate! Then I got far had voice over IP come since I had first checked it out?

I knew it worked pretty well in chat applications, but it's not connecting to the wired that matters - it's connecting to the land-line world. That's when I found Vonage...and life changed.

Now I have local numbers in Seattle and Toronto, I pay a measly $35 USD a month for the service and I can make unlimited, anytime calls anywhere in Canada and the US. My friends and family never pay long distance to call me from the GTA, and despite a few occasional service quirks, no one can tell I'm talking to them over the Internet.

Vonage has made it easy to call anytime for any reason when my love and I are apart. I can sing her to sleep and then leave the line open while she drifts off to sleep. I don't have to count minutes and pennies.

If you are dealing with the distance issues I am, check them out at - it really is a simple way to make communication with long distance loved ones so much less a burden on everyone.

And, no - I'm not making any money from this post and I don't work for them.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The great abyss

I'm tired of Seattle. I'm tired of being away from my love. She's in Toronto, and I'm here and we've both been waiting for over two years for my permanent residence application to go through. Of course, there are no promises with immigration. Except the promise that you will wait. And wait we have.

First you get all of your application materials together, which is time consuming, nerve-wracking and full of self-doubt. Gather your licenses and passports and credit card statements and phone records and pictures and videos and emails and cards and letters and ticket stubs accounting for the 100,000 miles you both have travelled keeping love alive everything you can think of that will tell someone with power over you that you have a family-class level case. Then fill out application after application and be very careful to follow the directions to the letter. Read all the guidelines and then read them again. Read case law - don't make the same mistakes others have - they are there to guide you.

Then comes the great abyss. For us it was somewhere in Buffalo, NY. A case number is assigned and then you watch the website to monitor processing times. They are only estimates.

In the meantime, flights and visits back and forth, bad food, sketchy Air Canada service, too many colds from too many strangers on too many flights, and too many questions from too many immigration officers. The suitcase is either too big or too small, as we ferry pieces of each other back and forth.

In the meantime, don't make plans - you can't do it. Save yourself the frustration. You are in limbo. We are in limbo. It's the greatest pressure on our relationship and at times it tears us at the seams - we want so much to be able to be like normal couples who can makes plans for their future and try and make them come true, but in this time of living inthe abyss, no plans can be made, because plans involve time and we don't know when that time will come.

If God wasn't there with us in this time of waiting, as we wander this dessert of immigration, I honestly don't know what we would do.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Toronto's financial district, with Younge Street to the left and Bay Street to the Right as well as the CN Tower in the upper right. A snowy night in the winter of 2005 Posted by Hello

Everyone's a suspect - Passport required to enter U.S. within two years

Everyone's a suspect in America. With each passing day we become more and more simply prisoners in the Land of the Free. By 2007, US citizens will not simply be able to show their driver's license - a State form of acceptable ID to cross our own borders and enter our own country - we'll need a Federally Approved documents, soon to include biometric data. The no-man's land between borders just got a lot scarier. You are neither here nor there, you know. You have no power. You are, after all, a suspect - and you are guilty, never innocent. Don't believe that lie for a moment.

Why? Because America is afraid - deeply afraid. We're still afraid of 9/11. William Burroughs wrote of walking backwards into the future. This statement is an accurate description of this nation. We are looking back in fear, doing now what we think should have been done before then to change what can't be changed and to prevent what can't be prevented - walking backwards.

The destroyers in the world are like mice in the house - they come in through the little holes we can't see in the foundation - not through the front door. But protecting the front door makes for good political capital. Looks like we're doing something, eh? Hey - that's nice big deadbolt you have there!

But all these measures really do is create a database somewhere in Fortress America where we and all of our neighbors in North America will have our every intercontinental movement tracked. That's all - don't be fooled.

One in Four Americans has a passport - pushing this burden and expense to the other three is a nice way to raise some Federal Government revenues too. Now, how many of you are going to take that vacation to Canada now? You have to fork over another $100+ a head - oh and it might take 6-months to get the passport - so be sure and plan ahead (and that's NOW - before the forced demand...)

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) - You'll be able to thank this acrynom in the next few years for the drop in tourism between nations, as well as continuing the new tradition of straining relations with Canada and Mexico. Hi Canada - we don't trust you. Hi Mexico - unless we can exploit your labor, we're really not interested in you.

It's times like these when I long for home on Lake Ontario. Reason is in short supply here.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Losing Touch

There's a well noted phenomenon that comes with living between a couple of countries, in my case Canada and the US - it's been described as becoming illiterate in two cultures. While most of my time is still spent in Seattle, I couldn't begin to tell you what's going on in this city as far as the politics, and I have only bold outlines in my head of the big city projects and priorities. Are they still going to replace the viaduct? What's happening with the monorail project? Is that Nichol's guy still the mayor? How long has he been mayor? I don't know.

I do watch the local news in the morning, but it's FOX, so it's not really news, but infotainment. I'm a weather fool, so I typically know what's happeneing there locally, still - I don't really feel like I'm in touch.

Now every evening, my news is Canada Now on CBC, and I guess I'm more in touch with the issues that are going in Canada overall than I am in the US. I watch with a touch of disdain the Gomrey Commission spend more money on an investigation than the Sponsorship scandal that they are investigating, I wonder when the US will open the border to Alberta beef and BC softwood lumber...I wonder why the country doesn't flex it's muscules around water and oil and help the US understand it's place a little better. I don't know why Canada suffers us so much, but they do.

I'm up on a lot going on in Toronto, but there also, I know that I am missing that essential connection that comes from being settled. Like here in Seattle, I know the big picture, but the details are a little fuzzy.

I wonder if Seattle will ever feel like home again once I completely relocate to Canada, and if Toronto will ever feel completely like home, ever. I think once you become a wanderer in your heart, and I've been one for many years now, that there's no place like home, and no place to call home - home like you knew with certainty when you are a child. If I get really internal about it, I'm sure it started way back when - We didn't move a lot, but we moved anough. I remember at least three homes between birth and age 11, and home was always somewhere else. As an adult, I can count nine different places I've called home in Seattle. I loved them all - I cried when I left most of them behind, because it so true - you never can go home again. In this life, we live and we leave. I've lived and left more than many I guess. I envy my brother - he's much more settled than I will ever be. I guess it's just not the path God had in mind for me. It's a good thing I embrace adventure and can find in each place he sets me down, something to call home.

Maybe that's just become magnified over the years as now it seems home will be an entirely other country. Canada is not the US - not by a long shot - and it gets more and more foreign in comparrison to the US in the essential elements of how the culture thinks, acts and what it values, each and every day.

I wonder how much of America I will leave behind when it's time to leave again, hop on that 319 and not consider when I will see this skyline, those Olympic Mountains again?