As Canada approaches its 150th birthday, I am thinking tonight about my place in the scheme of things. Nearly six years ago now, I became a landed immigrant in this great country, leaving the USA, none too soon it turns out, to join my love and start a new life. It wasn't all that unknown to me - our immigration process was complex and the years it took us to navigate the system were years I spent getting familiar with Canada.
Still, there were many adjustments, many hopes I had for life here that never materialized. In particular, the job market was not welcoming of someone of both my middle age or my senior experience. I was overqualified on one hand, but lacking "Canadian experience" on the other. A real catch 22. But I overcame, as immigrants must. I reinvented, and now I am more of what I've always been - a musician, an artist and an author. Canada made me choose. I am blessed to have a wife that wanted me to choose what was best for me too.
Now I am on the verge of citizenship. My forms are in a pile somewhere on a desk in Nova Scotia, maybe at the top, maybe at the bottom - but they are in process. Soon I'll get word that I'll have a citizenship test to sit for - one that I have studied for since before I was even a permanent resident. I know if I pass (I'm pretty confident I will!), and I am offered citizenship in this wonderful nation - I know on that day I will cry with joy. I'm a sentimental man. Life is hard. Things take time. When the dreams of my life come to pass, and I know they have, I am always overwhelmed with gratitude for those that come true. Becoming a Canadian citizen is one of them.
I've said time and again - Canada isn't perfect. We face many of the same issues of institutional racism, historic injustices, inequality, sexism...you name it...as my friends in the Old Country. I sense however, that here, in this huge, small nation, that we are less able to avoid our collective sins - it's hard to get lost in a country of 34 million compared to one of 330 million. People tend to know what you did, call you on it, and you tend to have to answer. I think that's healthy. Especially when you factor in the other great difference I see here. Canada is a country of compassion. Get it right, and we can put the past behind us.
So, from my room, high in a condo in Toronto, the view I have is one of a blessed life. One I could not have imagined. I have my Love to thank for it, and because she is Canadian, and her actions are those of a Canadian, I also have Canada to thank for that.
At 150, I want to encourage you, who dream of a better life for yourself and your loved ones to come and join me in Canada. Bring your skills and your spirit and follow me. It's not an easy road, and you will face obstacles, but if you are determined and patient, there is a way. I believe that, because I am proof of that.
Canada was discovered by westerners in 1534. We became a nation of our own over 340 years later in 1867. We are old for such a young country and maybe therein lies the secret of Canada.
A young country with an old soul.