Coming to Canada

Posted 07.31.07

I arrived in Canada forty years ago this month. Unlike so many Americans who arrived in the 60s as draft-dodgers, my immigration had nothing to do with the Vietnam War.

I was married to a Canadian, who had been working temporarily in Chicago and was transferred by his company to Gatineau.

But I was happy to leave the war behind. Canada offered such promise. It was Centennial year, the National Arts Centre was under construction, and the Canada Council funded artists in all disciplines.

When we bought a house in Gatineau, I had no idea that the legal system was different here than in the rest of Canada, or that separatism was fomenting. I immigrated to Canada, not to Quebec.

I was fortunate to move into a charming little neighborhood in "old" Gatineau, a cul-de-sac close to Maloney Boulevard and good shopping, with an open-air market selling produce just behind us. That closed, sadly, a few years later, but has reopened this summer.

I still treasure my neighbors, although they've changed over the years. Many young families bought the older homes, and once again there's the sound of shouting and laughter on the street as kids ride their bikes and play.

Gatineau has grown substantially since I first moved here. Not just with the amalgamation that stretched our city from Aylmer to Buckingham, but just within a few kilometers of my house there are now vast shopping malls, a new outlet mall being built where St. Louis meets Highway 50, and housing projects stretching into the hills north of here, where formerly there were only forests and farms.

I remember when Highway 50 was first carved across the region, expropriating houses and farms in its path. Wasn't it supposed to extend to Montreal?

And then the Casino took over one end of Lac Leamy, creating a new lake out of the old quarry. Wasn't that supposed to bring extra revenue for healthcare and education?

It appears the Casino is in trouble. It has shortened hours, watered down entertainment in the theatre, and is complaining about provincial regulations that keep them from adding newer, popular games and slots. Are we to believe the streams of people filling busses and the vast parking lot are not providing enough revenue as it is?

When I wrote this, we were in the week between St.Jean Baptiste Day and Canada Day. I brought my Canadian flag inside in order not to incite any vandalism before the Quebec holiday, although we've never had a problem with that in this neighborhood.

And those who live near me understand why both the Maple Leaf and the Stars and Stripes were on my porch the first week of July.

I've become accustomed to being a resident alien, preferring the gentler term, "Landed Immigrant." I'm clearly a Canadian writer, and certainly a Canadian patriot. But in Quebec, even after forty years, I still sometimes feel like a stranger.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/6.07