My boyfriend was not an ‘acceptable’ immigrant and couldn’t stay in Canada
I take a moment waiting for her to finish debating a course of action with one of her intimidating male colleagues – something about the contents in the carry-on bag of the person in front of me – to look back once more and see him wiping a tear from his red, puffy face.
Of course he would never want me to see this action, so he looked away and hid his face. We both know it’s over and this will be the last time we see each other, and it takes all my strength not to make a run for the doors and jump into his arms.
For a relationship lasting just under a year, we had gone through the most tumultuous and emotionally straining situations no couple should ever endure, especially at our age.
At 19, I never thought I would find myself falling in love with an Englishman and fighting a losing battle with my own government just to be with him.
The Introduction of Paul
The minute I met Paul, I knew there was something about him I just couldn’t ignore. He was a mysterious, hilarious and adorable Englishman who happened to be a fellow worker at Goodwill. It took months of flirtatious shifts until he finally asked me to watch the ‘oh-so-very’ romantic slasher flick “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” During the movie, he insisted I fell asleep (a great start to the first date). I, on the other hand, defended myself, insisting that watching with my eyes closed is just how I watch movies — I will never admit to him he was right.
At the two-month mark the arguments began. He started to pull away. Finally, one night it came out: “I have to leave in a few months, this will never work.” Apparently, he had made a personal promise to himself that he would never get involved with a girl while travelling.
I was his unfortunate exception.
Being naïve, I immediately retaliated saying, “Yes, you have to leave, but we have three months to make the best of it and be happy.” I am still not completely sure if I regret saying this or not.
In the end he stayed with me and we did make the best of the time we had together with the exception of our weekly fights – all to do with him leaving the country.
Life in Canada
Visiting Canada on a Working Holiday Visa, Paul worked at Goodwill, walking 20 minutes from Dalhousie each morning and night in order to stay in the country. Without a car, walking and taking the Calgary Transit C-Train were his cheapest modes of transportation.
He stayed in Calgary for the majority of his year-long trip, simply because I was there. He was even talking about putting his goals of moving to Australia aside, in order to move to Canada and take a chance on us. I will always love him for this sentiment of action.
However, the minute he tried to research how to actually stay in Canada, he knew it would not be an easy process and always the pessimist (some may say realist), deep down he knew it would never happen.
According to an article from Statistics Canada, in 2010 the number of immigrants to enter the country was recorded at 280,700 people — of which about 32,600 came to Alberta. This is an amazing amount of people accepted, but I have to question just how these people managed to qualify for citizenship.
Apparently to the Canadian government, you don’t need to prove you can actually live in Canada and integrate with our culture. Instead, to be able to move and live in Canada one must qualify under one of the “permanent resident categories,” such as skilled workers and professionals.
This means that unless you have proper training in a trade, there is no way our country wants you living here permanently: you are worthy of a year, but no longer.
Canada, known as a country flourishing in multiculturalism, may be following in Britain’s foot-steps. In February of 2011 British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke out against the British system of immigration saying “state multiculturalism” has failed as there appears to be more segregation between cultures in Britain than there is integration and acceptance.
If Canada continues accepting immigrants without measuring their ability to integrate, we too could end up with pockets of segregated groups intent on dismissing their new country’s culture, leading to prejudice, racism and discrimination.
According to a news article posted by immigration lawyer Michael Niren, titled “New bill would allow rejected Canadian visa applications an appeal,” “about 200,000 of the million Canadian visitor visas applied for every year are rejected, and these rejections make it difficult for people to have successful applications later on.”
In the same article, NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow was quoted saying, “Many of these rejected Canadian visa applications are because of ‘arbitrary decision making.’”
Paul’s current Working Holiday Visa was only valid for one year. On September 11, 2010 his time would be over and he would have to fly home to Leeds, England. Around August that year I began looking into extensions and alternative visas such as Temporary Resident Visas, or sponsorship programs.
I found myself on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website on numerous occasions looking for new possibilities, but unfortunately there were none for an unskilled 27-year-old willing to do anything and everything to live in Canada.
I always held on to the idea that a man who had a secure job, a house to live in, never got in trouble with the authorities and even had a Canadian girlfriend would have proved he could be a successfully integrated resident of Canada. His rejection made me question what the government considered appropriate immigrants.
Ultimately, to be accepted in Canada, one needs to pass a pointing system out of 100 points based on six areas:
Education (maximum 25 points)
Proficiency in English and/or French (maximum 24 points)
Experience (maximum 21 points)
Age (maximum 10 points)
Arranged employment in Canada (maximum 10 points)
Adaptability (maximum 10 points)
To pass one needs to have 67 points. Unfortunately, Paul’s score landed in the mid fifties. His proficiency, age, employment and adaptability were his strong points, while his weaknesses were in education and experience — two of the most pointed categories.
