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Citizenship

As a Canadian immigrant, it’s natural that you’ll want to hold on to your history and the culture of where you were born, and where you probably still have family. But when you move here, you’ll also want to fit in and feel at home in your new country. As Canada approaches its 150th birthday this year, it got me thinking about how Canadian I now feel and the things which have contributed to that.

The call of the loon

I arrived in Canada not long before the 2006 federal election. At that time I had no interest in, or understanding of, the Canadian political system – and of course wasn’t yet eligible to vote. Politics? Forget it! I was far too busy just navigating everyday life.

But one thing that did grab my attention was my local CBC radio morning show. From my earliest days here, the call of the loon that featured as part of their theme music, and the now familiar voice of the presenter, provided a sense of comfort and familiarity–of being “home.”

“Morning North,” “Up North” on the drive home, and “As It Happens” while I’m cooking dinner–all quickly became a part of my life here. I didn’t (and still don’t) have TV, so I relied a lot on the radio, gradually learning more about the local news scene and eventually the national picture.

Learning the lingo at Tim’s

Double double? Roll up the rim? Timbits? Despite now being owned by the American burger chain, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s is a Canadian institution and you’ll feel extra Canadian once you decipher the lingo at “Tim’s” as it’s known.

I have happy memories of “Everything bagels” with cream cheese during our many house hunting trips over here. Having just flown in from England, which is 5 hours ahead on time, we were always up ridiculously early at the beginning of Canadian holidays. Since those days, the Tim’s menu–along with the calorie count–has expanded. I don’t tend to stop in there now unless we’re on the road, but I still enjoy a Tim’s steeped tea now and again.

Tim Horton's coffee

O Canada & hockey bewilderment

Attending my first and *embarrassed cough* only hockey game as a brand new immigrant was certainly an experience. Hockey–never “ice hockey”–is THE sport in Canada, so my husband and I figured we should turn out to see our local team in action – the Sudbury Wolves. I had no clue what was happening and knew none of the rules. I remember being astounded by the random violence that broke out on the ice on a regular basis–and this from two “junior” teams. The most emotional moment was the singing of the Canadian anthem before the game. I think I cried a little. We’d made it–we were finally here.

Room to roam on crown land

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, less than 11% of Canadian land is privately owned. The rest is classed as “Crown land,” controlled by either federal or provincial government. Despite the name, crown land is yours to roam through as you please, although non residents will need a permit. Moving here from a country full of private/keep out signs where everything is owned, being able to hike across crown land was a revelation. This sense of freedom is something I felt from my very first visit here. Now I’m lucky enough to have a house that backs onto crown land, I can walk out of my front door and wander for hours where I want.

Wanapitei River,

Shoveling all that snow and a real white Christmas

After all this time, it’s very easy to get jaded about winter. But during our first winter here, we enthusiastically bought shovels at Canadian Tire and rushed outside with excitement after the first major snowfall to begin clearing! We even took pictures! And every Dec 25th was a guaranteed white Christmas! Well okay, not quite. I think we’ve had two green Christmases since I moved here. But our first proper white Christmas was magical. And even now, when there’s fresh snow on the trees and the sun is shining, I still get that Canadian winter wonderland feeling.

Joining in the summer fun with our “toys”

Canadians love to play in summer, and after the long hard winter, who can blame them? We’re talking boats, RVs, classic cars, the cottage/camp/cabin (depends where you live). We’ve been lucky enough to get a taste of this on road trips and camping trips with our Corvette and camper van, as well as the occasional cottage rental. It’s been very special to be able to share in the typical Canadian summer lifestyle.

Camping at Killarney Park in March 2010

Those are some of the experiences that helped me very quickly feel at home here as a new immigrant. The moment when I felt most Canadian? Without a doubt, my Canadian citizenship ceremony–an emotional and very proud occasion. These days more than ever, Canada feels like a good place to be, and hopefully many more newcomers will get to discover Canada for themselves in its 150th year.

Today’s the day… ten years since I first became a Canadian immigrant and permanent resident! So in honour of that momentous day, I thought I’d share some of the most memorable moments of my life in Canada to date.

