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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wallet-snatching Americans

I read in the Globe and Mail this morning that the IRS has yet been unable to come up with a draft of the regulations they plan to force on Canadian banks in order to track the accounts of US citizens living in Canada. Rumour has it that the cost of the program to the US will far exceed the amount of tax revenue that they could possibly discover. There is also the possibility that Canadian banks will simply refuse to take on customers that are US citizens (there is no right to bank in the Charter, after all) in order to avoid penalties that could include a whopping 30% on a bank's business in the US.

For practical purposes, I won't be establishing any joint accounts for my Love and I anytime soon. Then the US could claim her earning and assets (retirement accounts, etc.) are partially mine and tax us for their value.

All I know is that as soon as I can, I'll be putting this complication behind me by renouncing my US citizenship. It's years in the offing, of course (and who knows - the IRS may never get their act together on this), but who needs these wallet-snatching Americans in their back pocket when all they do with the money is give it to their friends in the large multinationals?

Read the Globe article here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is it possible to have a harmonized border with the US?

"Those dark days when the U.S. stretched the bounds of international humanitarian law to the breaking point are hopefully gone forever. Nevertheless, U.S. law and practice still embrace elements that do not conform well to Canadian law, custom and values. This can only pose a daunting challenge to any effort at harmonization in the area of security-related law enforcement."

Read the opinion piece at The Star here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I am o-so OHIP

You hear a lot of praise for the Canadian healthcare system, as well as a lot of criticism. From what I have learned from my love, both are pretty fair. On the plus side, the provincial healthcare systems cover a lot of basic ground; checkups, flu shots, basic procedures, and even some big ticket healthcare needs (emergencies). On the negative side, it is true that many wait months and months in order to obtain some of the more complex services (related to cancer, surgeries, etc.) and there is a shortage of family doctors. My love just achieved the Holy Grail in Toronto - a family doctor in the city!

I just became eligible for the Ontario Healthcare Insurance Program, or OHIP last month. Let me say that from an American expatriate's point of view - it's a blessing. I was paying $300 per month in the US for a catastrophic healthcare insurance plan - meaning you don't use it unless you have a critical need, and even then, it doesn't cover a lot of situations. It was rising in price by 18% every year over the last three years. Now my taxes pay for my core healthcare needs.

Canada's system isn't perfect, but now I don't have to choose between eating and having health insurance.    

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cultural illiteracy

It happens almost immediately, what the writer Garrison Keillor called "becoming illiterate in two cultures." The problem is this: you leave one home, in my case America for a new home, in my case Canada and you are immediately illiterate in the later, because its essentially new to you and you become illiterate in the former because you lose touch with the daily events that form the culture.

So I am currently entering a phase when I obviously don't know enough about my new home to "get it" in its entirety and am also less and less aware of what makes my birth country tick. The US is getting ready for its next Presidential election. I know Obama is running. Who else? Well we obviously hear about a number of names in Toronto because of our proximity to New York, but I'm not paying attention. My dad loves politics - I could barely keep up with him when I lived in the US. Now? Impossible. And not being able to share something with your father in his later years that you have always shared is sad to experience.

I try my best to understand what's going on in Toronto in government and culture and my Love thinks I have a pretty good grasp; but I know I have so much to learn and understand. I know it will take time.

I'm home in "the old country" as a friend of mine said the other night; but even three months in to my new life, it feels less and less like my home anymore. I've drifted from these shores physically now - a process I started in my head the day my Love and I decided we would live together in Canada. Even now, when I think of going home, its Toronto, not Seattle. I know there's a period to go through of living in between. I also know there's no telling how long it will last. I know already that its going to be an emotional challenge. I'm just one of those people who feels things like that - notices the arch of life.

I'll be back home in a few days. In Toronto. Building my literacy again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Have I Always Dreamed Of You?

Have I always dreamed of you?
Through the oval screen and convex glass
Did I first look in black and white at you
And hear your voice echo from a mahogany case,
From a cloth-covered grill?
Was it then as I saw your children
And I, still just a child myself
Watching them as they descended concrete steps,
Laced their skates,
Stepped onto the ice
And glided free across the rink,
Was it then the the seed was planted?
Was it then that my path was laid for me,
That my destiny was sealed?
Has it been that every choice
Large or small since that small boy watched
Those small boys and girls
Somehow moved me closer to you?
Was it always to be that I would only recognize
After two-thirds of this life had passed
That I had always dreamed of you?
That where I always belonged
Was gliding free across that rink?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Travel Document obtained

My latest drama was the fact that I didn't receive my permanent residence card prior to a trip I am now on in the States. I came home to visit family for the US Thanksgiving holiday. This morning I went to the Canadian Counsel General's office in Seattle to obtain a Travel Document for a Permanent Resident Abroad. I was concerned that this might be another rough process.

I was wrong. I had my application (three simple pages), my checklist, two passport photos and various proof documents, plus the $50 fee (no cash!) all ready and arrived at the office just as it opened up. Good thing too, because they only take applications from 8 until 10am. I expected after turning the materials in and having a short chat with the officer there, that I would be asked to come back at a later date. But once I turned it in, the officer asked me to take a seat and said they would call my name in awhile. In my experience that could only mean one thing - an interview. Great...

An hour went by. 15, 20, 30, 38 people served. Then my name was called. But instead of being asked to an interview room, I was called to another window. There I was met by the nicest smile. The woman at the window said, "You didn't have an interview, did you?" and I said no, and she said, "Good, because you don't need one. What you need is for us to get your PR card to you! So, here - I got you a multiple entry visa that is good for six-months. I'm pretty sure we can get you the card before then!" And with that, I had my Travel Document. And with that, my border worries are pretty much a thing of the past!

It was no nice to be actually more than taken care of for a change. I was only looking for a permit to get me back to Toronto (a so-called "single journey" one) , but now, as the woman also said, "You're free to roam!"

I do love Canada - and its representatives in the US.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Toronto Star - More immigrants losing permanent residency

This is a topic close to my heart, as a screw up by the CIC has delayed my receipt of my permanent resident card. It should be here by mid-December, but I am going to check with them by month's end just to be sure. I also plan to keep all my travel itineraries and boarding passes, as well as insist that the border control agents stamp my passport when I re-enter the country. I don't want there to be any doubt that I am meeting my residency requirement.

Read about what can happen when you don't meet the requirement in this article from The Toronto Star. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Taxes and citizenship

It will be a few years before I'm eligible for Canadian citizenship. Obtaining it is one of my goals. One of the nice things about the relationship between the US and Canada is that I don't need to give up my US citizenship to obtain my Canadian one. But I may give it up anyway.

Why would I give up the holy grail of citizenships? Taxes. The revenue-desperate US government is painting all expats with the same brush of tax-evasion and now they want to know about every asset and account of US citizens living abroad so they can collect their "share" of it.

"Unlike most countries, the United States requires its citizens to file annual tax returns with its Internal Revenue Service regardless of where they live and work. Many of the roughly one million Canadian-American citizens long ago stopped filing, assuming they owed no tax. Many are worried now they’ll be hit with punishing penalties as a result of recent U.S. efforts to prevent its citizens from hiding assets in offshore tax havens.

"New rules require all Americans to report their foreign bank and brokerage accounts every year. And by 2014, Canadian financial institutions will have to identify accounts held by U.S. citizens to the IRS."

