Canadian Expatriates: The Expat Blog: February 2006

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An Invitation from Foreign Affairs Canada [-]

Canadian Expatriates, its contributors, and readers have been invited by Foreign Affairs Canada to participate in a series of eDiscussions. The current topic is “Showcasing Canadian Culture and Know-How Abroad”.

We are asked to consider the following questions:

  • What role does Canadian culture and know-how play in our foreign policy?

  • How might the government best promote Canadian talent and expertise in the world?

    The eDiscussion runs from April 4 to May 6, 2005. At its conclusion, a summary of the discussion will be sent to senior policy planners.

    The Expat admin team encourages its readers to join in the eDiscussion at the Canadian International Policy website.

    Posted by Admin

  • Call for Contributors [-]

    The administration team is currently searching for Canadian expatriates who would be interested in contributing to the Expat Blog. The subject matter is wide open, but must remain family friendly.

    If you are interested in joining our blogging team, please send an email our way!

    Thank you!

    Posted by Admin

    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Canada's Food Guide: Reloaded
    by Expat

    Last May, it was announced that Canada's Food Guide was to be revamped to reflect Canada's multicultural mosaic. When interviewed about the planned changes back in May, Mary Bush, the director-general of Health Canada's office of nutrition policy and promotion said, "Part of the challenge is to make the food guide relevant for Canadians. It's most relevant when it speaks your language, when it has foods that you consume." As an example of this relevance, Ms. Bush pointed to the addition of Tim Horton's to the food guide in 1992.

    Recently, an unnamed source at Health Canada contacted Canadian Expatriates with news that our suggestions of foods reflecting Canada's diversity were considered when making the new proposals for the revised food guide. The new guide is to prominently feature the full line of Tim Hortons' Timbits, in addition to poutine, Old Dutch chips, Coffee Crisp, and beaver tails. The unnamed official went on to say, "Finally, we have a guide to healthy eating that all Canadians can agree upon and follow."

    Not so says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, who calls the new proposal of the new food guide "obesogenic".

    "Should anybody who is of average height and size follow Canada's Food Guide, there is a very, very good chance it will lead to weight gain," Dr. Freedhoff said in an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal today.

    In defense of the new proposals, Ms. Bush responded that Health Canada has taken specific steps in the new guide to combat overeating. For example, the number of recommended servings has been reduced and have also been broken down into categories based on age and sex. Ms. Bush also noted that obesity is a global epidemic that extends beyond the recommendations of Canada's Food Guide and that "anyone who suggests that a food guide in a country like Canada is responsible for this global epidemic, I don't think has a grasp on what the issues are that are contributing to obesity."

    Besides, everyone knows that the calories don't count if you chew with your eyes closed.

    Mmmmm... Doughnuts!

    Friday, February 24, 2006

    Cross-Cultural Blues
    by Expat

    Last week's trip to the USCIS office has left me very reluctant to blog. On one hand, I know that it is cathartic to post about my experiences and frustrations with this entire immigration process, but on the other hand, I am afraid to see my thoughts written in black and white. As such, I have been completely absent from the internet.

    I have done a lot of soul searching over the past few days, wondering if I really want to spend the rest of my life in a country that seems to have such a disdain for immigrants. Wondering if I have it in me to continue to play this waiting game with the USCIS and continue to watch them bungle my case while those that I know spout toxic talk of how a fence would solve this country’s immigration woes. I finally decided to be honest with myself and with my husband, and realized that the answer is no. I just don’t have it in me to continue this struggle for the freedom to live my life.

    I watched the Olympics last night. The winter sports have provided me with a nice diversion to reality. I have been struck by how many Olympians change their citizenship at the last minute so that the can compete under a different flag. One story, however, stood out - that of Tugba Karademir. When she was 12 years old her family decided to move from her native Turkey to Barrie, Ontario so that she could realize her potential as a figure skater. In NBC's profile, they mentioned that her father had trouble with the move to Canada. Having to learn English, unable to find work, and being so far from his family and his country took an emotional toll on him. He recently moved back to Turkey while Tugba and her mother continue to live in Canada.

