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I Belong Here... And There Too

Canada Cookies

Canada Cook­ies

Five days after the big cer­e­mony, I still have to pinch myself from time to time. I. Am. Cana­dian. God, I love it.

A lot of peo­ple around me are quite curi­ous about it. Can I get dual cit­i­zen­ship? Yes I can, I didn’t lose my French cit­i­zen­ship. How long did the whole process take? The cit­i­zen­ship process took 11 months, but I had been in Canada for almost five years before that. Do I feel dif­fer­ent? Well, yes and no. I feel like I achieved some­thing. I am what I am, a bit of this and a bit of that I guess.

This got me think­ing. I was born in France, of French par­ents, so I am French. No-brainer here. But because I left the coun­try right after grad­u­at­ing from high school, lit­tle by lit­tle, I lost my French iden­tity. Obvi­ously, I adapted to Canada — this was bound to hap­pen. But I also lost it in a very prac­ti­cal way. For exam­ple, as a French, I was cov­ered by the French health care sys­tem and had a health card (carte de sécu). Well, because I stopped liv­ing there, it’s not valid any­more. I’m not sure what the require­ments are to keep your health cov­er­age in France but my card stopped work­ing some­times in 2006.

I used to vote in France. Well, basi­cally, I would go to the French embassy in Ottawa and fill up the papers to give my father my proxy. I believe that vot­ing is both a right and a respon­si­bil­ity and I was happy to do it. I vote for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. I vote for some­thing else, can’t remem­ber what. And then next thing you know, it was the munic­i­pal elec­tions, and then the Euro­pean ref­er­en­dum on the Con­sti­tu­tion, and then the regional elec­tions… and then I got lost. I didn’t know the can­di­dates, didn’t live any­where in France and frankly, I couldn’t have cared less who was win­ning. I just didn’t have an opin­ion because. I had lost the taste for French politics.

I slowly started to remove all my French IDs left in my wal­let to make some room for the Cana­dian ones. A carte de sécu for an Ontario Health Card, a carte d’identité for a per­ma­nent res­i­dent card, a carte d’électeur for a library card…

Even­tu­ally, all of my IDs expired and I didn’t renew them. Deal­ing with the French con­sulate in Toronto (since the embassy in Ottawa is now basi­cally use­less) was too much has­sle. I was left with only one piece of valid ID– inci­den­tally the most impor­tant one: my French pass­port, issued in 2003, and valid for 10 years.

Mean­while, I had obtained all my Cana­dian IDs as I had many rights as a per­ma­nent res­i­dent: full access to the job mar­ket, social ben­e­fits and health care. The only things I couldn’t do were vot­ing and apply­ing for a Cana­dian passport.

I loved the irony. I had no sta­tus in France but I had a French pass­port, and my life was in Canada but I couldn’t vote nor have a passport.

It became less funny when, last year, the French admin­is­tra­tion sud­denly remem­bered I existed. My par­ents received a let­ter for me: I was called for jury duty. But not just any jury duty: a sev­eral month-long mur­der trial jury duty.

Shit, or rather, merde. What the…?

Well, because I never really “moved” to Canada, I never informed the French admin­is­tra­tion that I had left the coun­try. It’s a bit of a grey area here. If you move later in life, when you have a job, prop­erty etc. obvi­ously you have to deal with taxes, clos­ing bank accounts etc. But in my case, I went to work to Hong Kong right after I grad­u­ated from high school and attended uni­ver­sity in France while I was trav­el­ing and while later I was in Canada (and yes, I grad­u­ated in case you are won­der­ing). That’s it. I have never really worked in France (except for a few very tem­po­rary posi­tions) so I didn’t have to pay taxes. I have never rented a place, my offi­cial address is still at my par­ents’. I had no belong­ing, no prop­er­ties so I didn’t move offi­cially. I sim­ply started spend­ing more and more time abroad till the day I became a per­ma­nent res­i­dent in Canada.

So appar­ently, I had no rights to health care, ben­e­fits etc. in France (sounds logic) but I could be called for jury duty. Weird.

I sent a let­ter explain­ing that I was now liv­ing in Canada, work­ing, and that I wouldn’t be able to attend a sev­eral month-long trial. I do take my duties seri­ously, but I would have had a hard time com­plet­ing this one.

