Sunday, October 9, 2011

I am Canadian!

On September 29 I attended a ceremony at Beban Park Social Centre in Nanaimo to be sworn in, alongside 61 others (from 23 nations), as a Canadian citizen. I'd have blogged about it before now but have been drunk out of my mind in celebration pretty much since that day. Well, that's not quite true, but I have without a doubt been flying high.

It feels good to have committed to this. I love living in Canada and foresee that I will remain here the rest of my days, so it felt like the the thing to do. Most important of all, I wanted the right to vote, which understandably is only granted to citizens. With Permanent Resident status I could have remained in Canada for the rest of my life, but could not vote or apply for a passport. It's been frustrating seeing Federal, Provincial, Municipal and mayoral elections come and go (as well as a tax referendum), but not have a voice. Now I have one, I will use it, starting with a Municipal election in November.

Canada is not the land of milk and honey - where is? - but it is a great country to live in. As I can personally attest, it's a place of opportunity, and a country where ideas are listened to and encouraged. There's a high level of civility here; the people are warm and friendly and, certainly where we live, there is a tangible sense of community. I like this a lot. There is also an obvious emphasis on family values, so a greater respect for their elders from youngsters.  By and large, teenagers here are very cool kids free of any bad attitude. I also like this a lot. 

You don't need me to tell you that from a natural perspective, Canada is simply spectacular. I live next to a mountain and see towering, snow-capped peaks every day. Here on Vancouver Island we have magnificent forests, beautiful lakes, stunning valleys and peaks and head-spinning wildlife. I see Anna's Hummingbirds every single day of my life, bald eagles as a matter of routine. None of this will ever be lost on me. Yes, we love it here.

The ceremony day itself was very emotional. From submitting the application to taking the oath took twenty months, so there was a big build-up. But once it was over, I felt elated. Susan was beaming with pride and her parents and aunty, also in attendance, were thrilled for me. I was clad in my best bib and tucker - a rare occurrence for a scruffbag like me - and felt as proud as punch to 'become' Canadian. I was given the option of taking a holy book to swear upon, but not being a man of faith, declined. I did seriously consider Nick Cave's The Death of Bunny Munro for a time, but wasn't sure that would go down too well. Especially as the author is Australian. 

After the ceremony we zoomed off to the Discovery Room, the restaurant for Vancouver Island University's Culinary Program. Here, budding chefs test their skills on willing members of the public, who pay next to nothing considering the high quality of cuisine. This lunch was a treat from Susan's Aunty May, and quite awesome. We sat looking out at the astonishing view of the Coast Range mountains running along the horizon, with Mt. Baker in Washington - over 100 miles from where we were sat - as clear as day and twice as impressive. None of us could do anything but smile, high on the air of celebration and family unity. It's the happiest I've felt in forever, the day feeling like a launchpad to the next phase of our life here.

During the meal, Susan suddenly said: "If I may have a moment, I have a presentation to make," then handed me a gift-wrapped package she seemingly produced from out of nowhere. I opened it up, and welled up at its contents as she beamed back at me.

"I've had this for over two years," Susan said, "and been dying to give it to you! I'm so happy this day has finally come!" There I am above, wearing my fabulous gift! My friends here are also delighted at my newfound Canadian-ness, and have festooned me with gifts and cards. The fabulous Photoshopped image at the top came to me in card form from our friends Jon and Jenny, along with a t-shirt bearing a maple leaf and the legend The Eh Team. Dave and Carla gave me a flashing Canadian flag pin and another specially made shirt with Recently Canadian: Established 2011 on the chest. Steve and Lynn gave me a handmade card that reads: You Can't Spell Canada Loves You Without Dave.

I've been deeply moved by all of this kindness and love and feel like the luckiest man alive to have been granted this new beginning, aged 50. I'm not going to waste it, either.