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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

On the eve of Canadian citizenship

Just a day and a half now and I'll take my oath as a Canadian citizen. I'm thinking about what this means today, to me and my life and my country.

As for myself, it means the culmination of a decade and a-half journey that started in the US, when I met a beautiful Canadian woman who changed my life utterly. Through all the frustrations of obtaining permanent residence and bringing our lives together here in Canada, we always had faith and hope in the future. We dreamt of the best outcome while preparing for the worst. You can read here that it took us a long time to gain my permanent residence, but we persisted. And then the process began to obtain citizenship. Primarily a waiting game, but also one of integrating myself into Canada, understanding personally its culture and values and ingraining them into my own as I learned about the history of the country, the political system and the responsibilities of being a citizen.

My life changes again on Friday when I become a citizen. I will be able to travel the world as a Canadian - a lot easier these days when compared to traveling as an American. I will be able to vote and serve on a jury and fully participate in the life of my home country.

And what does Canada get? They get someone proud to wave their flag, to stand for their values, to contribute to their society and culture. They get a successful Canadian author! That's not bad. They get someone who understands what a special place this is and who is committed to spend the rest of my life working to help it remain that way.

The oath awaits. I'm sort of excited if you can't tell.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Goodbye Seattle

This is the city where I was born. It's not a view of it that you see much, but I wanted to share it because it reveals a couple of things about Seattle, Washington. What you see here in the entire downtown from the foot of Queen Anne hill to the left, to the industrial district or "SODO" (South of the Dome) to the right. You could walk from one end to the other in about a half an hour. It's a mid-sized American city for all intents and purposes.

I used to work in architecture (not as an architect) and I could name most of the buildings downtown - I did some photography and was lucky enough to get into and even on top of a lot of the skyline in the late 1980s. But the city has grown and changed like all cities do and that place is gone now, the landmarks of my youth torn down and replaced by some shiny box to house the next Amazon spin off I suppose.

I was downtown again the last time I was out and what struck me was how small Seattle is. Narrow downtown streets, narrow sidewalks...not many people to be seen, quiet after dark. The other thing that really struck me was how the character of the city has changed. I used to think we Seattleites were nice and genteel, sophisticated, worldly...But life in Toronto has exposed that in general, while a very liberal town, it is also a very "provincial" town with all the NIMBY suspicions you'd expect to find in small-town America. The tech millionaires go home to their protected communities and their exclusive lifestyles in their BMWs while all over the city transients live in run-down mobile homes, or under the freeways in tents and everyone's angry about it and no one wants to own the problem, let alone attempt a compassionate solution.

I really only come home for parents, other family and a few friends that remain here. But a lot of them are looking to get out. They don't recognize Seattle anymore either. What's complicated is that this isn't a change that's come about because of immigration or some external force. The change in Seattle is one brought on by the success and wealth and greed of Americans  and it is duplicating itself in cities like San Francisco and New York. These places are becoming the shimmering bastions of the elite, and just like in days of old, outside their castle walls, the peasants eek out a living on the scraps left behind.

In my youth, I helped build a city where artists and workers and intellectuals could all do their thing, but that city is gone now. It's shell is prettier than ever, but it is hollow inside. Goodbye Seattle.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Notice to Appear - My invitation to become a citizen is here

I never dreamed of becoming a Canadian citizen until I met my love and realized I had a choice to make not only about how I lived my life and with who, but also where I lived my life. I've always been able to find a home wherever I laid my head. But after I fell in love with her, I quickly fell in love with the place that fundamentally formed who she was - Canada. And from that moment, I dreamed of making a home there and living the rest of my life there, not as a visitor, but as a citizen. That dream had its beginning back nearly 15 years ago.

And now it is coming true.

Today I received my Notice to Appear to take the oath of citizenship for the country that has been so generous to open their door to me. I can't begin to describe how I feel about becoming a Canadian. Just the thought of answering that question - "Are you Canadian?" "Yes, I am." blows my mind.

Citizenship means so much to me and I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate fully in the life of my new country after 6 years of permanent residence. It is the final step in this journey I have been on and writing to you, dear readers, about since 2005 - 12 long, eventful years.