    The story of Tugba's father touched me. I recognize many of the issues that he has struggled with, despite the fact that my transition from Canada to the United States was easier in many respects. All in all, Canadian and American culture is not that different, the language is virtually the same. In all regards things should have been easier for me. Unfortunately, they weren't. It has been years now that I have been unable to work, unable to have a driver's license, uncomfortable when asked for my social security number at the doctor’s office, unable to go home to Canada. It has taken a toll on my identity and my very core. I no longer feel the part of the immigrant. I have become a prisoner - trapped in bureaucracy and depression.

    Last week's appointment at the immigration office destroyed what little hope that I had left of a return to a "normal" life. It also solidified much of what I had been feeling up to this point. It has not been easy to move from a country that I love, leave behind family and friends, miss the funerals and weddings of those that I love, and to have to start over at square one and rebuild my life. My husband has been ever the optimist with all of this, believing that our appointment last week would wield some change. Unfortunately, it did little other than expose how flawed this system really is and prove that there is no end in sight to my immigration limbo.

    After much discussion, we have decided to tie up our loose ends on this side of the border and plan a move to Canada. From what I understand, Canada's immigration system runs a little more smoothly than that of the United States. As positive as my husband has become about this possible move, I worry and wonder what penalties I will face as a result of abandoning my case with the USCIS. I suppose that a call to our immigration lawyer will reveal the answer to that question. It is horrible to realize that we are to be constantly plagued by immigration worries and missing the homeland on either side of the border. No matter where we live, someone will have to play the role of the immigrant.

    Sorry folks, but I am turning off the comments to this post. I am far too frustrated with this entire situation to discuss it any further. With any luck, things will get sorted out before my patience runs out. Keep your fingers crossed. ;)

    Posted by Expat at 5:24 AM

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    Canada vs Sweden
    by Expat

    Good luck 'Nuks!


    NBC is covering Tanith Belbin's immigration rather than the game!

    I am stuck refreshing CBC's Live Hockey Blog for the play by play.

    I guess that since the Yanks aren't in it, NBC doesn't care.

    by Expat

    My apologies for having been absent over the course of the last few days.

    I had an appointment with USCIS last week and have not been in the proper state of mind to make a family friendly post regarding the situation. Once I have a chance to collect my thoughts, I will definitely post my observations, particularly as there are so many immigrants in this country who face the same level of disrespect and incompetency as I have but do not have the English language skills to stand up to the abuse.

    Also, for those who believe that immigration reform entails building a fence, spend a day at your area's USCIS office. The problem is not with the immigrants, so much as it is with the bureaucrats who are in charge of the bungling processing.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Rules of Engagement
    by Expat

    The Official Rules of Engagement for Tim Hortons

    The following has been circulating on the internet in an effort to make the Canada a better place to live.

    1. When you enter a Tim Hortons and see a line to one side of the restaurant that DOES NOT mean that you can start another line on the other side.

    Penalty: Too many lines. People guilty of this infraction must buy coffee for everyone in the original line.

    2. If you cannot see the doughnut you want available in the display you CANNOT ask for it since the server will then go into the back and eventually return to tell you that - guess what - they don't have it!

    Penalty: Delay of game. People guilty of this infraction must return to the end of the line.

    3. The drive-through is for ordering coffee and doughnuts ONLY. If you need to order a sandwich or soup get out of your car and go inside you lazy slob! It take too long and they'll probably get your order wrong anyway, so save some greenhouse emissions and remember - NO ORDERING FOOD IN THE DRIVE-THROUGH!

    Penalty: Over ordering. People guilty of this infraction will have their tires deflated on the spot.

    4. Cleaning the hot chocolate and flavoured coffee machines is FORBIDDEN during times of the day where there are actually customers in the store. What kind of business takes a product off-line in the middle of the day!?

    Penalty: Unnecessary cleanliness. Staff guilty of this infraction will be forced to eat hot, spicy food, then placed in restraints just out of reach of a nice cool glass of water for an hour.

