I love Canada. I’ve biked in Vancouver and strolled through Butchart Gardens. I’ve driven around Nova Scotia and up to Prince Edwards Island. I even studied one summer at Université Lavalle. We were two Midwest high school girls whose young chaperone ran off the second day. Suddenly unsupervised, we promptly cashed in our lunch stipend and used the money to visit bars amenable to underage drinkers where we hung with the local boys. A great way to learn colloquial French.
But I digress.
I’ve thought about living in Canada. Where would I head? The bustling province of Ontario, which holds nearly forty percent of the nation’s population? The fast-growing west? Somewhere in between? It’s a big country. Surely there’d be room for me.
My comfort level with the United States has been dropping precipitously. Even before the presidential election unleashed an undercurrent of ugly and entitled resentment, I considered an exit strategy. Blame the lack of gun control. How can anyone trust a nation so cavalier about mass shootings? Where regulations are loosening in all but seven states? Where the NRA releases thinly veiled calls to violence with every new ad? Where I can’t go into a Starbucks without worrying about getting caught in the cross-fire generated by misunderstanding or long-standing grievances?
Canada, with its open spaces, clean air, hot young leader and atmosphere of tolerance, beckoned. Cold, sure, but that’s what parkas are for. I wanted Canada. But did Canada want me, a semi-retired writer with hope in her heart?
The most common way to gain permanent residency is via Express Entry. In 2015, the Canadian government instituted the program to seek out skilled workers, entrepreneurs or investors. Six factors determine eligibility: education, language, employment experience, age, arranged employment, adaptability. One’s eligibility is calculated on a points system per an initial evaluation offered on the government website. If you reach 67 out of 100 points, you may be a candidate for immigration. No guarantees.
I felt cautiously optimistic. I had no job waiting and let’s face it, age will never again work in my favor. Yet I have several things going for me. I speak excellent English and passable French. This is point-worthy, non? An advanced degree? Mais oui. And I am nothing if not adaptable.
But as I continued to wade through the evaluation, my spirits sank. Employment experience means work history relevant to future employment, something I can’t predict. Would I be willing to invest millions, launch a startup, buy and manage a farm. Sadly, no. I couldn’t even point to family in Canada. No one waited to welcome me with open arms, save a couple of friends.
I saw the handwriting on the wall. Don’t apply. Tu n’es pas éligible.
Undaunted, I found the name of an apparently reputable law firm online, one of literally hundreds that offer free or inexpensive consultations for would-be immigrants. I caught the attorneys during a busy time. Unsurprising, given how appealing Canada looks to the rest of the world right about now.
Over three days, three attorneys were able to give me between one and four minutes apiece. Briskly, politely, or regrettably, they told me my age and lack of ties to Canada counted against me. Just what a gal needs to hear.
The third offered a thin lifeline. I could try to fill out something called a Generic Application as a self-employed person. Again, no guarantees, of course.
Nevertheless, I felt buoyed. Yes, my income is negligible and my royalties paltry, but I have listed myself on my U.S. tax forms as a writer for more than a decade. I have two published books and countless published essays to show for it. Je suis écrivain!
Have I participated in world-class cultural events, asks the application form? I’ve spoken at Harvard and signed books at Princeton. These are world-class universities. Tell me this counts.
Never mind: I’ll fill out the form and send in the fifty dollars. Meanwhile, though, I am compelled to search out other creative, original, and unique ways to convince Canada I can contribute to its culture. For instance, I could:
- set my new novel in Canada
- hire a Canadian editor
- write for a local paper
- write a new verse to the national anthem (although it’s fine, really)
- write about moving to Canada
- write a reality show in which a sophisticated older American woman selects from among a group of eligible Canadian men vying for her hand in marriage.
O Canada, I pledge my love and allegiance. Please let me in.