It wasn’t a prob­lem since I never heard from them after that. But it got me think­ing. What did hav­ing French cit­i­zen­ship mean to me? And how about Cana­dian citizenship?

I’m glad I became Cana­dian. I chose this coun­try as my new home and I plan to ful­fill my duties as a cit­i­zen. I don’t mind being French either and I will always be Euro­pean, at least to a cer­tain extent. But I don’t care about Bastille Day, I can’t sing La Mar­seil­laise, I don’t vote any­more… I don’t even speak French on a reg­u­lar basis…! I’m cer­tainly not using my rights as a French cit­i­zen (although I do com­plain from time to time) nor ful­fill­ing my duties. Weird.

How about you guys? Expats, immi­grants, new­com­ers, new cit­i­zens? How do you deal with hav­ing dual cit­i­zen­ship, or liv­ing abroad? Do you still vote back home, cel­e­brate hol­i­days etc.?

21 comments

  1. It has been so very inter­est­ing to fol­low your process to a fully suc­cess. I do under­stand you are happy, proud and relieved.

    It has never been a ques­tion for me, but of course my Amer­i­can wife who came live with me in Nor­way have thought about it. I don’t think US accept dual cit­i­zen­ship though. It’s an impor­tant step, so of course I leave it up to her and sup­port her what­ever she choose.

  2. Renny is right, he beat me to the responce. I can’t have dual cit­i­zen­ship so although I can apply for Nor­we­gian cit­i­zen­ship now I have not done so yet. It’s hard to make that deci­sion when you have to let go of your home coun­try. I am very happy for you though, and its great that you can ‘belong’ both places.

  3. @tikno — It’s true: I made bureau­crats’ lives eas­ier! :lol: Thanks for vis­it­ing and tak­ing the time to comment!

    @Em — Hi Em, thanks for your mes­sage! Ire­land must be a bau­ti­ful place. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of the UK (except for Lon­don) but I would love to visit Ire­land. Unfor­tu­nately, I keep on fly­ing over it when going to France, but that’s it! Oh, well, I can still read Mar­ian Keyes’ books…

    I can imag­ine that, in term of iden­tity, it’s even more weird to move from one UE coun­try to another, due to the lack of paper­work. Yet I guess after 10 years, you are turn­ing more and more Irish… and less French!

    How come you chose a Cana­dian author for your studies?

    @Soleil — The cook­ies are actu­ally… Obama’s cook­ies! :lol:

    Let me explain. Obama vis­ited Ottawa some­times in Feb­ru­ary (I wasn’t there, we were in Brazil) and stopped at the local French bak­ery, right besides the Par­lia­ment. Pic­tures were taken etc. and he appar­ently ate one of these cook­ies. The bak­eries has called it the “Obama cook­ies” and dis­play them along numer­ous pictures.

    @Final_Transit — I don’t know if I would have been will­ing to give up my French cit­i­zen­ship if I had had to choose…especially that all my fam­ily is in France.

    @kyh — Becom­ing an expat, and then an immi­grant, a new cit­i­zen is a fas­ci­nat­ing expe­ri­ence indeed. But one must like bureau­cracy and paperworks!

    @Brenda — Same here, even though I love Canada, I miss trav­el­ing… can’t always get what you want I guess!

    @RennyBA — US does accept dual cit­i­zen­ship now actu­ally, I though that they didn’t and after some research, I dis­cov­ered it was a myth. It is a bit con­fus­ing though apparently.

    @DianeCA — Diane, you may not have to let go, since from what I read, US does rec­og­nize dual cit­i­zen­ship. You may want to read that: http://www.richw.org/dualcit/

  4. A belated “con­grat­u­la­tions” on your Cana­dian Citizenship!

  5. I’m much like you for my sta­tus in Cal­i­for­nia. Most of it is lost, although I do vote. I do have to file taxes but besides that I want to become a Cana­dian Cit­i­zen. I still get called for Jury duty and tell them it’s too hard to go there when I’m per­ma­nently in another country…

    Much the same, but I still long to go back to Europe so that I don’t loose more of my FRENCH!

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