    5. Placing the lids on the "to-go" cups so that the drink opening lines up with the crease in the cup is a crime against humanity since it has the same effect as gag dribble cups. Plus, exactly how hard is it to miss that crease when placing the lid on anyway? Yet it seems to happen more than 50% of the time.

    Penalty: Illegal lid on the crease. Staff guilty of this must floss with barbed wire for a week.

    6. Franchise owners who open up a store with a drive-through that can't handle at least 10 cars in line are a traffic menace. Caffeine addiction is a scary thing that will cause people to stop dead on busy streets just to keep a position in line at the drive-through.

    Penalty: Interference. Owners guilty of this infraction will be forced to order their meals via the empty Wendy's drive-through next door for a month.

    7. Going on a coffee run to Tim's for five or more people is a non-starter. First, you'll never remember what everyone ordered correctly. Second, you don't have a hope in hell of carrying that stuff back to your car. Finally, it will take too long!!! That nice person behind you in line was under the impression that you were just going to order coffee and go. BUT NO, you have to take 5-10 minutes of our lives while you botch the order and then juggle the cups back to your vehicle. Get some backbone - force others to come with you. No more than two orders per person thank you!

    Penalty: Over two minutes warning. People guilty of this infraction will be forced to drink ALL the coffee they have ordered and eat ALL the food. Doing this same infraction through the drive-through = public flogging.

    8. During Roll-Up-The-Rim-To-Win time all cups left unattended and unrolled for more than one minute are free game to anyone else. Since we know all the really good prizes are meant for people in Ontario we've only got a limited shot at anything decent so watch your cups!

    Penalty: Ineligible roller. People guilty of this infraction must forfeit any prizes won past or present to the new roller.

    9. Staff who fail to recognize that you are a creature of habit and order the same thing everyday for a year at the same Tim Hortons and still meet you with blank stares and an indifferent "What can I get you?" are inflicting an inhumane mental torture. Isn't that what the commercials are all about? Where are the smiles and a hearty "The usual, Bob?"

    Penalty: Incomplete recognition. Staff guilty of this infraction must be subjected to proof of identity and a strip search every time they try to pick up their paycheck.

    10. Showing up at your son / daughter's hockey game with a coffee from another outlet other than Tim Hortons is VERBOTEN! What are you - some kind of trouble maker? Don't you know the way we do things around here?

    Penalty: Illegal coffee. People guilty of this infraction must clean the ice with their tongues between periods.

    Hopefully if all of Canada buys into these rules we'll have a safer, more productive society.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Happy Valentine's Day!
    by Expat

    Enjoy the day...

    In whatever way you choose to spend it!

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Faster, Higher, Stronger
    by Expat

    Unless, you are the Canadian women's hockey team. In that case, performing your best will earn you some angry emails as a reward.

    Melody Davidson, coach of the Canuck women's hockey team, received the emails on Sunday after the Canadian women slaughtered the Italians in a 16-0 victory. Many of the emails accused Canada of "running up the score against the hopelessly mis-matched Italians".

    When speaking about the emails, Coach Davidson said, "These girls have worked hard to be here and we would take things away from our team and our opponents and everybody involved if we didn't compete as hard as we could and if we didn't do everything we could to put us where we want to be." Canada then went on to thrash Russia 12-0.

    With two huge wins under their belt, it has become clear that Team Canada has an unfair advantage on the ice. Canadian Expatriates contacted whistleblower and internet troll Buke Lacktavose to examine this advantage. When asked for comment, Lacktavose responded, "The way you ran up the score against Italy was simply disgusting. I will never buy Hamburger Helper again!". He then went on to say, "That Hamburger Helper must help out alot!!!"

    Beneath the anger, beneath the rage, it is obvious that Lacktavose places the blame for Italy and Germany's embarrassing losses directly upon the only natural ingredient in a prepared dish of Hamburger Helper - the beef. Of course, being in Canada, it is Canadian beef that is to blame. For years now, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia and other countries have tried to sway Canada away from this unfair advantage by way of scare tactics. To the Canadian government's credit, Canada did not give in to the mass hysteria and now the other nations are paying for it on the ice.