Welcome to Canada!
I became a Canadian permanent resident in July 2005. My husband and I landed at Pearson airport and were amazed at how quickly all the formalities were dispensed with. The immigration officials were more interested in the fact that we were moving to Sudbury rather than anything else!

My first glimpse of Canadian wildlife
If only I’d had my camera with me… not long after we moved into our Canadian house we took a walk up the bank behind the house that leads to a rocky ridge. From there we watched transfixed as we saw a bear lumbering around  in the bush below. Then just when we thought the show was over, a pair of moose galloped by. On a smaller scale, here’s Charles the chipmunk, a constant visitor during our first Canadian summer.

Sir Charles

Sir Charles

Corvette fun
We’ve had some fantastic road trips in our Corvette and met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. But the moment that will always remain with me is seeing the look on my husband’s face when he took finally possession of his dream car in the winter of 2007. Yes, that’s right… winter…

1991 ZR-1 Corvette

My wedding!
My  husband and I were married in a gazebo overlooking Ramsey Lake in Sudbury. It had been a really wet September that year, but amazingly the sun came out to make it the perfect day. My Dad, bridesmaids, and I were driven to the park in a 1960s Chevy Impala, and our own classic car had to get in on the action too. Once we’d said “I do,” the nerves disappeared and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.

Wedding day in Bell Park

Camping in March!
2010 was the only year since I’ve been here that we’ve ever been able to camp so early. Killarney Provincial Park was taken by surprise too. The shower block wasn’t even open when we first arrived, but due to popular demand they opened it up earlier than normal.  Being able to enjoy breakfast by George Lake in complete peace and quiet was a magical experience and definitely one of my best camping memories.

George Lake, Killarney Park

George Lake, Killarney Park

 

Some Superior moments…

Introducing three generations of the Kelly family to camping at Lake Superior Park
At various times we’ve camped at Rabbit Blanket campground with my husband’s siblings, nieces, and his Mum.  Superior was my Mum-in-law’s first ever camping holiday and she was a bit apprehensive about the bears, so she was given the luxury berth in the camper van. It was really special to be able to share the Superior experience with them.

Swimming in Lake Superior for Thanksgiving…
When I returned to work after the Thanksgiving long weekend in 2011, people couldn’t believe I’d swum in Superior in October! It was a really warm fall that year following a very hot summer, so the water temperature really wasn’t too bad. The six-foot waves were an added bonus!

…and getting drenched on the Towab Trail
On one of our May camping trips to Superior, we hiked part of the Towab Trail as far as Burnt Rock Pool. We heard the thunder before we arrived there, but didn’t want to turn back. Burnt Rock Pool is a really picturesque spot on the Agawa River surrounded by towering cliffs. Sitting there on the rocks while the storm broke around us was an amazing experience. After that, it was a very long, wet walk back!

Becoming a Canadian citizen
Oh Canada! It was a really proud and emotional moment back in the summer of 2010 when my husband and I took the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Sudbury.  We’d had to wait for this for several months after passing the citizenship test; apparently the citizenship judges don’t like coming up north too often :)

Summer in the screen room
I posted recently about our wonderful new screen room. Let’s just say the novelty hasn’t yet worn off and I’ll be spending as much time as I can in there this summer. And it’s fairly safe to say that tonight I’ll be sitting in there, raising a glass to the last ten years–and to the next ten. Here’s hoping they’re even better!

Bug free!

Bug free!

 

If you’ve reached the point where you’re considering applying for Canadian citizenship, it’s important to know about some recent rule changes.

The most significant change concerns residency requirements. You now have to have been resident in Canada for four out of the six years before you apply–an increase from 3 years. Additionally, you have to be “physically present” for a minimum of 183 days per year of those 4 years.  So under the new rules, I’d have had to wait an extra year before applying (I became a Canadian citizen in 2010).

The language rules have become a lot stricter too. All applicants between the ages of 14-64 have to meet the English/French language requirements and pass the knowledge test. Previously the age range was 18-54. And use of interpreters is no longer allowed.

For full details of all the changes, go to http://bit.ly/1Cej8er. You can begin your citizenship application at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/citizenship/become.asp.

