I would normally refrain from posting something of this nature - as I find even the mildest expression of patriotism rather irrational (unless we're talking soccer; then I'm all "Olé Olé Brazil", etc) - but maybe this will help to clarify certain things, as the Internet keeps exploding in bullshit whenever people debate the current refugee crisis and immigration policies:
I became a Canadian citizen today. Yes, finally! Feels great. Many of you probably thought I was one already. Well, no. You know why? Because it's not easy. It takes time. A long time. AND a lot of money. No matter who you are, or where you come from, or who you marry or don't marry - even if you come into this country as a refugee: you pay. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait.
I was an International Student for a number of years. And then a Temporary (Worker) Resident for a couple of other years. And then a Permanent Resident (Landed Immigrant) for nearly 6 years. I applied for Citizenship on December 2012, and only now I was finally allowed to take my Oath of Citizenship.
Granted, my moving to the UK delayed the process, as one isn't allowed to apply for Citizenship from abroad; but, regardless: the backlog in applications is quite scary (just go to the Canadian Immigration website and have a look at the application processing times. Everything takes ages to get done; years - it's a tremendously complex system).
So, here's my point: shockingly, many people persist in thinking that it's relatively easy for one to just pack up, find himself a nice Canadian, get married, and voila: passport.
The reality couldn't be further from the truth. It takes time. And yes, as already mentioned: money.
The system was completely revised under the Conservatives. Fees were hiked and everything took much longer to get processed. The goal, of course, was to ultimately discourage people from moving to Canada - as simple as that. The passive-aggressive politics of fear at work.
So why bother coming into this country at all, you might ask?! "You didn't HAVE to move here", you may add. "If you don't like it, go home", you may reply - if you are, you know, mean.
Well, this is the 21st century. People move about for all sorts of reasons: work, love, health, survival...I assure you, nobody, not one living soul in the world, wakes up one morning and simply decides to leave his or her home-country on a whim. There's always a reason. A valid reason behind it all. A human reason often dictated by need. Real effin' need.
I love living in Canada. It's my home. People I love live here. The work I love to do is here. My child will be born here. I invested my time, effort and, yes, my money into the idea of becoming a citizen. And yes it was worth it, of course! Canada is a truly remarkable place to call Home.
Do I feel "proud", or do I think "omg I love Tim Horton's coffee" right now?
No. Citizenship wasn't magically bestowed upon me - as if it were a sweet gift from benevolent Gods that promptly re-wires one's whole brain. It is not a complete reboot of one's identity.
It is, above all, an exchange of mutual respect; a formal expression of commitment: and *both* parties have a lot to offer to each other.
Citizenship is never just handed to you. You have to earn it. I earned it. And it was about time. I was tired of having to prove myself; tired of filling out nonsensical forms, and having to deal with that Conservative-designed Citizenship Guide in preparation for the Test...
So, bottom line is: let's not be silly. Let's not say daft things about immigrants. I'm a relatively posh and privileged case; but imagine the torment these refugees are facing in their journey. Imagine the unthinkable trauma. Take a quick moment and just imagine that. Properly imagine that. Imagine how long it will take them to get to where I am now, as a full Citizen...
People have always wandered this Earth in search of a space to breathe. That's all.
People just want to be able to breathe.
Huge thanks to Rosie, the Stratford Festival Company Manager, who drove me to Kitchener and attended the ceremony as my guest (seriously, how cool is she? She drove me there! The Stratford Festival takes such great care of us actors!)
And, of course, massive thanks to Liz and her family, who've been such supportive, patient anchors in my Canuck journey.
But right now: gimme some proper Canadian bacon + Canadian Club whisky, on the rocks, please.