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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.

Live from Toronto

This is the current webcam view of Roy Thomson Hall at 60 Simcoe St. in Toronto as seen from the Southwest and looking Northeast. See the location here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Violence in Toronto - it's personal

All in all, Toronto is a very safe city. I can't really say that there are neighborhoods that I avoid or fear to be in at any hour of the day. In my three years here, "random" acts of violence seem to be very rare.

There is a particular form of violence that was new to me, however. Stabbings. Because of two conditions, it seems stabbings happen almost as frequently as shootings. I think the two reasons are: Gun control in Canada is pretty rigorous and violence is personal.

It's hard to get a gun in Canada in general. Handguns in particular (the favourite guns of the U.S.) are hard to come by legally, which makes them extremely expensive illegally. There aren't many around, so they aren't the weapon of choice. As I noted before, violence is less random here, and more about one person's direct conflict with another. It's personal. And stabbing someone is a very personal act. You can't stab someone from 20-yards; you have to get right up on them to accomplish it.

So while you do hear about shootings here, there really aren't many (and for the population in city of around 2.1 million, there are only around 140-170 incidents each year, 20 of which resulting in death). The total number of stabbings in Toronto each year isn't publicly noted, but deaths from stabbings take 40-60% of the same number of lives as shootings when all is said and done.

So Canada has its share of violence. And in general, it's personal. While no violence is something I'm sure we'd all be happier with, knowing that the random violence of the U.S. just isn't prevalent here does make this country a safer one to live in, and another reason I am thankful to live in Canada.    

Friday, September 12, 2014

A sense of home

In Seattle, where I come from, "home" was the house I shared with my brother and our dogs. I felt at home when I was there. The neighbourhood, the city, Seattle, was "the city". Home city, but not "home"

Here in my new Canadian life, Toronto - the whole city, feels like home to me. I was wondering why this was. As I was walking this morning in the College Park neighbourhood, then later in the St. Lawrence Market/Old Town neighbourhood where I live I think I figured it out.

In the U.S. I drove everywhere. If something I needed was more than a few blocks away - and I mean two blocks away, I'd hop in the car to go there. It's a very American way to get around. We love our cars. But getting in a car isolates you from everyone and everything. You forget what the area just a few blocks away looks like or smells like, or what's on this corner and who lives on that corner...

In Toronto, we don't have a car. We walk or take transit (primarily the subway) everywhere. I am in connection with the city everywhere I go. I have to pay attention. I see it at walking speed, not in the blur of driving speed. I think because I experience Toronto in this way, the whole city feels like home to me - my connection to it is as broad as my walks - and in the city, a 45-minute walk to get somewhere is not all that exceptional. I would never walk 45-minutes to somewhere in the U.S. Don't ask me why, but it just doesn't make sense.

I love this broader sense of where "home" is. I love being in Canada and with my love in Toronto. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

This is how we keep families apart - "dependent" children redefined by Tories

A remnant of the Kenney years passed as a regulatory amendment to the Immigration Act now lowers the age under which dependent children can apply for Canadian immigration under their parent's application.

The cutoff age for dependent children used to be 21 - a not uncommon benchmark worldwide for adulthood, but Kenney, despite objections for immigration experts (and especially those dealing with refugee and humanitarian issues) decided in his omniscient wisdom to lower the bar to 18. Why?

Money. The logic is that those who are over 21 likely have finished their schooling, and government studies (don't get me started on how this government uses so-called "research") imply that those individuals who don't get a Canadian education don't have the best "economic outcomes" compared to those who do. This is despite the fact that with waiting times the way they still are, an 18 year-old has a slim chance of getting any Canadian education either before they are an "adult".

Regardless - are future (and unknown) "economic outcomes" really that a good reason to tear families apart when their children are at the cusp of adulthood?

Canada's own census found that 40% of young Canadian adults lived at home with their parents. What does that tell you about "dependency" in the modern age? That it's real. That we continue to rely on family ties long after some arbitrary age limit. And if you were to set a real age point when children become fully independent, it's more like 25.

I'm hoping that Canadian citizens who were once immigrants themselves will support a new government that encourages family reunification - one of the bedrocks of our immigration programs - and stop supporting the Tories who are literally tearing families apart at our borders. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

TIFF begins!

The Toronto International Film Festival starts tonight. Each year, over 400 films play for a two week period on screens across the city, including many world premiers. For years, the film voted "Fan Favourite" at TIFF has gone on to win the best picture Oscar. Not a bad record.

Stargazing is a big part of TIFF for city residents. Last year I saw Dustin Hoffman on the streets (he's taller in person), and more ambitious sorts will camp out at bars and restaurants where they think they'll find the A-listers.