Read the entire article, "Americans in Canada driven to divorce from their country" by Barrie McKenna at the Globe and Mail here

Monday, November 07, 2011

Rule #1 - always follow up

My Permanent Residence card didn't show up in the six-weeks that I was told to expect it in. I got this timeline from my interaction with the immigration border agent when I landed in Canada in August. So I called CIC to see what was happening, and if they might have a status on it for me. You see, I have a trip back to the States in a week and a half and I need it to get back into the country, because I'm flying commercial. What I found out just made me shake my head. The agent at CIC told me my card had not been processed yet - BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T HAVE A POSTAL CODE ASSOCIATED WITH MY STREET ADDRESS. Excuse me? The CIC lacks the ability to look up a postal code? It takes how many seconds? Then they confirmed my address and phone number. They were the wrong ones - out of date by four years. But, I gave the current ones to the border agent when I landed. Why weren't they in the system? "Our computer systems aren't coordinated." Excuse me? Shaking my head, I gave the phone agent my current information - postal code and all. Now I'll have to wait until December to receive my card. In the meantime, I have to get what's called a "travel document" from the visa post in Seattle. That means two trips in - one with the application and one to pick up the visa. And it will cost me $50.

So what would have happened if I checked right after the six weeks were up (I waited a couple weeks, thinking, "tomorrow it will show up...")? Well, I'd still be in the same position for this trip. They cannot expedite the first PR card, and the service standard is 31 business days. The lesson here - until you have all the documents you initially need - check, check and check again with the government. While their intentions may be fine, they simply don't think like you and I do.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Waterloo University presents, "The Canadian Index of Wellbeing"

The Globe and Mail - Ottawa moves to curb marriages of convenience

"The suspicions started when the same relatives showed up again and again in wedding photos. Then came the elaborately staged – and entirely fake – wedding receptions.

Now, as Canadian intelligence officials working in China, India and other foreign missions are locked in a cat and mouse game to nab immigration fraudsters, Ottawa is preparing to unveil a new “conditional” immigration status to curb marriage fraud."

Read the article here

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Eh?" vs. "Huh?"

My Love rarely says, "Eh?". Save from when she's telling that old joke, that is: "How do you spell Canada? C-eh-n-eh-d-eh." Now myself, being American and all, I say the equivalent, "Huh?" all the time. So what's the difference?

Is it what they mean?

Eh - According to the Wikipedia summary: The only usage of eh? that is exclusive to Canada, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, is for "ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed" as in, "It's four kilometres away, eh, so I have to go by bike." In that case, eh? is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as "Mm" or "Oh" or "Okay". This usage may be paraphrased as "I'm checking to see that you're [listening/following/in agreement] so I can continue." Grammatically, this usage constitutes an interjection; functionally, it is an implicit request for back-channel communication. "Eh" can also be added to the end of a declarative sentence to turn it into a question. For example: "The weather is nice." becomes "The weather is nice, eh?" This same phrase could also be taken as "The weather is nice, don't you agree?".(more)

Huh - This is described much more succinctly by Merriam Webster: used to express surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting affirmative reply. (more)

Americans joke about Canadians, or imitate them by adding strings of eh to sentences, but the reality is that it's far more common in my experience to hear huh in America than it is to hear eh in Canada.

But maybe in both countries I'm simply hanging with the wrong crowd, eh?


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Immigration is expensive

I often get asked what it cost me to emigrate from the U.S. to Canada. A lot of people have no idea what they are getting themselves into when they start this process. My case is probably special in some regards, because my Love and I have what is recognized by Canadian immigration law as a "conjugal" relationship. It's also not so special in that we initially got some bad advice from a paid consultant. That led to the expense of a failed appeal and then a totally other immigration application. All the while, we maintained a long-distance relationship, involving many flights back and forth across the country.

As to the core costs - applications, consultant, interview travel expenses, eventually an immigration attorney; we spent around $10,000. To maintain our relationship by actually seeing each other while we were in limbo, and without getting into the nitty-gritty of expense, let's count only the last four-year round: about 30 flights at $500 per round-trip - $15,000. Phone bills? Let's add another $1000.

Now, I'm not counting vacation travel (though it was way more expensive because we were apart) or anything that could be considered optional-expenses (like sending presents and cards and such to each other), or even the non-optional cost of maintaining two separate households; but you should be aware that there are of course lots of other expenses in maintaining an immigration case and a relationship from a long distance. Still, I figure on the low side from the numbers above that my immigration to Canada from the U.S. cost us upward of $26,000.

This seems like a lot of money - and it is: but its not too hard when you are paying it out over the course of a few years as we did. It just adds up is all.

I provide this information so those who may be thinking about following my lead in family class immigration understand the financial magnitude of the effort. Immigration to Canada is not easy and it's not cheap. Attorney's fees only start with a flat rate (and that's for proper filing of forms). If you get into anything complicated and actually need their guidance and advice, be prepared to pay. The fees paid to the Government of Canada are really the smallest part of your expense. Be sure you're prepared for the long haul before start down this road.       

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sweden thinks we do immigration right

"For decades, Canadians have looked to the Swedes for inspiration. There was Ottawa’s campaign to get lumpy 30-year-old Canadians to be as fit as “the 60-year-old Swede.” There are frequent calls to imitate Stockholm’s environmental policies. And, of course, there’s hockey.

"But in recent months, the tables have turned. Policy circles in Stockholm have been dominated with talk of adopting “the Canada model.” That, in fact, is the title of a widely discussed new Swedish book titled Kanadamodellen – “The Canada Model,” which urges Sweden’s governments to start making things look more like their Nordic fellow on the other side of the Atlantic."

Read Doug Saunders' article from The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Holiday Season

I celebrated my first Canadian Thanksgiving IN Canada this weekend. It was a wonderful time. I was down on the Niagara peninsula with my Love and her family. We had a quiet weekend that included long walks in the woods, plenty of good food and good company. The walks were a highlight for me. I spent a lot of my time waiting to come into Canada reading the history and literature of Ontario, and the Niagara region is ripe with it. Being in those woods in the Fall, with the colours changing and the leaves underfoot, I was reminded of the books I read on the pre-confederacy period, of when the country hadn't yet been born. It's so beautiful and solitary in places. Easy to see the inspiration that the Canadian woods have always evoked over time. We watched the sun rise over a small lake and I thought about how grateful I was that Canada valued this land enough to be careful with it, so I could enjoy it.

In the US, it feels like people are everywhere. In Canada, it still feels like there are places where people are scarce. I like that even though I live in one of the largest cities in North America, I can still quite easily get away from them if I want to.

The holiday season is here. I hope your Thanksgiving was a nice one. The weather is turning this week. Winter reports from Ontario can't be far off. The Maple Leafs are 2-0...what's not to celebrate?   

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Risky Move to Securitize Immigration - Nick Van der Graaf

"It says a lot about the new Conservative majority government that the first government bill up in this session is Bill C-4, the “Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act” – a law that poisonously conflates immigration and security issues. Written in the aftermath of the arrival, in August 2010, of the MV Sun Sea with nearly 500 Tamil refugees on board, Bill C-4 mandates, among other measures, that all groups of refugees who arrive on Canada’s shores through irregular means must spend a year in detention before a judge even hears their case. This, of course, includes children. Exceptions to this process, or lack thereof, are solely at the discretion of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, currently Jason Kenney."

Read Nick's entire article here

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Travel plans

I've made some travel plans back to the States to continue the moving process and see family. The only problem is, I haven't received my Permanent Residence Card yet from CIC. Once you've landed as a Permanent Resident, this card is required to re-enter the country if you leave. It's like a passport for permanent residents. The CIC makes it a little clearer:

"The Permanent Resident Card is the official proof of your status as a permanent resident in Canada. This wallet-sized plastic card is required for all permanent residents of Canada seeking to re-enter Canada on a commercial carrier (airplane, boat, train or bus)."

