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Never have I been so willing to give a DNA sample.

Try opening a bank account in Canada. Try opening a bank account in Canada before getting there. My husband had been working at a U.S. branch of a Canadian bank and we still had our work cut out for us. What helped was our stack of identification. You know, the usual: passport, birth certificate, credit card, driver's license, signature, pleading, sensibility, if you're really lucky, and, at times, marriage license.

And now the internet. When we first hooked up my laptop here, I could receive but not send e-mail. We called the company responsible for all our high- and low-tech capabilities and a very kind customer assistance person spent a considerable amount of time with me, making sure all our e-mail addresses were included in the ability to give as well as receive. Accessing certain Canadian websites from New York happened only through prayer and stubbornness, if at all. It leads you to wonder what kind of industrial desert island this is with such web-isolation. Think again and it's homeland security. They're only doing what Bush claims he's doing.

And now for regular mail. After discovering the whereabouts of our mailbox, we needed a key, but the post office first needed to change the lock. Then you need identification-including proof of address-to get the key. Documentation from the bank and my passport with Work Permit stapled inside served the purpose. Spousal laws had an umbrella effect in this case. As primary Work Permit holder, his name was on one document while mine was on two others. Immigration-plus-bank-equals we can get our mail. Almost. The friendly woman at the post office, who clearly remembered me and my entourage from a couple of days before, asked a co-worker to fetch the new key. The co-worker then asked the friendly woman if my identification had been checked (this time). She said, "No." I pulled it out again (as I have in schools in the U.S.) without debate. When you're a new immigrant, this is simple security and simple compliance resulting in...mission accomplished. For real.

When it comes to security in the school system, it becomes more of an issue of security on your way home. Based on relatively recent media reports, some college and university students here have been robbed but not maimed. One victim, who was assaulted in the middle of the night while leaving her car, gave all her money, including pin number, pissed off the crook with how "little" she had, but got home, shaken. Oh, and the crook accepted both Canadian and U.S. dollars. This helped her accumulate funds...fast. Since it was out there in the media, I'm not giving tips on how to rob someone. And if I am, someone else got there first. There have also been attempted abductions of children, but there is a local program for training them to deal with such situations. The same program provides "kiddie" first-aid training. During home school last year, we did role-playing, adjusting the dialogue for the age, to fend off abduction and deal with other unworthy/unwelcome social interactions.


After 9-11, Canada flexed its security muscle. Especially when you're in the process of emigrating, you become aware of this. Bank accounts are now more difficult to open. Customs may be stricter, but I don't know how it was previously to receive goods shipped to Canada. When ordering items from overseas while still in the U.S., I tend to remember a stateside distributor. Nonetheless, Canadian Customs asks questions. UPS has called me each time a shipment of our belongings was due from the U.S., once with a duty upon delivery. When I tried to order over the internet from Canada, there was a "boxed" alert regarding a duty. The instructions they gave for finding out more information weren't helpful. No purchase. As for employment, I've learned that it is exponentially easier to put together working papers going from Canada to the U.S. than from the U.S. to Canada. Airport security seems equally ridiculous, though, with the items banned. You may have heard that Canadian authorities are working with the U.S. in permitting the return of beauty and olfactory aids in qualified form. That means you're allowed to quaff and smell better provided you buy sample-size gel, liquid and aerosol assistants from designated vendors; then seal them all together in a liter-size, zip-lock bag, all this indicating that even getting it right requires a process approach incorporating definitive steps forward.

Israel appears to remain in the forefront of airport/airline security. But of the nations that previously hadn't felt the on-going imminence of tragedy, in the air or on the ground, Canada seems to have registered the importance faster than many, and with voiced alerts rather than "shades." No dragging feet. No damn color-codes. Just demand, expect and respect. It is possible.

 

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Rachel emigrated to Canada in the summer of 2006.- She has an M.A. in Teaching ESOL, and her poetry, short stories and articles have appeared in print and online. Rachel is a member of Fair Vote Canada.

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