I haven't thought of where this blog goes from here? Maybe I leave it here to inspire others. Maybe it's time for it to go away? Maybe it's time to explore a different part of the Canadian experience? I don't really know yet.

I am grateful I have been able to share this adventure with so many of you from all around the world - over 100K page views to date. I hope you've been inspired and I hope I've passed on something of value to you.

Thank you for reading. This isn't goodbye, but I see the final shore now, and it's all I could hope for. 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The long night in which the Old World lost its way

My elderly father has news channels on all day. He's a political nut. He watches CNN and MSNBC and BNN and CNBC and yes, even FOX at times (though he's a staunch Democrat). He doesn't say much as he watches, which is very un-American. We LOVE to talk back to the TV. But when he's done, he'll tell me what exactly he thinks is wrong with the world and in this he demonstrates one of the primary issues facing this country and part of why I think it's so divided: He believes he is right. And everyone else who doesn't agree, is wrong.

I believe this characteristic is not unique to my father and I also believe that someone with political power who understands this American flaw of pride, can manipulate the public.

Enter #45, from the dumpster behind the theatre. This evil man does recognize this flaw and he used it to propel himself from someone who had never held public office to the former leader of the Free World in one election cycle by parroting back every worst suspicion that those who believe they are right and everyone else is wrong on the conservative side of the spectrum has been thinking.

You're right - you don't have a good job because of that Mexican. You're right, universal healthcare is the first step toward socialism. You're right, the world would be a better place if all those people stayed out of our country. I can make your dreams come true..."trust me". The man is a fucking hypnotist. With the hair to prove it.

So here we are in the long, dark night of our own making. From Canada, I watch as the US loses it place atop the world stage and becomes a reflection of its current leader: a global bully, a petulant child and a greedy, self-serving nation. They/we could take care of our own - but we wont. We could help the most needy of our citizens - but why should we when their problems are their own fault. Let's put them in jail instead. The legal system is a joke. They had it right in revolutionary France. Steal a loaf of bread. 10-years hard labour and a record for life. Les Mis' had all the great songs!

So I'm ranting. But the US has lost its way and lost its soul. I only hope it can get it back one day, but I am not ignorant of the fact that the country is now a second rate player, deserving of caution and suspicion by other nations and weakened where it once was powerful. It's going to be a long night. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Did I really live here? Canada and the US are different lands

If you follow this blog, you'll know that I'm in my sixth year of permanent residence, living full time in Toronto, Canada. I write for a living and have moderate success at it. No complaints. I have reached that point in my immigration story where I am so divorced from the day to day life I had in the US that when I do return home (which I have for a couple weeks now), I no longer identify with anything from the culture to even the daily struggles my friends and family face.

If nothing else, I am reinforced in be belief in how different Canada and the US are. Here in the US, my family and friends are constantly thinking about money - how to get more, how to save more, how much someone else has, how unfairly they are paid, how they are taxed and what they don't get out of it, how someone else's money problems are not their problem. The Seattle area is experiencing what can only be called a homeless emergency - forget the stories you hear about Amazon and Microsoft. Here on their own turf, the richest companies in the world are driving the marginal out of their homes and onto the streets - literally. Homeless encampments are such a fixture that they have their own ID numbers and are governed by rules and committees like a neighbourhood association.

This was not the Seattle I lived in. Not the Seattle of million-dollar homes and 24-hour traffic. The city I used to live in comes across as poorly managed, socially wanting, and lacking compassion.

You know I don't have rose-coloured, I-drank-the-koolaide glasses on about Canada or Toronto. It's an expensive city to live in and there are issues certainly with housing. But the focus of life I experience from friends and family rarely revolves around money. Social injustice is recognized and steps to right wrongs are ever on the agenda - not pushed aside until they reach crisis mode (with the exception being issues of the far north, where indigenous Canadians do indeed suffer in isolation, lack of health services and even fresh water).

As for the current distraction of the US with the read-headed idiot they elected to run the country - in the Canadian system, he would already have lost a confidence vote and been stripped of power. The national political body of the US is a pathetic group of worthless millionaires who would rather debate taking a knee at an NFL game than providing healthcare, housing, or basic human services to the most vulnerable of their own citizens.

