Canada: Who Am I?

I don’t plan to post many of my thoughts on moving to Canada. They’ll come off as either twee or complaints without sufficient context at this point. Like most newcomers, it’s hard to explain the excitement that is inevitable in even the smallest comparisons and it’s hard to express to those who aren’t experiencing it. I’ll leave it at saying that the differences between the U.S. and Canada are surprising and under the surface. The most interesting part of returning to Canada has been creating an identity.

I would give identity thieves some credit, except that they’re stealing ready-made identities.  On my return, and with my mixed citizenship family, I’ve been surprised at the number of documents that one takes for granted that have to be created from scratch – and a position of having to prove that one is who one is – in a very short span of time when moving to a new country (even if it’s your own!).

It starts with your social insurance number (social security number in the U.S.) which you get soon after you’re born.  I didn’t get one because they didn’t issue them as a matter of course when I was a kid and by the time they required them, I’d left Canada.  Five SIN, coming up!  Then comes your provincial health insurance, which establishes your right to get health care.  Then bank accounts, credit cards, drivers licenses, license plates, library cards, etc.  Nothing particularly unusual, but what struck me is how, in order to function as an immigrant, you have to acquire in a matter of 1 or 2 months all of the documentation that the citizen has acquired incrementally through life.  Many Canadians and Americans probably acquired their documents prior to the quite significant changes in national security documentation in 2001-2002 and after, and in Canada with the Privacy Act and its aftermath.

I’m sure it’s been easier for us than for many new arrivals – in any country – since nearly everyone in my family is dual-citizenship, with Canada being one of the citizenships!  I’m sure that immigrants to any country face a lot of challenges finding out what documentation they need to function in their new home.

I know that, after 6 months in Canada and with all of the logistics that take time once you get to a new country – and which can’t be done before you arrive in the new country – behind us, life will be as ordinary as it is for any long time resident.  I’ll soon lose the perspective – if not the memory – of the returning settler/immigrant navigating government and social bureaucracies!

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