Since in order to maintain status in the country, you need to be able to show you've been in the country for at least two years out of each five year period, this card is one of the devices used to track your comings and goings in and out of the country.

They've been a little slow in processing the cards lately - 48 business days is the current standard. That means sometime in mid-October for me. Just in time to see the States!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Service please!

So I definitely have fallen off the pace here as I've been settling into life in Toronto. I've had a surprising amount of work to do with clients from the States, and we've been down around the Golden Horseshoe to the Niagara region to see family and we're also pretty close to moving to a new home...all in five weeks. So I hope you'll understand that keeping the blog buzzing has fallen off the agenda just a bit.

But before I forgot, I wanted to be sure I mentioned the helpful people at Service Canada and Service Ontario. I know I brought up that I have dealt with them a number of times over the last few weeks and they really have made issues of transition go smoothly.

Service Canada had me established with my Social Insurance number in short order, and I got the formal card in the mail after just a few weeks. Service Ontario helped me transition my driver's license and was sure I got credit for my experience and all of my US endorsements. Then they helped me begin my OHIP - even being sure I was credited for all the days I had already been in Ontario, even though I didn't apply for a few weeks after I landed.

So here's to the Service Canada and Ontario public servants. They really have been helpful in the best of ways. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Settling in

I've now been in Toronto for a little over a month. I feel like I'm settling in. Street names are getting familiar again, landmarks are finding their way into my head. What's old and used to be there is gone, replaced by what is new. It was hard to recognize Bay Street north of College, so many new condos reaching for the sky, with perpetually dirty glass balcony fronts from the new construction that will soon take their views away just like they took the views away of the generation of condos that came before them. Those glass balconies have been a bit of an issue here on Bay Street this month, as a number of them have decided to visit the ground. Falling glass isn't something you want to encounter on your walk to work.

I've been to the Service Canada and Service Ontario offices a number of times for my Social Insurance Card and to exchange my US driver's license for an Ontario one and lastly to apply for my Ontario Heath Insurance Program (OHIP) card. I'll have to go back for that one, as they need proof of residence in Ontario to process it, and all I have is my temporary license. They accepted that form of ID forever and it seems they just removed it from the list of acceptable documents recently - it had been redacted with felt pen in their brochure!

I'm learning again the ballet required to navigate sidewalks with crowds of people. I wonder if everyone feels like they are the only one yielding to someone in their path? My foot is better, so I'm getting out more and enjoying walks with my Love.

Some mornings the light tells you Fall is coming soon.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Get involved - CIC Launches Online Consultation on Immigration Levels and Mix

So you want to have your voice heard on Canada's immigration policy? Now you have your chance.

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Aug 29, 2011 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney today launched online consultations on the appropriate level of immigration and the most suitable mix between economic, family class and protected persons.
Immigration has been a sustaining feature of Canada's history and continues to play an important role in building our country. Canada has one of the highest per capita rates of permanent immigration in the world-roughly 0.8% in recent years-and has welcomed 3.5 million immigrants in the last 15 years.
"The online consultation provides an important opportunity to gather input from stakeholders and the public on key questions facing CIC," said Minister Kenney. "This is also a chance to highlight some of the considerations and difficult choices involved in managing a global immigration system."
In planning for the total number of people to admit as permanent residents, CIC not only balances immigration objectives but also considers several other factors, including broader government commitments, input from provinces and territories, and current and future economic conditions. The Department must also consider its ability to process applications in a timely manner, as well as the capacity of communities to welcome newcomers.
The questionnaire is a key component of the cross-country consultations Minister Kenney and his parliamentary secretaries are currently leading on immigration levels and mix. In July, the Minister consulted with stakeholders in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. This month, parliamentary secretaries Rick Dykstra and Chungsen Leung held round tables in Mississauga, Scarborough and London. Additional sessions may be planned in the coming weeks and months.
Thus far, the majority of stakeholders present at the consultation sessions expressed a fairly positive view of the current immigration system. They have identified immigration as a critical way to meet labour market needs, citing economic factors as among the most important considerations when establishing immigration levels, followed by integration concerns. Participants have also highlighted the importance of family reunification and the need to address wait times in the parent and grandparent stream.
More than 1,600 people have already signed up to complete the questionnaire. It is available at the following link: .
A report on the consultations, including the online questionnaire, will be available on the CIC website in the fall of 2011 or winter 2012. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jack Layton - an inspiration who will be missed

The Honourable Leader of the NDP, Jack Layton passed away this morning. His loss is something very personal to me. In all my years going through the immigration process, Jack and his wife (and my MP) Olivia Chow were consistent advocates for fairness in the immigration process. When the Tories would propose restrictive changes to immigration policy or some other nonsense impacting the social contract, Layton would always step up to be sure the underdog's point of view was heard and considered. 

In contrasting Jack Layton to the politicians that I had grown weary of in the US, he illustrated the best qualities of Canadians: fairness, acceptance, and progressive ideas on social issues. Jack was one of those public figures that convinced me that coming to Canada to be with my love was the right thing to do - that this country could be my home. He convinced me not through anything he said or did directly, but more because of the spirit and idealism - standing up for Canada and Canadians. I can't name any US politicians that ever left me with those feelings about my home country. 

I never met him, though my Love had an encounter with him. I'll never forget talking to her one day as she was walking home. As she was sharing something with me, out came a happy laugh - "there goes Jack Layton on his bike!" What that meant to her and meant to me was simple: there goes a good man who walks the walk. Pretty rare. 

God bless you, Jack Layton. You made a real difference in people's lives, in my life.     

Friday, August 19, 2011

First days back in Toronto

My first days as a permanent resident of Canada here in Toronto have been busy ones. I went down to City Hall at Nathan Phillips Square and got my Social Insurance Number (SIN), had a job interview, made preparations to do some advanced telecommuting/video conferencing with clients in the States, have taken many walks...

One too many walks actually - I strained my arch so now I'm limping around! Enthusiasm can be a problem at times, I guess. But I love my walks, and there's so much to catch up on and see. It's a little over a two-mile loop from our home over to Chinatown and through the Discovery District, and a million things to see along the way, and I've had daily chores I've also needed to see to, so it's hard to keep off my feet much. I'm figuring out I need to stretch my foot - that's helping a lot. It needs to help, because there's a show at the AGO I want to see right now and we are members!

My Love and I are having a wonderful time, and so far the transition is going smoothly. We did get news that our condo is being sold however, so we are going to have to look for a new place to rent or purchase very soon. That should be interesting.

Lots going on - no time to even think about being homesick. I'm sure that will come in the months ahead.    

Monday, August 15, 2011

Landing as a Permanent Resident

I landed as a Permanent Resident of Canada in Toronto (at Pearson, YYZ) on Friday the 12th of August, 2011.

The flight in from Seattle, all 4-1/2 hours of it, was quiet and uneventful. I was nervous from the get-go. While I had brought some snacks to eat and entertainment to read and watch and listen to, I wasn't hungry and I couldn't focus long enough to read or listen or watch anything but the landscape passing by 38,000 feet below and the cycle of information presented by the in-flight map in front if me: altitude, speed, current time in Seattle, current time in Toronto, distance to destination, time to destination: over and over I watched as it ticked down and I closed in on the moment my Love and I had waited for for the better part of the last decade if you count all the time we've spent pursuing our immigration case.

