When I wrote my first installment of the Canada vs. USA blog series on Howlround, I was unsure that I’d ever feel permanent in Canada.
Just a few days before the second blog post published, on June 11th:
I became a permanent resident of Canada.
When I got the email confirmation, my co-workers who are born and raised Canadian didn’t understand why I wanted to jump up and down.
My family is excited, but also still asking the question: “So what does being a permanent resident mean?”
Great question. So here’s my answer.
Just the facts:
- I don’t have to be employed full-time in order to stay in Canada.
- I don’t have to be employed full-time in order to keep health care.
- I can apply for city, province, and country-wide grants to fund my professional writing and art projects.
- I can submit my plays in more contests and festivals in the communities where I live and make my art.
- I can leave Canada without fearing that I’ll be cut off from my communities and home here forever after.*
But for me, it means so much more.
- Feeling welcomed and stable in the communities I’ve lived in for the past 3, almost 4 years!
- The freedom to put down financial roots–approval to build more of the life I’ve already started here
- Guarantee that I can continue contributing to the Canadian theatre, film, and arts landscape
- The ability to apply and be considered equally for arts funding and opportunities
- The freedom to work where I want, because I’m no longer dependent on any one position to define my residency status**
Moving to Canada might not be the most adventurous leap of faith. Yes, they speak English here and it’s just across the border from the country where I was born and spent the first couple decades of my life.
But for me, it’s a huge threshold to cross. Most of us cross the threshold into adulthood when we move out of our parent’s houses, go to college, get our first “real world” job. I’ve done all of these things, but this more than anything else is the firebrand of my independence. I didn’t have to move here or struggle through the first few years of grad school and then artistic poverty/expat life.
Moving to Canada is something my past prepared me for, but I did on my own.
I was born in the States, but it does feel like Canada chose me.
And I fought to chose it.
I can’t vote and I am not a citizen yet, but celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary as a permanent resident is enough for me.
*I can’t just up and leave yet. Until I’m a citizen, I have to remain in the country for 2-3 out of the next 5 years to re-qualify for my permanent residency. But that’s a commitment I’m willing to make.
**Before you think this means I’m going to immediately do any of the above, let’s look at how much it took me to get here:
- Thousands of dollars– and this was without a lawyer
- English Language test– I studied at Oxford University AND went to graduate school in Canada, but I still had to spend $$$ and an entire Saturday to prove it.
- FBI fingerprinting– I officially don’t have a record!
- Full-time job for a year and a half–That’s how I earned the points in order to qualify to apply. My contributions to the community (like mentoring) don’t count.