On being Canadian.
The fact that I’m Canadian always seems to catch me by surprise. Other people as well. You see, I’m not REALLY Canadian, I’m one of those hyphenated Canadians, semi-Canadian, a Canadian of convenience. As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.
I sometimes feel kind of guilty when I use my Canadian passport. It’s such a good calling card, nobody hates the Canadians, so I’m welcome everywhere (except Tanzania, which is another story). I don’t live in Canada, I don’t pay taxes in Canada, and when I was living there I was either an impoverished student or working minimum wage jobs, so I can fairly safely say I have taken way more from Canada than I have contributed over the years.
The thing is, though, that passport is not just a convenience, although it is convenient. I am Canadian in all sorts of ways. I’m a pacifist, I’m uncomfortable with overt displays of nationalism, I’m multicultural (both personally and in my tastes). I’m polite (usually), I’m intelligent and somewhat smug about less intelligent southerly neighbours, I’m unambitious with money, and I have a Canadian’s sense of personal space (I spend much of my time in African and Asian public spaces in a state of mild distress at all the people! so close! shudder!). I like winter. I don’t mind paying taxes for social services. I could even like curling. Canada suits me, in a way that no other place I’ve found does, and it’s really no less than a conspiracy on the part of the universe to prevent me from living there all the time. I really have been trying to get back to Canada for the last fifteen years, and I can’t seem to manage it.
That said, and now that I have asserted my true and utter Canadian-ness, can I just say that the Canadian passport renewal system is the most byzantine, bureaucratic, Kafka-esque process I have ever encountered? Bloody hell, people, it’s just a passport, it’s not the freaking secret MI5 dossier from 1945 to 1990. And you make us do this every FIVE freaking years?
Oh well. It is still the best passport to have, and the best country to be a citizen of, so I will spend much of tomorrow trying to find a photographer in Manchester who can provide me with an image of myself that will satisfy the good people at Passports Canada, and fill in my multicoloured forms in triplicate with stamps and seals and the names and addresses of everyone I’ve ever met, and take my new passport happily with me to all the places I want to go, I just hope I get to take it home, sometimes, too.