With basic education and a history of travelling and working miscellaneous jobs, Paul had no hope of getting into any of these worker visas, all of which required at least two years of full-time skilled work experience in Canada.
Upon reading and studying all the variable visa options I came to discover, unless you have an incredible study and work background, you don’t have a chance of becoming a Canadian citizen. The rules and regulations are extremely strict on immigrants.
Working for rejection
During this time I had always thought I was doing more research than Paul. Now I know I was wrong. The process of rejection began when Paul first spoke to two people at The Canadian High Commission, a government program which helps immigrants come to Canada.
According to one speaker, he could get a second year visa “no problem,” he simply had to get another Working Holiday Visa. However, when he investigated and went to The British Univer-sities North America Club (BUNAC), a non-profit work and travel website to help those wanting to travel and work abroad, he found that his Working Holiday Visa was a one-time option. So he called The Canadian High Commission again.
“The dicks whoever told me that info had it wrong,” Paul said.
In fact, he would actually have to apply for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO), which is a sponsorship from his employer saying Paul’s working position could not be replaced by a Canadian citizen, from Human Resources and Social Development Canada.
He immediately went to our Goodwill manager, but according to Paul, she never got to the LMO until after he had gone back to England, a month after his first request.
Paul kept himself busy. Writing The Canadian High Commission, as well as emailing and calling the Alberta United Kingdom Office, only led him to the same answers: you need an LMO.
Finally the response came in an email. As he eagerly clicked the mouse on the taunting bolded “re-,” subject title, his heart immediately fell. They had rejected his request. “They could easily find a Canadian swine,” as Paul said, to fill the position.
The Social Media Experience
After Paul left, we relied on social media to talk to each other like many long-distance couples. Sure there were phone calls, but the charges were definitely catching up with my tiny, student-sized wallet. Facebook and Skype were our saviors.
“I’m just scared they won’t let me come back… There’s gotta be a way. [I’ve] got some time off next week so [I’m] gonna get back on it applying,” he said in a message.
We would talk in messages where he would always tell me to “keep smilin’ babe.” And I would — until I turned off the computer.
The stress of the situation began catching up with me in every aspect of my life. I began falling behind in school. I would walk around with red, watery eyes, yelling and moping around; I was basically living in my bedroom, surfacing solely for food and school, making it so that living in a house with me was unbearable. According to my parents, my bad mood would follow me like a cloud, affecting everyone in the house.
Throughout this four-month period I found the greatest help and support through my own family. My mom, an immigrant from England herself, had been-there-done-that. She knew and understood the trials and tribulations of long distance (she and my father had been in a Canada-England long-distance relationship for three years), and had moved to Canada after their wedding when she was 21.
While our situations seemed similar, they couldn’t have been more different. My parents had a million doors open for them. Visiting throughout the three years was frequent. According to my dad, his dad (yes, my grandfather) was a navy official and after retirement, had a garden equipment business in Cambridge, Ont.
After landing a major contract for garden sheds for military housing in England, he was basically handed a manufacturing plant in Northern Ireland. However, the dangers of the IRA led the family to the Lake District in northern England.
With his business stationed in the United Kingdom, my dad received a specific stamp (permit), allowing him and his family to permanently enter and live in the United Kingdom whenever they pleased: Paul and I didn’t have that luxury. Without this visa, money, time, school and personal goals would keep us apart for at least two years.
By the end of it, we both knew and understood immigration wasn’t an option for us. Instead I would stay in Canada and finish the last two years of my degree, and Paul would follow his dreams and move to Australia – a country where he could easily obtain a visa, actually work in and hopefully be sponsored in until getting his citizenship after five years.
While to Paul, “it was a massive kick in the teeth when I got refused,” he gets why the government is so strict.
“They could use England as an example [of why immigration policies are important] but,” he continued, “If someone is willing to work and is a top citizen, then what’s the problem?”
We always said “what if,” and “if only,” but realistically there is no such optimistic thinking. In real life there are only laws and regulations that must be followed and respected.
The relationship between Paul and I didn’t last. I don’t want to blame it on anything, especially immigration, but in truth how can I deny that the strict laws on whom our government deems an acceptable citizen was the ultimate reason I lost someone I loved?
I would love to say never get into a long-distance relationship but my own existence proves that some relationships are fortunate enough to get through the barriers.