These two countries - my two homes, for I'm almost Canadian and will always be American - they couldn't be more different. And I know where my heart is now, for certain. I tell my friends that Canada "suits me" - it fits who I am, but maybe more important, who I want to be: someone who cares about others and does something about it. Someone who knows what money is good for, but doesn't covet or worship it. Someone who knows when my neighobor is taken care of, I am better off too.

Not even here a week and I'm ready to go home. To Canada. Maybe my appointment for my citizenship ceremony will await me there?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

From My Visa Source - 13 Amazing Facts About Permanent Citizenship (Guest Post)


Becoming a Canadian Citizen is a Lengthy Process

After having acquired a Canadian Permanent Residence (PR), one must wait 5 years before being eligible for Canadian Citizenship. However, for PR’s to qualify, they need to have remained on Canadian soil for 3 years out of the 5. For those who want to get their Canadian Citizenship as quickly as possible, this can seem like a lengthy process.

Canadian Immigration Laws are Strict Yet Necessary
Due to the Canadian Government wanting to build a secure economy as well as a welcoming community, many rules have been put into motion concerning Canadian Citizenship. PR’s must prove their loyalty to Canada by building a foundation on Canadian soil during their 5-year interim.

Permanent Residents Face Longer Wait Periods
PR’s must wait 5 years before being eligible for Canadian Citizenship, despite having already bought a house, started a business, studied, or worked in a promising field in Canada.

Permanent Residents Need to Pass the Canadian Citizenship Test
A PR could potentially fulfill all the requirements for their Canadian Citizenship and still be denied. This is because PR’s need to pass the Canadian Citizenship Test (CCT) to be deemed a true Canadian Citizen.

The Canadian Government Has Approved Bill C6 
On June 19, 2017, the Canadian government passed Bill C6. Effective as of Sept 21, 2017, this benefits PR’s by reducing the “4-out-of-6 rule” to the “3-out-of-5” rule, vastly accelerating the citizenship acquisition process!

Get Accustomed With New Regulations 
Ongoing, PR’s can benefit greatly by studying the Canadian Citizenship process or hiring an Immigration lawyer who is familiar with the recent changes in Immigration Law.

Here are 13 facts about Canadian citizenship that you might find interesting and helpful:

  1. Bill C6 can help you receive your Canadian permanent citizenship at a faster rate.
  2. Once you obtain your permanent residence status it can never expire.
  3. Committing a crime that lands you in jail for longer than 2 years can result in deportation and the revocation of your Canadian permanent citizenship.
  4. While your permanent citizenship cannot expire, your permanent resident card can. This documentation must be renewed every 5 years.
  5. The first mention of Canadian Citizenship Act in legislation was in the 1910 Immigration Act.
  6. Canada’s Citizenship Act became law on January 1, 1947.
  7. Most Canada’s immigrants come from Asia and the Pacific. These groups contribute considerably to the “family and work category” pertaining to the Canadian Visa. 
  8. The sooner a PR takes the CCT, the more likely they are to pass it.
  9. If you fail the CCT, you may be allowed a retake depending on your criteria.
  10. Prior to the Canadian Citizenship Act, the legal status of those living in Canada since birth was “British subjects”.
  11. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was the first to be awarded a Canadian citizenship certificate.
  12. In 1958, Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker abolished revocation of citizenship for treason.
  13. Between 2003 and 2013, 1.9 million newcomers have become Canadian citizens.

Are you in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen? Are you ready for that final step? Contact your Immigration Lawyer today at

Thursday, October 05, 2017

CIC News - Important Changes to Canada’s Citizenship Act to Come Into Effect Next Week

From CIC News:

Permanent residents of Canada can enjoy a quicker, simpler citizenship naturalization process after key measures contained in Bill C-6, Changes to the Citizenship Act, come into effect next week on October 11.

Speaking in Brampton, Ontario on October 4, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, stated that changes have been “long awaited by permanent residents” who have “been eagerly awaiting these changes.” C-6 had been passed into law last June, but some of its most important provisions did not come into effect immediately. The government had stated that some elements of C-6 would come into effect in the fall (autumn).

