After a long and winding road, a hoser is born

It’s the night before the biggest exam of my husband Richard’s life: the Canadian Citizenship Test.

He’s barely studied for it, but he’s lounging on the sofa, not looking worried — until I read him the fine print.

“It says here if you don’t pass this exam, you’ll need to convince a judge you’re Canadian enough, and that meeting will take place in 38 years.”

It took Citizenship and Immigration Canada so long to process his citizenship application, we joke about how we can’t remember when we submitted it. We’re pretty sure it was sometime in 2010. The whole process was like an Ivan Pavlov experiment in learned helplessness.

We received our first communication from CIC in April 2011. He needed to send his fingerprints to prove he wasn’t the sinister version of the person who shares his name.

Then, like an anniversary, every year afterwards we received a letter telling us he’d progressed through some aspect of the application process, after which, all would go quiet for another year. We had no control over the process, so slowly we gave up caring.

He’s one of the lucky ones. An American friend took the exam the week after he did, and still hasn’t heard about a ceremony date. Our South African neighbours passed the test a year ago and still haven’t heard. I bet the only reason they haven’t moved to the Turks and Caicos Islands permanently is because their children live here. If they left, it would be a loss to our community.

All this is about to change, apparently. The government has proposed changes to the Citizenship Act that will improve process times and make it more difficult to become a Canadian citizen. A person must now live in Canada three out of four years before submitting an application, and the government is aiming for less than three years for processing. If you apply now, adding at least a year for your permanent resident application (which comes first), you will be Canadian just in time to don red-and-white mittens in celebration of another Team Canada gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Yet, in the proposed changes, there is no mention how they will address inconsistencies like those mentioned, or like the letter he received for his citizenship ceremony telling him that it would take place in two weeks’ time, and if he needed to cancel he would need to give two months’ notice.

He called me the next morning after he’d taken the exam. “I passed!” he shouted down the phone.

While he might not know — as all Canadians do — the significance of 1774, what happened on the Plains of Abraham, or who played an important part in building the Canadian Pacific Railway, he does know what it means to be Métis, who our main political parties are, and what rights Canadians have.

These were facts he didn’t need to study because from the moment he arrived ten years ago, he started to take root.

He was proud the day he took the oath in front of the citizenship judge, along with 70 other new Canadians who represented 22 countries. I asked him why it meant so much to him and he said, “Because I’d feel like a tourist otherwise. This is home.”

We celebrated his official induction in true Canadian fashion: at the Brigantine Pub, with neighbours and friends dressed McKenzie Brothers-inspired plaid shirts and toques, dancing to a Canadian band, drinking Canadian beer, and carrying signs with warm welcome messages like, “Just what Canada needs: another Dick.”

Welcome to Canada, hoser.

Maeve Maguire is a technical writer who lives and works in Maple Bay and writes monthly in the News Leader Pictorial. Visit her blog www.cowichandale.com, or email her at maeve@describewriting.com.

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