I landed at Pearson and after a long walk with other passengers through Terminal 1, snaked through the long quay at Customs and Immigration. I let the officer there know that I was immigrating to Canada as a Permanent Resident and he made lots of marks on my customs declaration form, then directed me behind him and to the right where the Immigration office was located. This is where the actual "landing" process takes place.

I stood in line again with people from all over the world and who were there for a range of purposes. Some with tears in their eyes had been refused entry; some were going through a secondary check because they were entering for business purposes; and one other person, like me, was there to immigrate.

When my turn came and I was directed to an officer, the process itself was very straightforward. I handed the officer my passport, which contained a special immigrant Visa and a form called the "Confirmation of Permanent Residence" (COPR). The officer asked a handful of questions regarding the information on my COPR form, whether I was immigrating alone or if others were following, how much money I was bringing with me into the country, whether I had been in trouble with the law in any country (including my own). The questions were straightforward and I answered them easily. The officer wasn't there to trip me up, simply to confirm information on my application and the visa issued.

Next the officer reviewed a record of my file on her computer. This took awhile because my Love and I had a big file. You get one of those when you are conjugal partners and your case takes years to process. After she had reviewed it, she had me sign my COPR in a number of places, then she detached my copy and stapled it to my passport. She let me know that I would have a Permanent Resident card mailed to me within about six weeks at my Toronto address and that while I could travel out of the country, I could not return to the country without it.

With the first of two interviews complete, I moved to the area where I would declare the goods I was arriving with and those I would be importing later (remember the forms I've been mentioning - the B4 and B4a? This is where these came into play). The officer doing this review was as nice as the first officer I encountered. He took my lists of items (you need to have a copy for Customs and one for yourself) and generated the official forms for me to sign. The only mistake I had made was that I didn't calculate the total value of my lists. But he handed me his iPhone and in a flash, I was done.

"Welcome to Canada." He said with a smile. Those words were music to my ears.

Despite the stress I had in anticipation of this process, because I was well prepared, it went very smoothly. The officials I encountered were all thoughtful and professional. I think they realize how stressful immigration is for people. They see it every day - they are on the front lines.

I pushed my cart of a couple suitcases (I saw families bringing in literally dozens, so I felt pretty efficient) thorough two sets of doors and there was my Love waiting for me on the other side. We embraced a long time, my head sinking into her shoulder. "We made it," I said.

"And now we can think about the future," she said. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Last days in the U.S. (for now)

I'm landing as a Permanent Resident in Canada on Friday. One bag packed, another to go, and then final lists to print out for my Form B4 and B4a. It's best to wait and do this last so the accounting is accurate.

I've been spending time with friends and family, saying my goodbyes for now, gathering a suitcase full of well wishes and love to see me through the first couple months of transition while I wait for the Permanent Resident Card to show up (this is the card needed to re-enter Canada once you've landed as an immigrant and travel outside the country). I know in my heart the time will go fast, and everything will be alright; but I also know this is as big a change as I've made in my life and it's going to take some adjusting.

I'm going to try and get most of my packing done tomorrow so I can really take a few long, deep breathes of Seattle air before I leave. Maybe this isn't the best approach - giving myself time to ponder and consider what's left behind. But I'm no good at the scramble - waiting for the last minute. So I guess pondering time, it is. A last visit with family, making sure everyone's Skype connection is working correctly...that sort of thing.

I'm exited. I'm nervous. I think I'll leave the next post to report on the landing process. Please say prayers for me, that it all goes well. The next time you hear from me, I'll be a Canadian - of the Permanent Resident variety.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The end of the lists, really

Tired of hearing about the import lists? Well this should be the last of it. I think I have the things I'm arriving with and things to follow pretty well sorted out now. I've collected the serial numbers, I've taken pictures...I have a call to make to clarify a couple things with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), but that should be pretty routine. I'm mainly wondering about personal effects - do they have an import value? Do I need to claim the luggage that the stuff I'm taking is packed in? Does it make a difference if I import a car now or later?

Beyond that, I think I've got it sussed, as they say.   

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Update - Reasons to leave the U.S. - political extremists

I haven't added to my pantheon of reasons why I'm glad to be leaving the United States in favour of Canada, but currently another one has raised its head: political extremists.

This nation is one-week away from losing the financial confidence of the world because political extremists on both sides of our two-party system have convinced themselves that compromise equals failure.

Politicians in the U.S. only get elected these days if they cater to special interests. The average cost of a House seat in the 2008 elections was $1.1 million dollars. Some campaigns cost up to $15 million. With those kinds of price tags, Congressmen and women have their minds made up for them by their supporters long before they reach Washington. And if they want that money again, they better play ball.

Congress in the U.S. has forgotten who it is there to serve. They operate in a bubble; drink their own Kool-Aid; you pick the cliche. In the current financial crisis the mantra on the left is "no cuts to entitlements" and on the right, it's, "cut the debt but don't raise taxes."

The only way they can even begin to get anything done is to actually circumvent the U.S. political process and convene a Soviet-style central committee to try and reach an agreement.

If this is the state of democracy, you can keep it. Despite some of the inertia that can come with a Parliamentary system, if the Government loses the confidence of the people, in general, you throw them out. What happened to the Liberals in the last election in Canada was good for democracy. It will never happen in America.

America is bought and sold. And I don't have stock in it. So I don't have a voice. The country is being run by the same people who are listening to the same advice that led us into the crisis that they aren't interested in getting us out of.

Get me out of this place.       

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thrown together

I'm in pretty good shape. The pictures have been taken, the lists are ready to commit, I've even packed a bit. But the stress is coming.

"Where are we going to put this stuff?" "Do you need to bring that now?" "We still have things to figure out before we add anything else to the mix..." When the rubber hits the road, sometimes there are skid marks.

So we're working it out, this coming together and this moving across the continent and from one country to another. It's not easy. But immigration isn't easy. If you're on this path too, then keep this fact in mind and be patient, be slow to get excited and be deliberate in your thoughts and responses.

When couples or families are apart, the normal, organic way lives come together does not apply. Lives in this situation are held apart by the process, then thrown together when its all over. I have to be reminded of this and to be extra thoughtful of my Love, who has been building a life in Toronto all these years we've been waiting; one that from her point of view I am been suddenly thrust into the middle of.

As happy as we are that this is happening for us, there is no getting past that reality.

But we'll be fine.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Star - Immigration to Canada drops by 25 per cent

What's going on now that Harper has his majority? Was last year's record immigration level simply a campaign ploy? Is the $50-million that was cut from resettlement services just the tip of the iceberg? Or should we benchmark anything by the 2010 numbers? How can the CIC make up for the lost ground in the first quarter of 2011? More importantly, what role does immigration play in an aging Canadian workforce and what are the Tories planning to do to see that immigration policy fulfills its promise?

Read the Star article for some answers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


It's t-minus one month and counting. I'll be immigrating in August. I'm getting nervous. So many things to get done. Though I'm well ahead of the tasks at hand, I wake each morning feeling far behind. I have a to-do list I am checking off as I go. I know I'll be okay. I also know there are some sleepless nights ahead of me.

I still pinch myself when I think of finally going home to Toronto again. I'm excited to discover the city once more. I know there will be some sadness for things that have changed, but that's the nature of life. There is far more to be happy about and anticipate.

For now however, there's a list to get through. So little time, so much to do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Globe and Mail - As nation of immigrants, Canada must now confront its emigrants

"Canada has always thought of itself as a nation of immigrants. But new research suggests that among wealthy immigrant-receiving nations, Canada is one of the likeliest to see its own citizens move abroad."

