An open letter to Justin Trudeau

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

I have a bone to pick with you, obviously, why else would I be writing an open letter to you? But before we get into all that, let me firstly introduce myself. My name is Rachel Keogh, 30 years old, living in Toronto with my boyfriend, Phil, and my fur baby (some people insist on calling her a cat) Ruby, and I come from Ireland (insert leprechaun joke here). Myself and Phil moved to Toronto 3 years ago, after we tried and failed to get permanent residency in Australia, but don’t take that personally, I mean Australia has summer all year round, who wouldn’t want to live there? But with the Australia plan failing pretty quickly, and us not wanting to move back to Ireland at that time on account of the country falling apart, we thought “where else will give us a Visa with relative ease?” “ah yes, those friendly Canadians will”. And three years later here we are and we’re permanent residents (take that Australia).

Now, while I love your country, with your friendly and polite people, and your funny accents (aboot, eh?), your quirky words (tooque) and strange ways of selling milk (in a bag?? I have so many questions about that) and your ridiculously cold winters that literally freeze your nose hairs, I do have one VERY big problem with Canada. And it’s an issue that I am sure many others will agree with. It’s an issue that keeps me up at night, tossing and turning, it’s the one thing that prevents me from falling totally in love with Canada and it’s the reason why so many of my friends at home in Ireland ask me”why the hell would you live in Canada?” I know you’re on tenterhooks now, Mr. Prime Minister, so I’ll tell you – it’s your country’s despicable policy on vacation days.

Yes, you heard, me vacation days. When I moved here I was full of hope and dreams, full of ideas that I would get a job, save money and spend my time off travelling around this amazing country. When I look back I think “ppffff what a foolish girl I was”. I’m embarrassed now when I remember how I was planning to use my 4 weeks of vacation time, what was I thinking? Why would I dream that such a progressive, forward thinking country would give its people decent vacation days?! You’ll have to forgive me, I was young and innocent, I didn’t realize that the Canadian government had come up with a plan to reduce its poplulation by working it’s people to death. But now I understand, I mean, how else are you going to kill off all the middle-aged people so they don’t add to the aging population?

You can imagine my absolute shock, when, in my first (and only) job as I sat down with HR to go through the usual boring HR policies and such, and the HR representative said “the legal minimum vacation days in Ontario is 10 days”, “but we give 11” she added, with a twinkle in her eye. 11 days???? Well let me write a letter to my parents to tell them that I have finally made it in life. 11 vacation days. I can’t, I don’t.. I don’t even like thinking about that day as it reduces me to a blubbering mess every time. I must admit that when I was made permanent in my job, I was bumped up to 15 days and that sir, has been the happiest day of my life to date. But really, there’s not a lot that Ireland can brag about, but in Ireland, the legal minimum annual leave that every worker is entitled to is 20 days. Yeah. I’ll just leave that there for you.

Mr. Trudeau, I know your care about your country, and it’s people, and I know that you want Canada, and Toronto specifically to remain a place that is attractive to immigrants. So, for the love of god, please give us more vacation days. Days that us immigrants can use to go home and visit our families, days that we can use to travel this stunningly beautiful country, days that we can use visiting your neighbors to the south and realizing how glad we are that we moved to Canada and not the U.S., days that we can use shovelling all that snow out of our gardens, days we can spend walking around the city saying “sorry” to everyone we bump into. And it’s not just us immigrants that would be thankful of the extra vacation time, I’m sure our Canadian colleagues would also appreciate some extra annual leave given that they are worked into the ground already.

Now, I appreciate you have far greater things weighing on your mind Justin, (can I call you Justin?) really, I do. But I thought this would actually be a good one for you, nice and easy, I mean, you increase the legal minimum annual vacation days and your supporters love you even more, and your opponents, well what can they do? They aren’t going to openly oppose Canadians getting some well earned time off are they?? Do it for us, for your country, for your people and for your buddy Leo Varadkar. And if you don’t do it, you’ll have to deal with a very angry Irish mammy when I keep telling her “I can’t come home this year ma, I don’t have enough vacation days”. And let me tell you, there is nothing scarier than an angry Irish mammy. Seriously, google it.

So i beg you, please give us more vacation days, I really don’t want to go back to Ireland but you’re not making it easy to stay.

Yours truly,

Rachel Keogh

Applying for PR in Canada: A How to Guide, Part 3

Last time I left off, it was February 2016 and I had just submitted my PR application on December 22nd and had heard nothing except for a ghost email on January 22nd. Now let me fill in the gaps between then and now.

