And so it came to pass that Canada (former, great, friendly neighbor to the north, now "home") has finally accepted my request to become a permanent resident. Last month, with little fanfare, I achieved the status of landed immigrant. The application process took a while, several years, with several false starts to delay the need to accumulate fur-lined moving boxes. Began the transition North by researching the requirements posted on Immigration Canada's web site. "Hmm, need to gather up police records from every country in which I have lived since the age of eighteen. OK, while that may take some time, it shouldn't be too difficult. May as well get this chore out of the way early." Huge mistake.
The next step was the real challenge. Imagine writing a timeline that included every place you had lived, every school you had attended (with address), and every job you had held (again, with address) since the age of eighteen. Many an hour was spent peering at maximally magnified rooftops of former neighborhoods on Google Maps, trying to imagine if I had once lived or worked in that blob of pixels. A reconstructive exercise such as this is a great way to connect with (some would say pester) old friends, acquaintances, former workmates, and, in one case, the son of an old boss (since deceased). It also necessitates interesting vacations, as Chris and I drove around my old stomping grounds, trying to recognize former homes, without being stopped for casing the neighborhood.
A couple of rounds of mandatory, medical screening tests added some months to the application process. By the time Immigration Canada got around to reviewing my case, they decided the FBI report I had requested early on was stale. Too much time had gone by between when the FBI officially proclaimed "No criminal record" and the date that Immigration Canada looked at the file. It was necessary to request a second, more current FBI report, to prove I hadn't turned to the dark side in the more-recent past.
Well, in today's heightened-security world federal police reports take a while. Formerly an eight-week wait, for round two the FBI took thirteen weeks to send out a second report, which also confirmed, "No criminal record." Apparently the demand for criminal records is outstripping supply. On the plus side, Chris found out that the FBI has a Customer Service Division. Not sure when this will be useful; we kept the phone number.
Officially declared "not contagious" (not once, but twice) and law-abiding enough (again, not once, but twice) to live on the cold side of the 49th parallel with my Canadian Sweetie Pie, I ambled over to the border and officially asked for, not asylum, not immunity, and not really polarity (North, but not that far north.), maybe hospitality is the best term. After all this build up, my papers were duly stamped and I am officially living in Canada.
The first thing I did as a Canadian resident was to cross the border back into the United States to, wait for it, buy potable water. Torrential rains had caused an abundance of soil to slip into the water reservoirs for Vancouver and the entire Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Turbidity was the word du jour, and for my new neighbors and me it was too high. Tap water ran silt brown, with "boil water" advisories announced by all local media. Had I mistakenly moved south, instead of north? With winter coming on, it looked like it would only take a few storms more, and I'd be out hewin' wood and skinnin' bears to stay warm.
By the way, although my status as tourist husband has changed to legal roommate, Chris still keeps Immigration Canada on speed dial, with the understanding I can be escorted to the border in no time at all.
So, does this mean you will be giving up a prized US citizenship, creating a vacancy for some former Soviet-bloc citizen to take your place? Nope, wait in line, Yuri. The transition is just a change in legal residence; has nothing to do with citizenship. However, I now have a library card from the Vancouver Public Library. Guess I'm a dual literate. All those great book reviews in the weekend paper no longer have to be put on a distant "some day" list; I can immediately queue up in the online library requests, along with all of the other highbrow "Lower Mainlanders".
Will you be able to vote in Canada? Citizens are allowed to vote, not residents. I'll still be using my absentee ballot to vote against all of the usual suspects in U.S. elections.
Are you a dual citizen? Nah, not even a dual resident. Turns out people only live in one place, where they declare income tax. I will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship once I have stayed here for three years. Literally, that means 1,095 days spent in Canada. Any day spent outside of Canada during this time doesn't count towards eligibility, and sets the clock back a day. Curiously, if I spend time abroad with my wife, it counts towards a day in Canada. Those genetic maple roots must indeed run deep when mere propinquity to a Canadian officially counts as a day in country.
How to reach you? Am keeping the house and PO Box in Point Roberts. With the move, Point Roberts has morphed into a weekend and summer destination, rather than home. The Point Roberts address and phone number will remain the same for many years to come. The email address also remains tstrong at whidbey.com. It is only the strong sense of freedom and liberty that is fading.
The photo on the front of the card was taken in Stanley Park (just a few blocks from my new home) a couple of weeks ago. Limbs were snapping as I bushwhacked off and on a bicycle to view some great frozen scenery. The photo on the back is the labyrinth in the front yard of the Point Bob estate, softened by a rare blanket of snow.
The seasonal cold caused a seasonal epiphany to strike at a recent get-together. Sitting in a room with about forty Canadians (In metric terms I believe this is called a Canucksworth.), I suddenly realized I was the only one present who had voluntarily chosen to live in this cold, forbidding climate. Everyone else but I was huddling on the southern Canadian border, as close to the equator as they were legally allowed. What was I doing up here by choice?
Not to worry, though. As many have discovered, "Cold hands help create a warm heart." As 2006 comes to a close, here's wishing you enjoy the warmth of the holidays with your loved ones.
copyright 2006 by Todd Strong
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