Read this very interesting report on Canadian emigrants: who they are, where they go, why they go, and how the government views them. Are Canadians living abroad an asset or a liability, and is that far too narrow a lens to view them through?

Decide for yourself by reading the article here. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

The National Post - Immigrants survive wet and wild Canadian wilderness

Parks Canada has a program that aims to teach recent immigrants the wonders of Canadian camping. Depending on which part of the country you're camping in, "wonders" can mean all sorts of things. In the case of some new campers, it meant, "I wonders when its going to stop raining!"

Read the story here

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer doldrums

It's Summertime. Finally. And as usual for this Expatriate Mind, it means it's time for me to take a little time away from the blog and actually, well, relax. So don't despair over the lack of posts in the coming weeks.I'll be travelling on vacation and preparing for my move to Toronto too. I'll be sure and keep you up if there's something I simply can't ignore sharing, but other than that, the next couple weeks might be a little quiet.

I have an idea - why not take a little break from all this immigration stuff yourself?!

I'll be back, recharged and with the first exciting news of the landing in Toronto to share sooner than you know. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Canadians win The Stanley Cup!

Are you a hockey fan? If you aren't and are planning to immigrate to Canada, I suggest you check the sport out. Only because it's Canada's national sport, AND simply the best sport of all.

So tonight is the last night of the 2010-2011 NHL hockey season. It's also the last season that I will enjoy in the U.S. as when the next starts up, I'll be in Canada. I've enjoyed many seasons since I fell in love almost a decade ago with my Love and she reintroduced me to the sport I had loved as a child. From that point, hockey became a family affair - my brother and I spending many nights watching games together. I'm certainly going to miss those nights (like tonight) when I am far away.

Tonight, after 80 regular season games that start in October and then a three-month playoff run beginning in April, it came down to game 7 in Vancouver, B.C. between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins. And when all was said and done, a group of Canadians won the Stanley Cup - the greatest prize in sport.

But wait a minute (I hear you say) - BOSTON won the Cup! You know, Boston, MA, in the U.S.A. Well, that's right too, Boston did win the Cup. But they won it with a team where 16 of the 22 players were Canadian!

Now, I was pulling for Vancouver (being the closest Seattle has to an NHL team), but when it was clear that despite a magical year for the team, the Cup would elude them, I tried to gain some perspective. And that's when I realized that there were more Canadians playing for Boston than for Vancouver. And I realized that the best professional hockey team in the world was one that was dominated by Canadian players.

The Cup will come home to Canada - as each player gets their own day with it to do whatever they'd like. It will spend more time in Canada than anywhere else on that particular tour. That makes sense: Canadians did win the cup after all!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Monday, June 06, 2011

A different sort of limbo

Here it is, the beginning of June. The plan as it stands is that I'll land in Toronto in the first days of August. Between now and then, despite all the little things that need to get done, I have this feeling of being in a sort of limbo. I've started looking for work in Toronto, but I really can't go too deep until after I land. On the other hand, I can't take on anything long term here in the States right now either as far as work goes. There are just some things that I wont be able to get going on until I've made the first landing. I have to admit, it's a little unsettling. I know its just a temporary feeling, however: events that have to happen in the next couple months will begin to have their own momentum and then all this will be forgotten. But just thought I'd let you know how I was feeling tonight!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The packing list - update

A few entries ago, I was writing about what I might bring to Canada when I immigrate at midsummer. I was going through my spreadsheet again, and I think I've reached a conclusion: I'm not going to take much. I think it comes down to just a couple basic categories of things that are going to make the cut: clothes, tools of my trades, and memories (photos, archives). I don't even think a lot of my Canadian library is going to make the cut. Media (CD's, DVD's)? Not sure. But I am sure that lots of household things are going on the block. It's sort of a freeing feeling. Whatever my love and I might need that we don't have and I don't bring, because let's face it, shipping is expensive - we can use the cash from the sale to purchase in Toronto. So now I have a plan - and a much shorter list.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The National Post - Kenney outlines changes to Canada's citizenship guide

Newcomers referring to Canada’s citizenship study guide will find new changes including sections that include an emphasis on Canada’s democratic principles, recognition that gay and lesbian couples have access to marriage and that forced marriage is not tolerated in the country, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced Monday.

Read the entire article

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fraser Institute gets it wrong on the value of immigrants

Academics. Sometimes they just get it wrong. According to a recent report in the National Post, The Fraser Institute, in its just-released report on the impact of immigration in Canada, concludes that immigrants no longer represent a net economic gain to the country, and in fact, represent a cost of $25 billion per year to the Canadian economy.

But the National Post wisely points out the many flaws in the limited logic of the report's authors, as well as posing the question of how the recommendations of the authors for curing this deficit would play out if they were applied to native Canadians as well.

"What of the many people born in Canada who never pay any taxes, yet use our healthcare system? By the logic at play in the Fraser study, a stay-at home mother or elderly married woman who was born in Canada but never worked outside the home should also be regarded as a drain on our economy. In fact, if state benefits were tied to income taxes, 40% of Canadians would not receive them, because they don't pay any. Yet these Canadians generally contribute to society in other ways -by raising children, doing unpaid work inside households or as future taxpayers."

Read the article here

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The National Post - Waive immigrant fees, court rules

"The Federal Court of Appeal has opened the doors to indigent immigrants by forcing the government to consider requests to waive application fees from would-be immigrants who claim they can’t afford to pay."

Read the article here

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What I'll miss

This morning I got to thinking about what I'm going to miss once I immigrate to Canada in just over two months. Some of the things are going to be profound, no doubt - some, more everyday; but in thinking about them I'm realizing the scale of the adjustment I'll be making in my life.

The low-hanging fruit have to be family. I've lived near my mom and dad, brothers, sister, cousins all my life. Never more than an hour or so away. If something came up and I was needed, I could be there in a flash. That wont be the case soon. I expect to deal with a lot of feelings around not being here to help when called upon. I just wont be called upon. It's the same with just can't help but lose touch when you are 1750 miles away, and in another country.

I'm going to miss Seattle and everything familliar about it. I've lived in or near the city my entire life and I've been both a participant in and witness to its changes over the years. Now I won't be aware of these things. I'll become a time-traveler - a Rip Van Winkle. I'll awake every few months to a new city that I'll see as changing dramaticly while I'm away.

I'm going to miss America. Yes - that's right. I like this country a lot. But I am not insensitive to the fact that I will soon be what was best termed by Garrison Keillor as "illiterate in two cultures". I'll be learning Canadian culture and losing touch with American culture. While there's more and more in my mind to dislike in a country as profundly unjust as America, it is my home, and its highest ideals are some of the best that I hold.

More mundane things? Dick's Drive In...Frisco Freeze...the teryaki place down the street; the Vietnamese market; the view of the Olympic Mountains on a clear day across Puget Sound; the quiet of Pike Place Market on a weekday morning.

I am excited about the future. I love Toronto. But there's a lot I'll be missing here. 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

He only arrived with one suitcase

One of the big issues I'm facing as I prepare to immigrate is what to bring into Canada with me to start and what to follow later. Upon landing, a new immigrant is required to present:

  • Two (2) copies of a detailed list of all the personal or household items you are bringing with you

  • Two (2) copies of a list of items that are arriving later and their money value

  • These must be items that you already own and not things you bought just prior to moving to Canada. You account for these items on Forms B4 and B4A.