It was mainly radio silence, a couple more ghost emails and then on May 18th, I got a letter (through my CIC account) advising that PR had been refused. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken. However, when I read the letter and read why it had been refused, I was outraged, not heartbroken. CIC said that I had indicated on my EE profile that I had a degree, but when they looked at my WES assessment, I only had a post grad, therefore, I should have never gotten the points for a degree and should not have received an ITA. I do have a degree which is why I was so outraged, also, my WES assessment clearly stated that I had a degree AND a post grad. I understand human error, but really, when it comes to immigration, they really need to be carefully when checking documents. I can also only presume by this error, that it means there is no second level of review, which is crazy to me. Anyway, after I calmed down, i submitted a Case Specific Enquiry (CSE), re-attached my WES assessment, reiterated that I have a degree and asked them to re open our PR application.

They are supposed to respond within 10  business days, and low and behold, on day 10, I get an automated response saying my email had been forwarded to the correct department. Then, they proceeded to do what they do best, ignore me. After about 4 weeks, I tried calling (1-888-242-2100) and the guy I spoke to told me that an application for reconsideration of the decision had been submitted for me a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, I know, would be nice if someone had dropped me and email to provide me with that update, but hey, it’s CIC. Then once again, I waited. After 10 long weeks since my PR was first refused, it was eventually re opened. No apologies, no acknowledgement of error on their part, it was just simply re-opened and once again I received a letter via my CIC account to let me know. That was on July 26th.

Then on August, I got the long-awaited “Ready for Visa” email. And once you’ve got that, then end is in sight!! Once you get that visa you have to send a copy of the bio data page of your passport (the page with your picture and info), along with two pictures of yourself – they give you a link to the photo specs in the email. One of these pictures must contain the following info on the back: your name and date of birth, the name of the photo studio who took the pictures, the studio’s complete address and the date the photo’s were taken.

You then send all that stuff by Xpresspost to Ottawa, along with a copy of the “ready for visa” email. You must also include another Xpresspost envelope in there which must be self-addressed so that they can return your Confirmation of PR (COPR). We mailed our stuff on August 22nd and received COPR in the mail on August 30th.

The COPR is valid until mid-December, so you have about 3 and a half months to activate your PR by leaving and landing in Canada (flagpoling). Most people enter the US and come straight back accross the border. We are going to Peru in October so we will just activate PR on our way back in. Apparently once you land in Canada as a PR, it takes about 56 days for your PR card to be mailed to you.

So the marks the end of my PR journey, thankfully. I’ve documented it in a 3 part blog and this is the final part. Hopefully others going through the PR process will find my blogs helpful and good luck to everyone, it may be a long and arduous process, but it’s worth it once you get that COPR 🙂

Are Canadians Boring?

Before I start I need to make a correction from my last post “Things that Infuriate Me”. I complained about Kim Kardashian’s “book” being the best-selling book shortly after being released – two things, I should have pointed out that the best-selling list I was referring to was in the US  and secondly I made an error by saying “the best-selling book” when it should have been “a best-selling book”. (Are you happy now Boca!). Also that best-selling list I was referring to came out only a couple of weeks after Kim’s book went on sale, in recent updates we’ve learned that the book was actually a flop, so there is hope for humanity and the art of reading yet!

11206077_1437762156526876_7716686353738912291_nSo onto the topic hand the age-old question “Are Canadians boring?”. This is a question I’ve come across a lot since I decided to move to Canada. Firstly when I told people I was going to Toronto, a surprising amount of people responded with “Oh right, aren’t the Canadians supposed to be awful boring though?” and since moving here, a few people have asked me if in fact the Canadians are as boring as we Irish seem to think. I also read an article a while ago about how boring Canadians are – and it was written by a Canadian. He wrote about theories that Canadian journalist Jeet Heer has for why Canadians are so boring. The first being that Canadians are almost purposely boring just to distinguish themselves from their noisy neighbours – the Americans (no offence to any Americans reading!) and that they actually work at being boring, it’s not inherent. The second theory was that the image of boringness actually is just another way of saying “white” – as in Canada is a white Anglo nation. Not sure I agree with that second theory at all given that Toronto is probably the most multi-cultural city in the world. And also Ireland is a white nation – and we are loads of fun! The first theory probably has some merit – not necessarily regarding boringness but regarding their society as a whole, I think they work pretty hard to make sure they are different to America. Myself and Phil are members of this Facebook page “Irish & New in Toronto” which as the name suggests is for Irish people who have just moved to Toronto and recently someone posted a question on it asking what’s the biggest difference between Toronto and home, or the thing we have found the hardest to get used to. This simple question generated hundreds of responses. Some were humerous saying things like you can’t get taytos here or the Canadians wouldn’t know a good chicken roll if it hit them across the head! But I noticed a common theme; a lot of people commented saying Canadians are boring or Canadians are no craic.

