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.
As a minor celebration of our 8th anniversary of arriving in Canada, I give you (with explanation later) the collected transcripts of my Google Voice calls:
- Hey, gimme a buzz me back this is Ron man, you know. Lamb oxen, this is Ron 205, buzz me when you get a chance later.
- That probably in about a.
- Hey from A D this is Ron man and 12 5 man If you are a I’ll buzz me, man. I’m gonna do some business man, so pick up you know of a receive, a. My, but alright with equating later.
- Hello, this is not. He wants to join for your learn, not you, that fallen off. Bye.
- Hey, Got this way about you could give me a call back and give me a call. Real quick, I’m outside. Thank you.
- Hello, Would you know that. Love you all River Run them.
- Not available at the. It’s.
In a moment of boredom while visiting the US, I must’ve signed up for Google Voice. I’m not entirely sure what my number is, and I can’t access the account inside Canada. I haven’t given the number to anyone, yet I’m getting these voicemails. What can it mean? As a wise person once said, “Lamb oxen, but alright with equating later.”
So I was at The Dakota Tavern last night, expecting to see nana grizol with Colleen and Paul. I got there far too early, and notice that there was no sign of Theo Hilton or the rest of the band. I learned from Colleen (whom I’d met before) that they’d been stopped at the border, so Colleen and Paul were playing a longer set, and Colleen’s partner Ron Sexsmith would play later.
Immigration for musicians annoys me. The costs of visas, and the processing time required, basically means that most bands I’d want to see risk getting turned away at the border. Since touring is how these bands make their living, everybody loses.
Still, Colleen and Paul – assisted by a couple of Colleen’s friends – ended their set with a lovely version of Jeff Mangum’s arrangement of I Love How You Love Me [mp3, lo-fi phone recording].
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.
When you apply for Canadian citizenship, you need to tabulate all your absences from the country in the last four years on the form “Application for Canadian Citizenship — Adults [Form CIT 0002]“. It’s irksome to do this, so here’s Canada_CIT0002_Calculator.sxc; an OpenOffice spreadsheet to do the sums for you.
I’m sure it’s not perfect, but it’s provided for no more reason than to be helpful. If you use it for other people, don’t charge for its use.
Two years ago today, Catherine and I were huddled somewhat apprehensively in the immigration lobby of Toronto’s Pearson airport. After a couple of hours of waiting, paperwork and customs clearance (and several “Welcome to Canada!”s), we stepped out into the evening sleet, and headed straight for a Holiday Inn to crash.
We’ve done okay. There have been difficult times, but on the whole, we’re glad we came.