    So I've got my lists together now and I'm looking at them and the question comes - do I really need to take all this stuff? Where are we going to put it? Should I sell what I'm not taking? Will I want it later? These are not decisions free of stress. I'm finding most of what I really want to take with me isn't stuff like blenders and TV's and such - most of it is like my history - photos and archives and all that. The other stuff, if my love doesn't already have it for her (our) place, it would be fun to get it together, rather than have her inherit my old things.

    So tonight I'm feeling like I'm leaving this land and I can't take much with me, so I'm asking myself, what's really important? It's a tough question. It's part of the adjustment.

    You know how you read about the classic immigrants tale - "he only arrived with one suitcase...." Well, there's a reason for that. It's near impossible to bring your life with you. What you can pack in a suitcase may be all that fits. I'm going to have to pack carefully.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2011

    Canadian election aftermath

    I watched last night with millions of others in Canada and the U.S. as a sea-change occurred in Canadian politics. Stephen Harper and his Tories achieved a majority in Parliament; Jack Layton's NDP took over Quebec and more than doubled their number of seats, becoming the official opposition; and Michael Ignatieff both lost his seat and saw his Liberal party decimated in the process - reduced by 31 seats in the GTA alone. And let's not forget Elizabeth May becoming the first member of the Green Party to be elected to office in all of North America.

    So what does this mean to immigration? Unfortunately, it can be viewed as a validation by Canadian voters of the Harper/Kenney policies which have increasingly focused on immigration primarily as an economic driver for the economy. In this model, issues of family reunification have been set aside in favour of a focus on temporary and skilled workers who come into Canada with minimal risk (usually with a job in hand) and in the case of temporary workers, minimal commitment.

    On the plus-side, the NDP will hold the Tories to the fire and to the spirit of Canada's core immigration values. Layton will be a vocal critic when Harper and his cronies stray too far. But the trouble Layton will face is that with the Tories in majority, the NDP has no practical power - yet.

    Canada's leaders do have a history of being responsive to their population. With that in mind, even if you don't agree with the results of the election the best thing you can do is stay in touch with your Member of Parliament and let them know which policies you believe they should support. If you are an immigrant and citizen, you can help others who are currently in the shoes you once were by advocating fair and balanced immigration policy.

    I am looking forward to a few years down the line when I will be able to vote in Canadian elections and put my vote where my mouth is. Canada's great democracy underwent a sea-change last night. It will be exciting to see how this new future develops.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    The Vancouver Sun - Canada's three major parties on immigration

    With a Federal election coming May 2nd, I thought it would be prudent to give some space to what three of the major party leaders are saying about immigration. This article from the Vancouver Sun sums things up nicely.

    Read the article here

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Lawyers and academics challenge Harper immigration record

    From the Toronto Star:

    In an unusual move, a group of Canadian lawyers and legal academics are urging voters not to support the Conservative Party in the May 2 election.

    “The Conservative Party has been telling visible minority immigrant communities, which it calls the ‘ethnic vote,’ that it is improving the immigration system,” said the group in a statement released Wednesday. “A review of their record shows the contrary.”

    The group, made up of leading immigration lawyers and professor across Canada, said the Conservative Party has misled the public, especially immigrant voters, by making twisted statements about the state of Canada’s immigration and refugee system, in order to win newcomer votes.

    Among the group‘s claims:
    • The annual visa quotas for sponsored parents and grandparents are down — not up — by 44 per cent from 20,005 in 2005 to 11,200 in 2011. It now takes nine to 30 months longer to process these sponsorships, depending on the visa post.
    • The backlog of skilled worker applicants waiting for a decision has gone up — not down — from 487,000 in 2005 to the current 508,000.
    • Instead of getting tough on smugglers, new legislation introduced by the party target the victims of smuggling, the refugees, by mandatory detention, denying permanent residency and making it more difficult for refugees to reunite with their families.
    • The party claims to be sympathetic to genuine refugees who do not flee their countries illegally, but just announced plans to cancel the only program allowing Canada to protect refugees applying from within their own country.

    Read the entire article here

    1570 days - give or take

    Today I received my Visa to land as a Permanent Resident!

    Our process took 1570 days from submittal. Four years, three months and 19 days. But praise the Lord, this part of the journey is behind us. I'll land in a couple of months (work and travel schedules to coordinate), and there's a lot to do until then.

    Let the transition of the blog begin!

    We are so happy!

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    From "The Smart Canadian" - Public Input Sought on Immigration Law Changes

    "The Canadian government is now asking public’s input into its proposal to implement a so-called conditional permanent residence for those coming to the country under spousal sponsorship.

    In a government notice, Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) – the federal department that runs the country’s immigration process – also makes it public for the first time its intention to introduce the two year conditional permanent residence for those sponsored spouses and partners who are in a relationship that is two years or less in duration."

    Read the entire article with the link to how to submit your own comments here

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    From the Minister's mouth - the latest from Jason Kenney

    You know I can be quite a critic of Jason Kenney and how he handles the Immigration portfolio. But it's important to be sure he has his voice heard as well. Follow the link below to read "Speaking notes for the Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Ottawa, Ontario, February 17, 2011". 

    This will give you a solid update on the department's work and plans from the leader himself.

    I'd love to know your responses to what he had to say.

    Read the speaking notes here

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    CIC web site - Finding help: organizations that support immigrants

    As I am preparing to make my landing and start life as a Canadian immigrant, I've been tracking down resources that can assist me, especially in the search for work in my field. While I already have many contacts, there are also a number of support organizations to call upon all over Canada. Toronto happens to be rich with them, so I'm in luck there. Here's what the CIC web site has to say and a link to their list of groups that may be able to help you too.

    "CIC supports hundreds of immigrant-serving organizations in Canada that are ready to help you after you arrive. Many of the people working in these organizations were once newcomers; some may even speak your language. These organizations can help you find housing, education, language training and other services that will help you begin your life in Canada."

    Find services in your area

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Update - Passport requested!

    Unbelievable. I have become used to the glacial pace of this immigration process, so I wasn't expecting much when I sent of the final installment of my materials to our lawyer in Toronto: the current medical and police records checks required. You know, everything takes time, right? But I guess when prayers are answered, they are answered and less than two weeks after I sent the materials, Buffalo requested my passport and new photos for my visa. MY VISA!!! I'm stupefied. But happy.

    Now I had the issue of finding a place to do Canadian visa photos quickly. Sure enough, I found a resource through Google and I wanted to share it with all of you: This site, created by immigration lawyer Colin R. Singer has a discussion group (which I used) where I found just what I was looking for. In the US, Walgreens can create your visa photos - and they are only $10.

    So I'm on cloud nine tonight. God is good. It's almost time to change the header here. "Will I make it home to Toronto?" It looks like I will after over four long years!

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Two things every immigrant needs

    Now I know the title of this blog entry is a bit deceptive...and it's purposefully so. You may have chosen to read it because you're looking for the inside scoop on Canadian immigration, and you're hoping to find a few hints that will assist you in jumping ahead.

    Let's assume you've done your homework and you clearly meet the minimum qualifications to apply for immigrant status. Let's assume you have already, or are in the process of carefully gathering the materials that the CIC requests in order to evaluate your application.

    Let's assume that if you have a complicated situation, that you have retained assistance with experience in immigration matters that can help you navigate the challenges of the process.

    Assuming all that, what are two things that every potential immigrant needs?

    The answer? Patience and persistence.

    The one question I get asked all the time, and the question I asked all the time (until very recently, believe me), is "How long?" How long does it take to process this, or get an answer to that, or make a determination, or schedule an interview? How long. I can tell you the honest answer: No one knows. Sure, the CIC publishes average wait times for certain of their procedures, but in reality, your situation, my situation - they are not the same. They are different. And isn't it actually comforting in a way that they are. Because they are unique - they take the time they take. That's the way it is.