For anyone who is not Irish who is reading this, craic, pronounced “crack” is a meme-04huge part of Irish culture and no, it’s not the kind of crack that you are thinking of! It has nothing to do with drugs, craic merely means “fun”, “having a laugh” or “having a good time”. Irish people enjoy “having the craic” immensely, it’s all we care about really, going out and having a good time with your pals, that’s what life in Ireland is all about. And let’s be honest, most of this craic is experienced while we’re out drinking. If you’re in Ireland “Any craic?” or “What’s the craic?” are common greetings between us. There are different kinds of craic that you can have too. There’s “mad craic” – this would mean you had a particularly fun time, “great craic” – still a really good time “good craic” – it was a good time with a reasonable amount of fun and then there is the dreaded “no craic” – meaning it was boring and no fun and worse still “zero craic” – meaning it was really awful and then, the absolute worst of the worst “minus craic” – meaning it was truly the worst time you ever had and there was no fun to be had anywhere. If an Irish person ever tells you that you are “minus craic”, you’re in big trouble, that’s the worst insult you could EVER be given by an Irish person. But anyway, now that I’ve described what craic is, back to the question at hand. I said I sensed a theme with people commenting about Canadians being no craic so I decided it’s about time to blog about the question on everyone’s lips – Are Canadians boring?

Biggest-riot-in-canadian-historyFirstly, let me just put this out there, I think we can all agree that us Irish people measure how much craic someone is by how much they drink, and how much fun they are when they drink. So usually, when an Irish person says “ah, he’s no craic” it means “he doesn’t drink much so he’s boring”. So continuing with that line of thinking when Irish people say “ah sure are those Canadians not all boring?” they really mean “sure they don’t drink much over there in Canada so they must be boring auld fuckers”. We equate fun with alcohol, it’s just what we do and because Canadians are world-renowned for being friendly and polite rather than for partying, Irish people then tend to assume that no one in Canada is any fun and that all Canadians go just about their boring lives saying “sorry” to one another over and over again. Well I’m here to stand up for the Canadians and tell you that guess what? They aren’t boring! I know, I can hear you all gasping in shock, but stick with me for a bit!
It is true that here in Canada there is not as much emphasis on drinking as therecelebrate-canada-day-drunk-drinking-belligerent-sober-america-funny-ecard-In5 is at home, it’s not as big a part of their culture as it is in ours and if they saw how drunk young people in Ireland get every weekend, some of them might be shocked. Actually on my recent trip home to Ireland I realized how different the drinking culture really is. At home, on a night out, whether it be a club or a pub or a late bar that we were in, we aways got chatting to random strangers and having a laugh with them. In one club, at the end of the night myself and a friend (Emma) went around shaking people’s hands and thanking them for coming out for our birthday – just for the craic. It was hilarious, we got chatting to so many people and just had a good laugh. I’ve a feeling if we did that in Toronto people would think we had just escaped from some sort of institution. That doesn’t happen in Toronto, I don’t think random people just end up making new friends on a night out in the pub, it just doesn’t work like that here (probably because they aren’t as drunk as us on a night out!) After work drinks doesn’t seem to be much of a “thing” here and going out and getting off your face drunk really isn’t that popular either..but that’s probably not a bad thing! But they do go to the pub, they are big into brunches (with alcohol involved) and barbeques in the summer are really popular here and we all know barbeques usually mean spending more time drinking than actually eating the bbq food, well it’s the same here! Sometimes I think we Irish as a nation judge other people – and countries on their drinking capabilities – or lack thereof, and that’s not necessarily fair because you can have fun without alcohol (or so I’m told). Although Canadians’ lives don’t revolve around drink like ours do, believe it or not, you can still have fun with a Canadian person – dare I even say it, sometimes, you can even have some craic with them :O !!

60p7sblCanadians are more into doing “stuff” than we Irish are. They are always trying new things, going to some weird and wonderful festival, trying new foods and they are just very active in general. And I think we don’t understand that, so it scares us, the fact that they do other things that don’t necessarily involve alcohol is a new idea for some Irish people. Who knew you cold have fun without drinking eh?! Canadians have a different way of life here, in the summer, it’s all about escaping the city and spending weekends at the cottage, hiking, jet skiing, paddle boarding by day and having a few beers by camp fire at night. And winter is all about ice skating and snowboarding (or skiing), playing ice hockey and going to ice festivals and the like. So really, how can we call Canadians boring? Plus believe it or not I definitely know some Canadians who can drink their fair share of alcohol and are great craic too, so, maybe if you think Canadians are boring, you’re just hanging out with the wrong Canadians!

Until next time 🙂