It would appear that I am no longer as Canadian as I think I am. Or at least in the eyes of the Canadian government – my government. Or at least they were until the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld federal voting restrictions of people – millions of us – like myself who have been living outside the country for more than five years. Yup, that’s right, the whole lot of us are now ineligible to vote.
I am Canadian. I am as Canadian as I was when I left home to come and study in the UK. If anything, I feel slightly more Canadian now than I did when I left. I appreciate the things I miss dearly about my country all the more for living abroad. I miss the snowy winters (though less so how long they go on for), the neighbourliness of my fellow Canucks, which extends far past any national borders. I miss the way people back home react to joyous and awful things. I miss Tim Horton’s, and Swiss Chalet, and Roots.
I suppose, in some ways, you never really realise what’s great about your country until you leave it. I miss how polite Canadians are. The Brits are a very polite lot, but there’s an underlying whiff of sarcasm about things here (which I also enjoy, but there’s something so earnest and lovely about having a fellow Canuck wish you a good day and know they really, truly mean it). The wide open spaces, the fields of corn, the ridiculous number of restaurants in Toronto where I can literally eat my way across the whole wide world. People like Commander Chris Hadfield, who sang his Canadian heart out in space and made me extremely proud to be Canadian.
It’s a funny thing this voting. I have always voted, since I was old enough, even though a lot of the time I feel that it’s utterly hopeless. The most recent elections here in the UK – if ever there was a moment to be filled with despair it was this election, and waking up to find people you thought were good, decent, right-thinking folk, turned out to be closet Tories. I frequently find myself looking north to Scotland and the SNP, wondering how long it’ll take for that brand of reasonable, practical politics to catch on down here.
I feel the same about politics back home. Prime Minister Harper gets worse and worse as the days go on. He refuses to sign a UN declaration that would designate clean water as a human right. He cut science research funding and imposed limitations on scientists at Environment Canada. In fact, he’s been so bone-headed that in 2009 prominent politicians and scientists called for Canada to be removed from the Commonwealth. The last time something like that happened, it was against South Africa whilst it was still under apartheid.
I would like to vote in any election that can ensure this man and his job as Primie Minister are soon parted. I realise the other choices aren’t good and may veer towards ghastly, but it was the same thing over here recently. Thank goodness for the SNP 56 and people like Mhairi Black, who recently criticised – rightly and eloquently – Westminster’s outdated traditions (things like braying instead of clapping).
Being informed that I am unable to vote in my own country – the country that issues me my passport, the country I proudly call my home and native land, the country where I grew up, the country whose values are deeply ingrained in the maple syrup that flows in my veins – is depressing. I feel rejected.
I remember asking – frequently when I was a teenager and dreaming of living in Southern California – The Mom why she came back from California all those years ago. Her answer was one that I didn’t understand then, but do now. Her answer was something like national pride. Though she may have spent ten years in America, and so far I’ve spent about ten years here in the UK, it doesn’t matter. We are and always will be Canadian. I just wish I had a say in things that matter back home.