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Canadian Immigrant Interview?
Citizenship and Immigration
“Crap!” MacNab swore as he finished reading the letter from Citizenship and Immigration. He looked up at the sound of his Boxer’s barking and was puzzled to see Sam was sitting at the back door, with tail stump wagging.
“I said ‘crap’, not ‘poop’ you daft dog. And when did you learn to translate English into canine? With that talent you could get a position in South Africa.” Mac rose from his desk chair and went to the back door to let Sam out.
“One thing puppy dog, I’m not going to be deported, but I do have to attend for an interview in 7 days time.” He bent down and scratched under Sam’s chin. “But they recommend that I read the study guide, whatever the hell that is; but I do know that an official ‘recommend’ means I’d better find it and memorize it.” He opened the door to the yard and looked out at the swirling, drifting snow.
“You’re going to get a wet butt, pooping out in that puppy dog. And the spring poop search is going to be sooo exciting. Perhaps they’ll write a new song about it,” Sam was straining to get out. “How about - ‘when it’s spring again, I’ll bring again, faeces from the butt of Sam.” No? Suit yourself.” Mac let Sam go and he shot out into the snow.
MacNab shrugged, ‘never mind spring and crap, today finding that guide book is all that matters
And find it he did – the following day; it was a 66 page booklet entitled ‘Discover Canada, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.’ The authorities had sent it when he first applied for citizenship 2 years previously. He flipped through it and sighed; it couldn’t be that difficult, could it? Then his mental light bulb lit up, and he pulled out his cell phone. He knew some friends who had sat this test.
His first call was to Paul, who told him to relax. “As long as you can name the 10 Provinces and 3 Territories, and their capital cities, you’ll be OK. It’s a dawdle, you can do it with your eyes shut.”
Colin’s advice was similar, “Simplicity itself!” He advised. “Starting with John A. McDonald, all you need to do is memorize all of Canada’s Prime Ministers, and the years they were in power. One of the crafty questions is – what does the ‘A’ stand for in John A. McDonald.”
“What does it stand for?”
“Look it up,” said Colin before disconnecting.
He got a different reaction on the next call. He phoned Philip, who had passed the test the previous year, but Philip wasn’t available. His wife, Maria, answered the phone. Mac explained why he’d phoned, and Maria retorted, “Why on earth would you want to become a Canadian Citizen? You’re already a Commonwealth citizen for God’s sake. What else do you need? You can vote, and still be Scottish.”
“That’s a strange remark from a Canadian citizen. I’ll still be Scottish and I can still have a UK passport, even after becoming Canadian. As for voting, I can’t do that. I have to be a Canadian citizen to vote.”
“You do? Are you sure?”
“That’s news to me. Let me think. I can remember one of the questions, it was - what ‘Responsible Government’ meant. I remember that because he almost wrote down, ‘If you ever find any, let me know.’ And another question was who was somebody called Hippolyte La Fontaine, or something like that. Sorry Mac, that’s all I can recall.”
MacNab liked the sound of the information he got on the next call. Lil told him, “All they want to do is check to make sure your documents aren’t forged. It’ll just be a normal conversation in a small office, just like the talk you had with your bank’s representative that time when you went for a mortgage; same idea” Lil soothed. “But do make sure that you have a good reason for wanting to become a citizen. Tell them it’s because you want to be able to vote, that’s what I did.”
By the time he’d finished phoning and tweeting, MacNab was none the wiser, and decided that the easiest thing to do was read the booklet and memorize every single word.
Lil’s remark about having a good reason for becoming a citizen got him thinking. He wasn’t too sure why he wanted to become a Canadian citizen, but he knew it had nothing to do with voting. He sat down to try and analyse his reasons.
At the moment he was what was known colloquially as a Landed Immigrant, and he held a Permanent Resident Card as proof of his lawful residence in Canada. Having a permanent resident card was an achievement in itself, but deep down he had this feeling of not belonging; it was an itch on his conscience that irked him. It was as if he had applied for membership of a club, but was on permanent probation.
That was it, he realized, he was in limbo; he didn’t belong anywhere. That’s why he wanted to become a Canadian citizen - he wanted to belong! MacNab found the idea bizarre at first, considering he always refused to belong to any organisations or clubs, but the more he thought about the concept, the more he liked it.
A Canadian custom
He was nervous as he drove into the city on the day of his interview, and only 1% of his mind was on his driving. Most of his attention was still on the Discover Canada booklet, which he’d brought with him, just in case he had a memory lapse.
