Ten years in Canada

A decade ago today, Catherine and I landed in our adopted home. There was snow on the ground. Late in the day, we checked into the Holiday Inn at Martin Grove and Dixon. We hadn’t brought clothes for snow.

The next day we went to stay at the meeting house. The day after I braved slush and the Warden bus for a job interview at Warden and Alden in Markham. There were still farms at Warden and Steeles.

Until we moved in here in late June, we house sat, couch-surfed, whatever you want to call it. We relied so much upon the kindness of then-strangers. So thank you to: Don and all the Bowyers, Jane Orion, Brett & Nancy, Lynn & Tam, Brydon & René; to Les for the first job at Gandalf, to Dave and the TREC crew for being there at the start of a new industry.

I didn’t blog back then, kept no journal, and took few photographs. The first few years were tough — early 2003 might be a special low point, with a bitter winter, a dreadful job and a flooded basement. Every tiny detail of the immigration process seemed so important at the time, but now barely registers. Getting a SIN card up on St Clair? Biggest deal ever, then.

So, thanks to everyone, here’s home now. I think it was the right move.

1656 days from PR application to Canadian Citizenship

I found my old misc.immigration.canada post where I gave the timeline of our application. I’ve now got a few dates to add to that line:

01 Jun 2001: Sent forms with all fees
13 Jun 2001: Receipt acknowledged
26 Jun 2001: Medical forms and interview waiver received
07 Aug 2001: Took medicals
01 Sep 2001: Visas received
02 Apr 2002: Arrived in Canada
18 Mar 2006: Took citizenship

It’s been hard work, but worth it. Canada’s a decent place to live.

Some observations on how immigration worked for us:

  • We did the application ourselves; all you need is on cic.gc.ca.
  • Research ways of getting your money into Canada without incurring swingeing foreign exchange charges. This was perhaps our single biggest cost, and I’m sure we could have avoided some of it.
  • Canadian banks are rather stuffy and inefficient. Expect to pay bank charges, and also expect the “free banking” banks to turn you down until you have a credit history.
  • It takes several years to become credit worthy in Canada. It took about a year before we had a credit card at all.
  • Get to know and love your public transit system. Most Canadian cities have decent transit, and living near a busy transit hub gets you around quickly.
  • Join the library. Books, internet access, and information of what’s happening — and free, too.
  • Owning a car is quite expensive. It’s not the purchase price or the fuel cost; insurance for new immigrants with no insurance record is unbelievable. If your employer can put you on their policy to drive one of their vehicles, you’ll find that it’ll cut your insurance premiums drastically.
  • I ended up changing jobs more than I thought I might.
  • Volunteering helped me get into the industry I really wanted to be in.
  • Professional qualifications don’t import well. Ontario is getting a bit better at accepting foreign qualifications (my UK CEng counted for nothing) but there’s still a long way to go.

Not long after we arrived, I remember being slightly irritated when a fellow UK immigrant said, “The first three years are difficult, then it gets easy.” Looking back, I now agree with him.

well, that was easy, maybe

Just did my citizenship test. 20 questions, two of which you must get right, three of which you must get at least one right, and fifteen non-mandatory questions. Pass mark is 12/20.

Seemed not very difficult, either:— who was the first prime minister, who can vote, when was the Charter introduced, when did Newfoundland & Labrador join the Confederacy, when did Nunavut become a territory; that sort of thing. To think I spent all that time worrying about natural resources, the third line of O Canada! and Lieutenant Governors (sings: Bartleman, Bartleman, Does everything a … hey, wait a minute, just what can a bartle do, anyway?).

It did dismay and astonish me how badly prepared some people were. About 5 out of the 40 people didn’t turn up, and maybe 10 people didn’t have the requisite papers. C’mon people, don’t you want to be Canadian?