The best thing about TIFF is that you can get a few months worth of movie picks lined up for when they officially hit cinemas. Single tickets for movies during the festival have gone from $17 back in the day to around $75 this year. Not for the faint of wallet.

I'd write more, but I have a movie to watch!   

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

First day of school

Labour Day is past. The CNE is closed. Thunderstorms have returned. It must be the first day of school.

This morning CP24 (a local tv station) had parents send in pictures of their kids in their back-to-school outfits and it was just classic. Some excited girls, showing off their new fashions with big smiles on their faces. And then there were the boys who looked put together, but who's eyes betrayed an "are you kidding? Summer's over?" sentiment.

A teacher friend of mine told me how other teachers were calling and texting each other yesterday, asking, "are you ready for this?" Their 9-month countdown begins today.

Construction workers are racing to get those tasks that the coming cold wont bear out of the way too - though there isn't a lot they can't do in even the bitterest of cold.

So happy first day of school from Toronto. How did you spend yours? 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The end of summer

Night time at the CNE
We haven't really had a summer in Toronto this year. Tomorrow promises to bring only the second Heat Warning of the season, where normally we'd have at least a week or two worth of them.

Because the season never really kicked-in weather-wise, I didn't feel as strongly about getting out to the numerous summer festivals: Waterfront Festival, Taste of the Danforth, World Pride, Taste of Asia, Taste of Lawrence (plenty of food festivals, as you can tell!), Caribbean Carnival; Buskerfest and don't forget the Canadian National Exhibition...There are a lot of things to do every weekend.

Maybe my experience last fall of the Nuit Blanche festival coloured my thinking a bit too. During the festival, which runs one night in October from 6PM until 6AM, streets are closed down and interactive art displays are erected. Attendance last year - meaning people flooding the streets of Toronto - was 1 million people. I went out in it. It was crazy. I went to Nathan Phillips Square for a Ai Wei Wei installation. Trying to get through the square was an exercise in having your genitals introduced to 50,000 strangers. Not fun.

I'm going to try and get into the spirit of the festivals again though. May even hit the CNE this weekend. I love the activity in this beautiful city. I need to participate.      

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crossroads - how should this blog continue?

Hi Readers,
I'm at a crossroads with your favourite immigration blog. Not quite sure how, or if I should continue to write on these big immigration matters, transition this to more of a "life in Canada" or "life in Toronto" blog, or simply call it a day after almost 10 years?

Any thoughts?

I'll let you know my conclusion soon.

- JH

Thursday, August 14, 2014

RT online - No longer welcome: Canada blocks fast-track visa program

Annoyed potential immigrants are planning to sue the Canadian government after Ottawa canceled the so-called ‘millionaire visa’ program, which had allowed tens of thousands of well-off foreigners to gain fast-track visa entry.

The scheme was temporarily frozen in 2012 due to a backlog of paperwork; however, the Canadian government announced in February that it was going to scrap the program permanently.

"This was not a program that was generating jobs, growth, opportunity in Canada and it was certainly not a program that was getting the immigrant investors we wanted," said Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander to CBS.

CBS also reports that around 40 organizations in the Vancouver metropolitan area say they are considering taking legal action against the federal government after it scrapped the Immigrant Investor Program. Vancouver has long been a haven for wealthy immigrants from Hong Kong and mainland China, due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the excellent standard of living in the city.

Read the full article here

Monday, August 11, 2014

Three years in Canada!

As of August 12, 2014, I mark my third year and the start of my fourth in Canada.

Has it passed so quickly? Yes it has. I pinch myself often: Three years as a permanent resident. All and all, it's been pretty wonderful. This is my home. This is my country.

I am content. Am I still adjusting? Absolutely. Do I miss the U.S.? Sometimes. It's mainly family that I miss, and dear friends. But that's the emmigrant's lot in life, and the path I chose. I'm still glad I chose it.

They say time flies when you're having fun, and there's not a lot to say when life is good.

Time is flying. There's not a lot to say.

Friday, July 25, 2014 - A Summary of Quebec Immigration Today

Attorney David Cohen's excellent CanadaVisa site has lots of informative articles and is a great place to stay current on the legal twists and turns of Canadian immigration. Here's his latest on the state of immigration for skilled workers  to Quebec:

"Quebec immigration remains open to a wide range of applicants. In fact, immigrating to Quebec is a popular route to achieve Canadian Permanent Residency. With the goal of reducing processing times for applications, the Government of Quebec has introduced a number of changes to Quebec immigration programs in recent months. Permanent workers, investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed workers looking to apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate should take note; spots are filling up quickly. Here is an overview of where these various programs stand today:"

Read the rest of the article here