“We want all permanent residents in Canada to become citizens. That’s our wish, because we value Canadian citizenship, we understand we are a community that continues to welcome people from all over the world. And we understand the importance and the positive role that immigrants play in our economy, in our society, and in our cultural life,” Minister Hussen said.

Read all the good news here

Friday, September 15, 2017

I passed the citizenship test!

Hi, dear readers. I wanted to let you know that I passed the citizenship test with flying colours - 100%! I guess those years of studying made a difference. For those of you who have this event coming up, I wanted to demystify things a bit for you, since I've now been there myself.

When I got to the office for the test, the clerk checked my appointment form to be sure I was there on my scheduled day, then he handed me what is essentially a verification form. On it, I had to inform the CIC if anything had changed since my application that would make me ineligible for citizenship. Once I filled out the form, I simply had to wait to be called for the test.

There were about 40 others in the waiting room for the test and after a short time, a man came out and announced that those of us with blue forms (the appointment form) should follow him to the exam room. We lined up and another person looked at the date on our forms and handed each of us a "scantron" card (it's a card used to mark answers for multiple choice tests). I entered the test room, which was like a small classroom and took a seat at a desk. They had provided a pencil for everyone.

The proctor then explained the test (multiple choice, 20-questions) and that you needed to get 15 questions right out of 20 to pass. He also put everyone at ease. If you don't pass the first time, they will schedule you for a second exam. If you don't pass the second time, they schedule you for an interview with a citizenship officer. Either way, there are multiple chances to make it through. 

Next, we filled out the test scantron with our name, application number and date and then the test booklet was handed out (there are multiple booklets and your test will not be the same test anyone around you is taking - that ensures no one cheats). The test lasts for 30-minutes, which is plenty of time to answer all the questions. While of course, I cannot share any questions, I can tell you that if you study the Discover Canada booklet, you will not have any problems passing.

After the test, it was back to the waiting room. After a while, my name was called by an immigration officer who took me into a back office to review my application. First she checked the original documents I had brought with me (see the previous post). Then, she asked me a couple of questions about my travels and my work, and then I signed my application in front of her, basically testifying that all the information I had provided was true and accurate. If you lie, and they find out later, your citizenship can be revoked. So - don't lie!

At the end of the interview, she told me I had passed! The next steps are a final review of my file, which she would conduct, and if all was well, she would sign off on it and I will get a letter (within one year, though she said it's typically only a few months) telling me when and where my citizenship ceremony will be held. At that point, I will take my oath in front of a citizenship judge and then...I'll be Canadian!

And that's it. So you see, there's nothing to worry about. It all just takes time and patience and preparation - like every step in this wonderful journey. 

If you've been down this road too, please share your story in the comments. 

I'm almost there, and it means so much to me!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Citizenship test!

Hi readers. I know, I know - it's been awhile. I've been busy writing books and doing all that authory-stuff and since there hasn't been a lot of personal news, I've neglected you. Sorry (add Canadian accent here).

But there is some news now and that is; next week I will sit for my citizenship exam! While the typical wait times for a citizenship application can run a year, mine has only been in process about 6-months. Because I was careful about submitting my documents and application, double and triple checking everything, it all went without a hitch.

Next week I will take the original documents that I sent certified copies of with my application, which includes two pieces of photo ID (my driver's license and health card), passports for the last six years, proof of language proficiency (a university diploma in my case), my landing document, and permanent residence card to the test site here in Toronto. There I will have the documents examined and answer questions about my application, as well as take a 20-question multiple choice test regarding Canadian history, culture, the political system and the responsibilities of citizenship. If all goes well, the final step will be my citizenship ceremony!

So if you can spare a thought or a prayer, please send one my way next week. I've been studying for this for years to be honest and I hope I do well on the test.

For those of you who have been along for this adventure, which has taken me from the US to Canada first as a family class immigrant; through the long, dark, painful wait of uncertainty, to permanent residence, a new life in Toronto and now the final step, citizenship - thank you for your support. I hope I have been able to inspire you to take a chance for a better life and consider joining me here in Canada.

I'll let you know how it all works out!