    How do you cope with that waiting, always it seems, waiting? Patience. Like it or not, if you are committed to the immigration process, you have to have it.

    Something else you will probably discover is that there are times where it pays to be the squeaky wheel. You know, the one that gets the grease. I can't tell you when you should call your lawyer, or the CIC office, or contact your MP about your application, but I can tell you from experience, that if it is done with tact and at an appropriate interval, it can help move you forward. It makes sense to be persistent in pursuit of your goals. If you communicate this persistence with care, the impression you give is a positive one: that you sincerely care about your application, because you sincerely want to make Canada your home. That's not a bad message to send.

    So let me encourage you from experience - be patient, and be persistent. Developing these qualities will go a long way to making the sometimes difficult and complicated immigration process easier to bear.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Visible minorities still face job discrimination

    It shouldn't come as a huge surprise that visible minorities in Canada continue to earn less than their white counterparts. While Canada is a country of many cultures and colors, the business leadership and political structures are still predominantly controlled by white males.

    According to a report today in The Star:

    "Researchers compared earnings of first-generation immigrants of visible minority and Caucasian backgrounds and found that earnings by male newcomers from visible minorities were just 68.7 per cent of those who were white males.

    The colour code persisted for second-generation Canadians with similar education and age, though the gap narrowed slightly — with visible minority women making 56.5 cents, up from 48.7 cents in 2000, for every dollar white men earned, while minority men in the same cohort improved by almost 7 cents, to 75.6 cents."

    In business, profit has a lot to do with controlling expense. If a business owner can get a visible minority to work for less, they are going to do it. It's not rocket science.

    But then there's this...

    "What is most troublesome, Block said, is that visible minorities were so under-represented in public administration, where 92 per cent of workers were white. In 2006, 16.2 per cent of Canadians were part of a visible minority group, and that rate is expected to double by 2031.

    “We are not talking about workers in hospital or school, but people making government policy,” said Block. “This is a great concern because an important voice wasn’t at the table.”

    Read the full article here.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    The Star Special Section: Immigration and Employment

    I know, I know - not a lot of commentary lately...just sharing the news. Here's a great bundle of features from our friends at the Toronto Star (my favourite online Toronto news source) featuring:

    "Stories of immigrants who have embarked on new careers in Canada, and firms that benefit from their unique skills and experience."

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Monday, March 07, 2011

    Immigrants still face wage discrepancy: StatsCan

    An article in The Star points out that while immigrants in general are keeping pace with the earnings of native Canadians, immigrants of visible minority groups are fairing far worse - in some cases earning up to 20% less than their peers:

    “If you put all groups together on average they’re all doing well,” explained Hou (ed: Feng Hou of Stats Canada). But there are some striking disparities, particularly when it comes to income.

    “If their parents came from Europe they’re doing particularly well in the labour market,” said Hou.

    But the male children of black immigrant parents face a wage gap with lower earnings — about 20 per cent — when compared to children of Canadian born parents, Hou said.

    If you directly compare the difference between second-generation Blacks and the children of Canadian born parents in terms of education, where they live and their jobs the wage gap changes to 14 per cent, Hou said.

    Read all about it here

    Tuesday, March 01, 2011

    Immigrant services across Toronto take a hit

    Funding for immigrant settlement services are taking a hit this year. Read The Star article on the subject here

    Board of health wants end to OHIP wait for immigrants

    Megan Ogilvie reports in today's Toronto Star:

    "Toronto’s Board of Health is urging the provincial government to eliminate the three-month wait newcomers face for access to OHIP.

    A report, presented and passed at Tuesday’s board meeting, presses the government to change the Health Insurance Act to make newly landed immigrants eligible for OHIP from day one.

    Scrapping the three-month moratorium would protect public health by helping to ensure newcomers get timely diagnoses and treatments for communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and measles, said Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown.

    This is the second time the board has asked the province to eliminate the wait time."

    Read the article here

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    The whole Randy Quaid thing

    OK - I have to admit - the whole Randy Quaid situation in Vancouver has me a bit befuddled and miffed. Here's a guy who enters Canada illegally - he was running from prosecution in the U.S. - and because he's a star and makes a bogus refugee claim (he's under death threats from "star whackers"? Are you kidding me?), the CIC lets him stick around until finally there's a resolution to the case in the U.S. (charges weren't filed), and now he's going to apply for Permanent Residence.

    His wife is a Candian citizen, so this last bit makes sense - but everything before it: if this were some Somali actor coming into the country to avoid prosecution, do you think the CIC would be so understanding?

    You can really see the issues that Conservatives have with the use of Refugee Status claims when a case like this happens. Because he is now going for a Family Class sponsorship, his crazy refugee claim won't be addressed. I guess the star whackers don't care about him if he's no longer a star in Hollywood. I guess all the protection he needs from Canada goes away if he becomes a Permanent Resident.

    Am I the only one who feels like someone at the CIC took crazy pills?

    Read the latest on the craziness here.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Obama's border tax plan

    What is he thinking? Today President Obama of the U.S. floated a plan to impose a $5.50 fee for Canadians entering the U.S. by commercial carrier.

    Come on, Mr. President: thanks to the wonders of Homeland Security, tourism is just starting to rebound - and you can thank the weak U.S. dollar for that too. But now you want to tax most of the 18-million visitors from the north because they want to come here and spend their money?

    Taxing visitors from foreign countries for the privilege of entering your country is a lousy way to raise revenue. And besides, why not do what most clever politicians would do and simply increase the fee to foreign carriers landing at U.S. destinations? Or increase federal port taxes? Then you'd get your money but it would be transparent to the consumer - they'd just pay a higher airfare, or bus ticket.

    Remember, every border tax dollar is one less dollar spent in the U.S. on good and services that drive the economy. The tax you impose on two Canadians, if spent at a local shop, equal an hour's wage for an employee. We could use JOBS in the U.S., right?

    Obama should think about PAYING Canadians to come shop in the U.S. instead of taxing them.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    The tough issues of family reunification

    Ottawa has a balancing act. While immigration policy has to address a range of classes in need - refugee, family class, so-called "economic" immigrants: it certainly can't be all things to all people at all times.

    The immigration ministry has reported that 2010 saw the immigration of 10% more individuals than was projected (280,000 in total), which is the highest total in 57 years. But in the year to come, there is a plan to reduce by 6% the number of family reunification immigrants (parents and grandparents of immigrants) entering Canada. That will mean current wait times, which can commonly reach five years, will certainly increase even more.

    According to a report in The Star:

    "Liberal MP Joe Volpe, a former immigration minister, questioned the Conservatives’ much trumpeted family-values platform.

    “The Conservatives tell families to be responsible for their own child care when parents go to work, but the fact is new Canadians entering the workforce often rely on parents and grandparents for child care and help around the home. They are taking away a necessary support system,” Volpe said in a statement."

    Read the entire article here

    Wednesday, February 09, 2011

    Making plans, making lists

    With the change in our status, and the light at the end of the tunnel making itself finally seen, comes a change in activities. I have to start thinking about physically immigrating to Canada. The first steps in this process actually started over a year ago. I made an inventory of all my possessions. This took about four days. Mind you, I didn't note every single thing (like the title of every book, CD or DVD), but I did summarize all the things I have, since all of them might follow me to Canada.