    When contacted for comment, the International Olympic Committee declined to release an official statement on the matter. However, a high ranking official did say off-the-record that the IOC is currently looking into this scandal and is considering adding Canadian beef to its list of banned anabolic agents.

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Sixty Minute Power Play
    by Expat

    Anybody watching the Canuck women slaughter the Italians on the rink?

    CBC's Live Hockey Blog about sums it up:

    How ugly is this going to get? It's the question on everyone's mind. The Canadian team is a powerhouse. The defending Olympic champions are expected to breeze through the preliminary round en route to a likely championship match with the Americans.

    Italy is, well, how can we say this politely? The Italians are only in the tournament as hosts. To say they aren't expected to contend for a medal is a gross understatement.

    Again, how ugly is this going to get?

    It is only a few minutes in, and it is already pretty dang ugly.

    PS. How awesome is Hayley Wickenheiser?
    The Yank once sat beside her on a plane and called me when he landed just to brag!

    Oh Dear...
    by Expat

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    On Notice
    by Expat

    Jon D. Markman of CNBC and MSN Money consider yourself on notice.1

    We Canucks have stumbled upon your evil plan to invade Alberta and we are setting down our Timbits and Double Doubles just long enough to kick your butt.2

    In fact, Prime Minister Harper has already diverted five patrols of armed snowmobiling soldiers to defend the 49th from your invading forces in a sovereignty campaign that has been cleverly codenamed "Operation Nunalivut". While your troops are setting down their arms and picking up their Inuktitut to English dictionaries, we plan to have Gwyneth Paltrow hurl insults your way, thus decreasing troop morale. Just when you think that it can't get any worse, we will bring in our big gun - newspaper carrier Danny Atkinson. Snowball after snowball will be hurtled towards you and your troops until you retreat in tears from the bitter cold. You had better hope that you can run fast, Mr. Markman, because we Canucks begin our training in the martial art of the "face wash" at a very early age.

    As we are a peaceful nation, the second battle of Operation Nunalivut will not take place in the True North Strong and Free. For years now, the Canadian government has been fostering sleeper cells of its Expat Militia within the United States. These brave troops have sacrificed their cultural identity and their ketchup chips in order to work and live among Americans. Apart from the rare slip of an "eh" or an "aboot", these stealth Canadians have managed to hide their heritage and be completely accepted by the American masses. Beware that these troops have been acquiring vast quantities of maple syrup since they were given the green light on Operation Annexation months ago. In fact, some of our forces have already infiltrated your government, Mr.Markman, and have already made their way up to being 888th in line for succession to the presidency of your nation.

    Oh yes, Mr. Markman, you are on notice.

    1 My apologies to Stephen Colbert and his "truthiness".
    2 In the figurative sense. We are Canadian, after all.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    It's coming....
    by Expat

    We don't even need the lucky loonie this time!

    Trouble seeing the video?
    Then it is time to upgrade to a more reliable and secure browser. However, if you are still hooked on the IE crack and hesitant to make the switch, you can see the video here. Just remember that the entire internet is pointing its finger in reproach.

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Three Wishes
    by Expat

    A guy from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec are all stranded in the desert. Miraculously they stumble upon a magical lamp and a genie appears from it. He explains to the three of them that he will send them all back home on the condition that they each make one wish first. The guy from Saskatchewan agrees to go first. He explains to the genie about how the lack of rain is making the soil unfertile in his province, and with that he is sent back to his home to find the most fertile soil he could ever imagine.

    Then the guy from Quebec steps up. He tells the genie that Quebec is losing it's heritage and unique culture. He says that he wants a bubble put over the entire province so that no one can get in, and no one can get out. In a flash, he is sent back to his home in Quebec and sees that there is in fact a large bubble covering the entire province.

    The last of the three, the Albertan, is standing there laughing. The genie looks at him and asks what is so funny.

    Still laughing, the Albertan looks up and says, "You know that bubble you just put over Quebec? Fill it with water."

    -- Author unknown.