He had studied the book until he knew every Prime Minister – backwards and forwards in time; every Province and its Capital City, all the Territories and their Capital Cities - and why they were Territories and not Provinces.
He knew every Canadian inventor, every Olympic medalist, every notable Canadian in the arts. He could rhyme off every date from the first time Canada was ‘discovered’ up to the present time. He knew what ‘Constitutional Government’ meant, and what ‘Responsible Government’ meant. Heck, he even knew his region’s Federal Member of Parliament and Provincial Member of Parliament, and he had memorised the Lieutenant Governors for every Province.
He wondered if he would have to take his shoes off, before entering the office for the interview. It was a custom in Canada that if it was snowing or slushy outside, that you remove your boots and place them on a mat outside in the corridor before entering the office. Were his socks OK? Should he have brought slippers?
Should he expound on his theories regarding pedestrian deaths in Canada, and how to mitigate them? No! Never volunteer information, he had been told often enough. He smiled as he remembered a tourist coach trip he’d taken to New York City. When they arrived at the American border their guide was adamant in his suggestions, actually more like orders, “Do not look at the guards. Do not smile. Do not talk. Hand over your passport and keep your mouth closed. Understand?”
He daydreamed for a moment. Perhaps they would be so impressed by his knowledge that they would have him swear the oath and sing the National Anthem on the spot. Would he be able to overcome his aversion to talking in public, long enough to stand up and sing ‘God Save our Gracious Queen, Long live ……’ “Crap, Crap, and double Crap,” MacNab swore.
He checked the dashboard clock. Thank God he’d left an hour earlier than necessary –and 30 minutes before that; it was a habit he’d acquired over a lifetime of things going wrong when it was obvious that nothing could possibly go wrong. He had time. He exited the expressway at the next intersection and pulled into a Tim Horton’s drive thru; after collecting a medium double double Tims, he parked the car and opened up the Discover Canada booklet.
The only national anthem he knew was the Royal British one; as for the Canadian anthem, he only knew the first two lines. When he was in a crowd at a hockey game, he usually sang the first two lines and then the official on-ice singer would switch to French for the next two lines. That was when he switched to mumbling, and then he kept mumbling – in the correct rhythm of course – until the end. He opened the booklet and began his search for the Canadian National Anthem - something else to memorise.
Canadian National Anthem
O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all they sons command
With glowing hearts we see thee rise
The true North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada
We stand on guard for thee
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee
He recognised the immigration building from the Google satellite maps, but even without that, it was obviously a government building as it oozed officialdom. The car park, the one he’d been informed would be there especially for would-be-immigrants, was full and coned off; surprise, surprise. He found another car park three blocks away, and by the time he’d walked back to the building he was sure he had a frostbitten nose.
The room he wanted was on the 4th floor; he opted to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. His destination was directly across from the elevator, and he walked across to it after taking a deep breath and praying to the God of immigrants. The room had a black tiled floor and off-white walls. One thing it wasn’t - was welcoming. As he entered the room, he could see a counter off to his left; it was like any other counter in any other cold official building.
But in this case an amateurish attempt had been made at taping off the counter. Two long tables had been set up between the counter and the doorway, and yellow tape had been stretched from the walls to the tables. Everybody was channelled around the tables before getting to the counter, and just after rounding the end of the second table, there was a sign that read ‘line up here,’ just like any fast food café. Really classy!
The line up was international; all colours of skin were visible and all languages were being spoken, Mac felt isolated at first until he heard another person speak English. Some of the immigrants had their families with them for moral support, but the immigrants themselves were easy to pick out, they were the ones clutching large brown envelopes to their chests; MacNab was about to shake his head at their evident anxiety, until he realised he was doing the same. He relaxed.
The counter was split into booths by opaque glass panels that rose to approximately 8 feet tall. It was impossible to see any of the people behind the counter because of the glass partitions. The nearest three booths had signs on them that read Bilingual/Bilingue,’ and the fourth booth had a sign which read ‘English Only.’ They reminded MacNab of the photograph booths at the driving licence building.
It took about ten minutes before a voice from behind the counter called out for the next in line. That was him. Clutching his documents, MacNab stepped forward towards the third booth, the only unused one. The assistant was a young woman with Asian features; a stunningly beautiful young woman with flawless skin. She smiled as Mac placed his envelope on the counter, which, he noticed was twice as wide as any other counter he had ever seen.