With great citizenship comes great responsibility (or something like that…). When I became a Canadian citizen a few years back, little did I imagine I’d be called upon to perform my civic duty quite so soon. But there I was just a few weeks ago sitting in court, awaiting my fate. I wasn’t the one on trial, but it certainly felt like it! I’d been summoned to appear as part of a jury panel selection process. The official summons makes clear that just because you’re told to show up doesn’t mean you’ll be picked and with 150 potential jurors in the courtroom, the odds had to be good that I’d escape – surely?

When I walked into the courtroom, I was asked to report to the desk at the front to sign in, then take a seat, or more aptly a pew. With such a reverential atmosphere in the beautiful ornate building, it really felt like sitting in church. Without any fanfare, two prison guards escorted the defendant to sit at the front of the court. “He definitely looks like a criminal,” I thought and immediately took myself to task for pre-judging – not a good quality in a potential juror. When everyone was settled, the judge made her appearance and events finally got going.

Names were drawn at random by the clerk of the court until a group of 12 people was assembled at the front of the court next to the judge and legal teams. Each potential juror was then asked to step forward and declare any reasons why they couldn’t serve on the jury. Amongst the many and varied “exit strategies,” we had financial hardship, (which for people whose employer won’t pay them during the trial is a very valid concern), child care issues, exams, pre-booked vacations, and numerous medical complaints from high blood pressure to hearing problems.

If someone was willing and able to serve, they then had to pass two more tests. First they had to look at the defendant, and he at them. Then they were assessed by both legal teams who could accept or reject (“challenge” in legal speak) the potential juror. No reasons are given for these “challenges” and the judge told us beforehand not to take anything personally.

This painfully slow process dragged on and on, with everyone counting down as another jury member was selected. We finally reached the full complement of 12, but then –as the judge had earlier informed us– two alternates had to be chosen. At this point my number was finally up and I had no choice but to make “the long walk” to the front of the court. I was “certified fit” by both legal teams – one of those rare times in life when I really wanted to be rejected!

After another alternate was chosen, we and the jury were ushered to a meeting room down the hallway. The heavy, dark furniture seemed very appropriate given the sense of gloom and depression that hung over the newly formed jury. We were at least provided with a washroom, water and soft drinks and given information about parking arrangements.

At this point I was fully expecting to have to sit through the whole trial. After a very long wait and the odd false start, we finally lined up in the corridor in the order we’d been picked and made our way back into the court room – the jury on one side and the alternates on the other. Then the judge came out with the completely unexpected statement that the alternates were no longer needed and we were free to go, so I made my escape into the sunshine.

Although I was very happy not to stay (it would have been a tough trial), I do recognize that we’re lucky in Canada to have the legal system that we do and that juries play a vital role in ensuring a fair trial. If I’m called up to attend another panel selection, I’ll  be there for sure, but I just hope it’s not too soon.

More information on jury panel selection in your province

Alberta
B.C.
Manitoba
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Quebec
Saskatchewan

In my New Year’s quest to be more efficient and organised (we’ll see how long that lasts!), I figured I should check the expiry dates on my Canadian and UK passports. My UK passport runs out this summer, so I figured now was a good time to sort out the renewal.

When my husband renewed his UK passport a few years back, he was able to send it to Ottawa. Now it has to go to the UK, but the actual application and fee payment is all done online, making the process quite a bit easier. You then need to mail photos, a signed declaration form, your current UK passport plus any other non-expired passports. For me, this meant sending in my Canadian passport which I felt very uncomfortable about. So I made sure I took copies of everything I was posting.

Canadian and UK passports

The required photo size for UK passports is ridiculously small – much smaller than the photos in Canadian passports. I had my photos taken at our local Canadian Superstore and the woman in the photo studio had quite a job cutting them to size. Thank goodness there was no requirement to have someone certify the photos; it would be difficult to fit on a signature. The photo in my Canadian passport has me looking like an escaped convict and the new ones aren’t much better. Plus it looks like my eyes aren’t open very wide, so I’m hoping this won’t lead to my application being rejected.

I checked at my local post office what would be the most secure method of sending the package as I didn’t want to take any chances with my precious Canadian passport. I was able to send it as registered mail for $20.00, so someone will have to sign for it when it arrives, plus I can track the delivery.

For more information on renewing a UK passport from overseas, go to https://www.gov.uk/overseas-passports.