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    by Expat

    Some stories just demand illustration - even retroactively.

    Former Liberal David Emerson Defects to Tories

    by Expat

    Looking at the projected wait times on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website, reality hit us. It did not matter what deadlines were promised to us by our lawyer, it was likely going to be an additional year and a half before my paperwork was processed. As we clicked on the links to see the estimated wait times for other locations, it became clear that it was a matter of geography that was holding up our lives. Had we filed my paperwork anywhere else in the country, it would have already been processed and our lives would have returned to normal long ago. I felt even further insulted by the knowledge that had I been born with grace and a set of skates, the President would have taken a break from his New Year's Eve festivities to address my case.

    "You know, we should really consider moving to Alberta," I told the Yank. "It could be considered US North. The ideology there lines up pretty closely with your own. In fact, you would quite likely be facing less of a culture shock there than I have faced here."

    "If you want to apply for some jobs on my behalf, go ahead."

    I grinned at having been given the green light.

    "Besides," I continued with my sales pitch, "it will require a plane flight for your family to visit us no matter where we reside and we could probably find an employer who is willing to sponsor you."

    I looked at my husband. He had a distant look in his eye. I wondered if he was pondering the thought of moving to Canada with the same degree of gravity with which I had considered my move to the US. I wondered if he felt the same undying sense of loyalty to his country as I felt to mine when I last crossed the border.

    He finally opened his mouth to speak, "Just think of how nice it will be to swing past Tim Hortons on the way in to work!"

    My heart burst with pride. This man knew exactly how to set his priorities.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Ante Up
    by Expat

    Ahhhh... The Olympics!

    Barring the trauma of 2004's Stanley Cup, nothing can create quite as much animosity between a cross-cultural couple as the Olympic Games - rooting for one's country, taunting each other with each win, and placing outlandish bets. What bliss!

    Whether you are looking to get out of doing the dishes for the rest of February or deciding who will buy the beer and pizza for the hockey finals, it is considered safe to place your bets on speed skating, freestyle skiing, hockey, curling, bobsled, skeleton, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. If you are looking to make some safe wagers on who will win, place, or show, this article may be of some assistance. CBC's Olympic website also provides biographies of all of Canada's 2006 Olympians. After all, it is best to do a bit of research before betting the farm!

    Speaking of betting, below are some suggested stakes1 for the Winter Olympic Games:

    It's only eight days and counting until marital bliss is totally compromised in favour of national allegiance baby gets a new pair of shoes!

    Liability Disclaimer:
    In no way, shape, or form does Canadian Expatriates support gambling. This website and its contributors accept no responsibility or liability for any losses that may be incurred by using the information provided within this site. All wagers are created at your own risk. Furthermore, it is your responsibility to satisfy yourself that the individuals that you are betting against will honour their word and carry out the terms of the bet. If you gamble trash day duty and lose, please do not contact us to take out the trash on your behalf. We will not do it. Heck, who are we kidding? We would help you move for a case of beer and a pizza.

    1 All of the suggested stakes assume that Canada will win. Any other possibility is beyond the scope of our imagination and will not even be considered. However, if our American friends would like to suggest some stakes for the resident Yank, we may pass those along to him.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    CanAm Relations
    by Expat

    "When you first met me, what was the biggest thing that you noticed culture-wise?"

    It was 8am on a Sunday and my husband was putting me on the spot.

    I turned the heat up on the eggs that I was cooking and drew a deep breath, hoping that his mind would wonder and forget about the question at hand.

    "You can answer. I promise I won't get mad."

    I laughed. It seemed that he was expecting the worst.

    "Well," I began, "This is not just directed towards you, but I was surprised at how little Americans know about things outside of their own country."

    I then went on a tirade about the school systems here in the US and the state of the media. Eventually I looked up and saw the blank stare in my husband's eyes.

    "I was expecting it to be something simple," he said. "I was going to say that I noticed you saying 'bacon and eggs' instead of 'breakfast'. I thought that was something unique to you until we went to Smitty's and it was written on the menu."

    Suddenly the eggs in my pan were on my face.

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