    There are two Customs documents that you need to have ready when you land. One is called a Form B4 (Personal Effects Accounting Document), and the other is a Form B4a (commonly known as the "Goods to Follow" document). These forms are used to tell Customs Canada what you are and will be bringing into the country as you settle. The B4 is for what you bring with you when you land as an immigrant, while the B4a is for items that come later (for instance, if you have them shipped).

    Not everything on my list is coming with me. In fact, I actually think very little of my US life will follow me to Canada. We won't have a lot of room, and my Love has the core household things pretty well covered. Clothes, some art, books, music, movies, personal archives, tools of my trades...those are the things I will settle with. The rest of what I have will either be given away or sold. It's odd to think of having an estate sale for a life that isn't half over yet - but that's in essence what will probably happen.

    For now though, the material of this life is summarized on a list.

    Tuesday, February 08, 2011

    Learning about Toronto from Christopher Hume

    If you are interested in the built environment and in history too, then there's a journalist working for the Toronto Star that you should really check out. His name is Christopher Hume and he is the architecture critic. Lately, The Star has featured Hume in a series of short videos where he comments on developments in the city's landscape: new buildings, transportation, parks, etc. His reporting is both entertaining and insightful. Unlike video journalists in the U.S. he actually knows his subject and shares his insights. Here's a link to a number of his video reports. If you want to learn more about the city that I love, there's no better guide.

    Christopher Hume at The Toronto Star online

    Saturday, February 05, 2011

    Canada gets bullied on border policy

    Is Stephen Harper a bully? He sure acts like one. I don't mean about how he keeps all his ministers from speaking to the press, or even having a thought of their own. I don't even mean in the brinkmanship he utilizes to expose the weakness of the opposition parties. What I mean is that, just like a classic bully, when a bigger bully shows up - he puts his tail between his legs.

    The bigger bully is of course the United States. And the U.S. is telling Harper that they need to align their border protection policies with Big Brother. That means sharing information about Canadian citizens and permanent residents with the U.S. Homeland Security. It means Canadian citizens in U.S. databases. And while Harper and Obama want to ease the path for trade and business, for you and I it means you can expect increased scrutiny and aggression when it comes to the no-man's land that is the border.

    Harper said it's in his country's interest to work with the U.S. on securing their shared border and ensuring that people and goods can move across it as safely and openly as possible. "That is what we're trying to achieve here," he said. But Harper has shown little compassion for the plight of ordinary Canadians in his five years as minority Prime Minister.

    And you can bet if a bully can get someone else to take the punch, he's going to let them. That means you and I. Let your MP know that you expect them to protect your privacy and Canadian sovereignty when it comes to dealing with the U.S. Believe me - the U.S. isn't going to do it for you - and neither is Harper.

    Thursday, February 03, 2011

    The beginning of the end?

    My Love and I heard from the CIC today. What we heard moved us to tears.

    The days in your life when things change are rarely dramatic within themselves. They are just another day: work, chores, errands, meals. I was tending to my day when the phone call came and everything changed. Wonderfully changed.

    We were informed that CIC has approved our (my) Permanent Residence application. After a couple routine (hopefully) final steps, we can expect that I will be a landed immigrant, reunited with my Love in Toronto! Those of you following this blog know how long we have waited for this day.

    So starts what we hope will be the beginning of the end of a long immigration process. So starts what we hope will be the adventure of leaving the U.S. and relocating in Canada. We are excited and overjoyed with the possibilities.

    I'm also excited to migrate this blog away from issues of the immigration process and onto the logistics of moving to and getting settled in Canada.

    I hope you will remain with me as we start this new adventure. God willing, this is the beginning of the end. We won't be ending our prayers until I am standing on Canadian ground; until I am on the other side of that silver door at Pearson. But we have great faith, and God has been faithful to our prayers.

    I'll continue to pray for all of you who are involved in this process, and wondering if you will be able to make it through. Have faith, have patience, believe.

    Please pray for my love and I that the final steps go smoothly and quickly.

    Thank you all for your support.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Settlement groups mount campaign to restore funding -

    33 Ontario organizations delivering language, employment and integration programs to immigrants will lose all of their funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada by April 1. These organizations currently serve over 10,000 new Canadians. A total of $22 million in cuts is being made to settlement programs within Toronto this year.

    “The Conservative funding cuts are an attack on the economic and social success of the Toronto area that depends on our ability to integrate new Canadians,” said Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Learning to skate

    If you're a new Canadian and you want to understand a little more about your new country, one thing you can learn is to remain upright on two narrow blades of steel while on ice - that is, you can learn to skate.

    Toronto has 50(!) outdoor skating rinks that are open from early December until March (weather permitting, of course). The city coordinates instructional and drop-in programs for Learning to Skate, Hockey Skills, Figure Skating, Leisure Skating, Hockey & Shinny (informal hockey games).

    Some of Toronto's skating venues are well known - like Nathan Phillips Square. Others, like the brand new Sam Smith Ice Trail are the sort of inspired public works that other cities only wish they had.

    Find all the skating resources the City has to offer and the Parks, Forestry and Recreation web site.

    Baby, it's cold outside - so get out and skate!

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    A New Year's reso-matum

    I don't make a lot of New Year's resolutions. Maybe it's because I know myself well enough to know in general, I'm not going to keep them. Something has been on my mind however, about this blog and the now 5-years that I've been writing it. And that is - something has to change. So my resolution for this year is actually more of an ultimatum to myself...let's call it a "reso-matum":

    If our application is not resolved by the end of 2011, I will end this blog. If our application is successful, then I will migrate this blog's subject matter to cover issues associated with living and working in Canada, and the quest for citizenship.

    Fair enough? Consider it reso-mated.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    One more case of an inconsistent CIC

    There are seasons here where I feel like a watchdog; barking for attention to the news that doesn't make the headlines, because it only appears to impact one or two people directly. But my readers know that who I'm watching are those who's policies, decisions and behaviours directly impact you and I - because the ones I watch for a responsible for all aspects of immigration and citizenship in Canada.

    So here's another minor situation: A woman in Halifax, in Canada on a visitor's permit, has applied to become a Permanent Resident in order to live in Canada with her husband. Normally, the CIC should simply extend her permit each six months until a decision is made on her application. But the woman has now been told by the CIC that "...she may not have time to file another visitor extension prior to Feb. 1." Meaning she'll have to leave the country. And we know from past stories that once you are outside, but with an application in process, the CIC can be reluctant to let you in, their logic being that if you don't get approved, you'll stay illegally.

    Let's hope the CIC does the right thing and extends this woman's visitor's permit. Haven't we all had enough of this Ministry's tactics?

    Read the story here from the Truro Daily News in Nova Scotia.

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    Tales of the new Irish immigrants

    In this article from the Irish Times, author Lorraine Mallinder writes, "Canada is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for young Irish people looking for work. How are the people who have already made the journey faring..."

    Sunday, January 02, 2011

    Free eBooks on Canada

    As I mentioned a few months back, I picked up a Kindle last year. I'm sure many of you readers got one for Christmas too. In case you were interested, The Expatriate Mind is available as a blog delivered automatically to your Kindle (so subscribe today!) - but that's not the point of this post.

    I wanted to start the New Year off by making you aware of some cool free Canadian books available at Amazon Popular Classics, Openlibrary and Project Gutenberg.

    Search out these titles and enjoy reading about Canada!
    • The Voyages of Samuel De Champlain (Vols 1-3)
    • Canada: The Empire of the North
    • Famous Firesides of French Canada
    • The Red River Colony
    • Pioneers of France in The New World
    • The Makers of Canada: Bishop Laval
    • Anne of Green Gables
    • The Story of the Upper Canada Rebellion
    • Canada Under British Rule