The woman leaned forward, “If I speak too softly for you Mr MacNab, tell me to speak up. I do tend to speak softly.” She was wearing a bilious green blouse – what there was of it. But MacNab hardly noticed the colour as she leaned towards him. What he did notice was her cavernous cleavage. He tore his gaze away from the alluring abyss, but not before noticing that she wasn’t wearing a bra and she had a ring on her belly button.
MacNab nodded, his throat suddenly dry.
“Can I have your passport Mr MacNab?” She asked, stretching her arm forward.
MacNab started to hand over his British passport, but hesitated. “You know my name, but all you did was call out, ‘next please.’ How did you do that?”
The assistant smiled and rolled her eyes upward. MacNab looked up and around, saw the cameras, and nodded in understanding.
He slid his documents over the counter as she asked for them. As she checked them against his original application, he looked around him. There was a huge hall to his right that looked like a church. It had rows of seats facing away from him towards what looked like a pulpit, and he noticed that some of the people who had been at the counter before him, had gone through to the hall and were sitting in the seats. Then it dawned on him: - it wasn’t a church, it was a courtroom, and the part he thought was a pulpit was the judges’ bench.
The people who were going though into the courtroom were going to sit their written immigration test. Wow! If they were going to get a court room, what kind of elite room was he going to get for his interview? All the seats would probably be in leather, the desk would be in maple with the Canadian coat of arms engraved in it. There would no doubt be a Canadian flag flyi……….
“Mr MacNab……. Mr MacNab.” He became aware of the assistant’s voice, and came back to reality.
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
“Here you have a four day journey to the United Kingdom. Four days? And I see no notification of your re-entry into Canada.”
Mac sighed with relief. He had decided to bring every possible piece of paper that might be of interest from his passport to every receipt and ticket. He delved into his envelope and brought out the air flight tickets for the UK. He slid them across.
“I was over for a funeral,” he explained, “and the re-entry stamp is on the last page of the passport.”
She took the flight tickets, flipped through the passport and nodded.
“Have you ever been arrested?”
“No. I’m afraid I’ve led a very boring life,” MacNab answered, praying that she couldn’t read the thoughts he was having regarding breaking his boring routine with her and how slowly he would take off her blouse.
“In this instance,” she grinned as she indicated the paperwork. “It pays to have a boring life.” She ticked off that item on the list and then leaned forward again. This time she leaned so far over that Mac caught his breath as he was convinced she was going to have a wardrobe malfunction. Mac realised why the counter was twice the normal width. He swiftly transferred his gaze to her eyes and locked them there. Her large, dark eyes were laughing at him.
“You’re doing it on purpose.” He blurted, without thinking.
“What can I say,” she put her finger to her lips and shushed him. She leaned further forward and whispered to Mac. “I lead a boring life as well, and my boyfriend works in the control room.” She rolled her eyes up towards the cameras again. “I hope I didn’t offend you.”
“On the contrary, you made my day.” Mac assured her, and sighed in relief. He was well past the flirting stage of life.
“Back to business, Mr MacNab,” she smiled. “You do realise that as you are over 54, you do not have to sit a written test?”
“Yes, I know. I’ll be having an interview instead. “Where do I sit my interview?”
She pushed all of Mac’s papers back over towards him. “This was your interview. You can take all your documents home and celebrate. We’ll be in touch later and you will receive a Notice to Appear to take the Oath of Citizenship. Congratulations.” She gently shimmied from side to side. “It was good fun.”
MacNab was sure that her boyfriend appreciated the shimmy as much as he did, but he was nonplussed. “This was the interview? But you didn’t ask me anything. Don’t you want to know about the Provinces, Territories, and Prime Ministers?”
The assistant grinned. “I already know them all, thank you.”
“But…... But……. But.
“Have a nice day,”
The Oath of Citizenship
I swear (or affirm)
That I will be faithful
And bear true allegiance
To Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second
Queen of Canada
Her Heirs and Successors
And that I will faithfully observe
The laws of Canada
And fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen
Dazed, Mac took his envelope and walked back through the line up. He didn’t know whether to be angry or pleased. Should he be furious at having learned so much and driven 200km and not asked any questions, or pleased that it was all over and he now belonged – or almost belonged. He didn’t suppose he would be officially a Canadian until he’d taken the Oath.
But until he took the Oath he could practice at being a Canadian, and he knew exactly how to do that. Looking out on the bitterly cold day, he zipped up his jacket, settled his hat firmly on his head, donned his thermal gloves and ventured out into Canada.
His mission - to find someone he could be polite to.