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It’s So Grim Here… O Canada, What’s Happening to You?

Ottawa, April 2022
Ottawa, April 2022

“Washer and dryer, full kitchen, Wi-Fi, clean bed sheets, two supermarkets within walking distance… this Airbnb is ticking all the boxes,” I stated, emptying my backpack and starting a load of laundry. “The only downside is the location—Ottawa, suburbia. Meh.”

Feng laughed. “But you’re safe, you’re home…”

“… nothing can kill me except the weather and boredom.”

“And inflation. And COVID.”

“Why does being in Canada feel like a downgrade? It used to be fun to go home after a trip…” I wondered out loud.

I missed Feng and Mark. I didn’t miss Ottawa—or Canada, for that matter.

I’m not Canada’s biggest fan right now.

I’ve been Canadian for a long time, half of my life, actually. My French identity has never been erased because it just doesn’t work like that—immigrants are chameleons, not snakes shedding their skin. But I learned how to fit in Canada. I understand people and the land. I adopted various elements of Canadian culture because they resonated with me or maybe also because it was a matter of survival. I’m more French than Canadian when it comes to food, parenting and formal education, but I’m more Canadian than French when it comes to work and practical life matters.

I’ve discovered I’m definitely not Canadian when it comes to pandemic management and “new normal.”

I resent the prevalent blame and shame attitude—catching Omicron in 2022 is getting marginally more socially acceptable, but if you had COVID in 2020 and 2021, it was your fault, you must have done something stupid.

I resent the endless and mostly pointless lockdowns and school closures—Ontario had the longest school closures, four shutdowns totalling 28 weeks so far.

I resent endless border closures, non-essential travel advisories, quarantine hotels, mandatory testing upon arrival (especially when it takes two weeks to get results…) and more.

I resent constant COVID headlines, fear mongering stories and so much virtue signalling. It feels like Canada is going to give you a medal if you’ve never tested positive.

At this stage, I have to stress that I do believe in vaccination (got my two doses plus a booster shot) and public health measures. I also do take COVID seriously, I want to protect the most vulnerable, blah blah blah. But I’m also convinced “living with COVID” is the best strategy now because at this point, restrictions do more harm than good.

Let’s not forget that anything would overwhelm the Canadian healthcare system because we don’t have much of a healthcare system in the first place. How about we fucking fix this instead of telling people to not get sick? Seeking medical care was unadvisable long before COVID around here, especially if the issue couldn’t be fixed after half a day spent waiting at the walk-in clinic for your five-minute consultation with a doctor you’ll never see again.

COVID isn’t the only problem in Canada right now, the inflation rate is out of control—it hit a three-decade high at 5.7% in March. Life is just… not affordable, including groceries. Seriously, prices are ridiculous, plus empty shelves and supply issues. Case in point, every single supermarket encourages customers to make a donation to the food bank. We’re lucky, we can technically afford food. Problem is, it’s not sustainable—nor advisable—to spend your savings on veggies and proteins.

Our motto at home is “not worth it.” Movie theatre? Not worth it. Shopping? Not worth it. Travelling in Canada? Not worth it. Believe it or not, I spent less travelling in Brazil than I would have in Canada—I track expenses in Excel—and it was completely worth it.

There’s a long list of little luxuries I no longer enjoy in Canada. The last time I eat out was in July 2020 when we spent a few days in Toronto. Coffee shops, my social break as a freelancer, are a distant memory. Crossing the US border? Travel measures still apply, complete hassle for a day trip, plus gas prices. Museums? Yeah, when it’s free. Haircuts or any kind of pampering? Ah, ah, you gotta be kidding me. Sure, the world doesn’t owe me anything, but we work hard and I clearly remember enjoying life’s little luxuries way more often years ago when we were making much less.

I used to feel safe and inspired in Canada. These days, I feel stuck.

Everything feels stuck, actually. Work is slow and inconsistent. Many of my clients have yet to “bounce back,” especially in the travel industry. Projects are on hold everywhere. It makes me miserable because I like my job and making money isn’t exactly optional.

I feel physically stuck because getting around got more expensive and more complicated. A bus ticket is now $3.60 in Ottawa. Exploring the country is almost not worth it considering accommodation and gas prices. I’m terrified Canada will close borders again.

The atmosphere is grim—it’s been a long winter and it’s still winter. Ottawa is a ghost town with federal employees still working from home.

But mostly, it feels like Canada is more divided than ever. We just don’t understand each other anymore. Some are overworked and others are jobless, some enjoyed a regular pay cheque through the pandemic while others were impacted by shutdowns, some reacted strongly against public health measures while for others it was never enough… different perspectives, different experiences and a lot of resentment going around.

This is not my Canada, a place of opportunities, a country with open borders where everyone is welcome and where you can find your way through life.

I’m brainstorming and trying to come up with strategies. I need to find my purpose again. I ain’t giving up.

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