1.21.2008

question from an american considering moving to canada

Steve, his husband and their two sons live in Pennsylvania. They're disgusted with the US and are contemplating the Great Move North.

The men were married in Toronto, but while they like Canada's largest city, they're looking for something different when it comes to a home. Steve writes:
We'd like to find a small-to-medium-sized city, say anywhere in the range of 30,000 to 100,000 people. It could be a satellite of a larger metropolitan core.

The key thing we're looking for is open space within easy reach - trees, water, and wildlife in its natural state rather than a cultivated park. A library and a bookstore. A grocery store that stocks some specialty foods - we have a wheat allergy in the family and need some access to gluten-free foods, though this is not too critical since you can order just about anything online these days.

A place to ride a bike. A lake where the kids can skip stones. Good schools. Access to a concert hall for the occasional parents-night-out.

A Catholic church where we can, quietly and unassumingly, belong.

I write web software, and my husband is in medicine. We recognize that a move to Canada would probably mean that we would swap roles - currently, he works while I raise the kids. But he's feeling ready to cut back and spend more time at home, while I'm more likely to be able to find work in our new country.

I think the best way to describe what we're looking for to say we want to take a step backward in time. I remember my own youth of running around our neighborhood pretty much at will, and a network of parents at home (honesty forces me to say they were pretty much all moms in those days) who all kept an eye on things. My husband has similar memories, though his are of the woods and the mountains near where he grew up. Here, today, I can't imagine allowing my six-year-old to run loose for four hours. Then, it was just no big deal.

We'd like to have friendly relations with our neighbors, though we wouldn't want to be intrusive. We like to play bridge, and love to have friends over to play board games. My husband enjoys going to concerts and movies (me less so - I'm more the crossword-solving type). We like to sing in our church's choir and go for hikes in the woods.

Steve and his husband are thinking Ontario, because they don't want to move their sons too far from their grandparents and other extended family. There's a Boston connection, so perhaps something in Atlantic Canada would work.

But experience tells me that no matter what I write, readers are likely to suggest locations all over Canada. Plus, I get email from prospective immigrants to Canada on a regular basis, and other readers may find your answers helpful. So all suggestions and explanations are welcome, even if they don't exactly fit Steve's specs.

73 comments:

L-girl said...

I don't know about the "step backward in time" part, but would the Kitchener-Waterloo area be a reasonable facsimile of what Steve is looking for?

Ferdzy said...

Absolutely Kitchener-Waterloo. I would say it meets every single requirement that they list.

L-girl said...

Absolutely Kitchener-Waterloo. I would say it meets every single requirement that they list.

Cool! It's good to know I've learned something.

Nikolas said...

I know of lots of people who live outside of Toronto and commute in either with the GO Train or by car.

Apparently Barrie is suppose to be really nice, and a great little city, just north of it is Orillia. Our friend Doug has a house in Brantford (outside of Hamilton) nice small town feel, amenities, and houses on the cheap! My boss lives in Cambridge, which is outside Kitchener-Waterloo, on the other side is Guelph which is also a very nice place (I've heard.) Of course cottage country up North (Muskoka, Bracebridge, and Parry Sound are also smaller and beautiful. I've also heard that Port Hope (East of Toronto on the lake) has been attracting quite a few gay families looking for the same thing Steve and his family are.

Add to that the smaller cities of Kingston, London

Needless to say, Ontario has a lot going for it :-)

Lone Primate said...

Sounded to me like Kelowna in the Okanogan Valley in British Columbia from the overall description. But if they don't want the kids to be too far from their grandparents, that's probably out.

But it's true, yeah, there are a lot of mid-sized cities in southern Ontario, and even a few in the Near North.

West End Bound said...

We have only traveled through, but if Atlantic Canada works for them, Wolfville, NS is charming. College town, agricultural community, near the site of Acadian settlements so a Catholic influence . . . .

James said...

I'll throw K-W in as well. Some other possibilities: Guelph, Cambridge, Brantford, St. Catharines. Lotsa nice wooded nature in the Dundas/Ancaster area west of Hamilton.

For smaller than that, there are towns like Orangeville, Alliston, or my mother's home town of Creemore (home of Creemore Springs beer). Those are more rural and conservative though, and too small for a concert hall -- when my mother was growing up, they had to walk to Avening for social events, since they had a community hall. It was known as having an "evening in Avening".

There's also my home town of London, a university town which is famous for being a good place to raise a family -- though it, too, can be pretty conservative. Julian Fantino made a name for himself harassing gays in the name of saving children from pedophiles there, before he came to Toronto, and Philip Rushton earned his infamy while at the university there.

L-girl said...

There's also my home town of London, a university town which is famous for being a good place to raise a family -- though it, too, can be pretty conservative.

I was wondering about London, but I remembered your mentioning anti-gay activity there.

teflonjedi said...

I was a big fan of Kingston for a few years, when I went to grad school there...once I got past the thermal shock aspects of the first winter, that is...

Greg said...

I will also cast my vote for KW. It is a high tech area (the home of the Blackberry!), has good schools (two universities and a college). You would also have access to three public library systems (Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge) and a great independent bookstore (Wordsworth!!!).

Scott M. said...

K-W is good if you want to stay in the GTA, however I don't know if I would say there's lots of "trees, water and wildlife in it's natural state". A lot of the K-W area is farmland and really it's only the (absolutely gorgeous and well worthwhile exploring) Niagara Escarpment (aka. Bruce Trail).

If Ontario as a whole is open, the best place would probably be Kanata. It's a suburb of Ottawa, population 85,000 or so. It is a major IT hub (considered Silicon Valley North), and has many more opportunities along that line then KW would have (not to say KW isn't a great place!).

It's officially a part of Ottawa after amalgamation, but it is still a city unto itself -- it's substantially separated from the actual city of Ottawa by the NCC Greenbelt (the new Ottawa has vast expanses of farmland and rural environment). Wikipedia has a great page on Kanata, Ontario.

With it being a very modern city (it only really started up in 1980 or so), it has a lot of modern conveniences and is a "young" progressive town.

Because of it's proximity to Ottawa, you have access to everything you could want by way of specialty food shopping, culture facilities, etc. More museums than you could throw the National Archives at, and Canada's Worst Canada Day Celebrations.

The National Capital Commission, and, in general, the city of Ottawa has the best network of bike trails in Canada. Hundreds of kilometers of permanent bike trails are augmented by a large number of bike lanes and, on Sundays in the Summer, the closing of major roads just for the fun of biking. Plus the Greenbelt trails can be used by cyclists

IIRC, Ottawa has the highest number of bicycling commuters of any city in North America.

There are lots of Catholic Churches in the Ottawa area, though I can't speak to the views of any in particular.

IT in Kanata/Ottawa tends to be very progressive and has a lot of work-from-home and flexable arrangement full-time opportunities.

Now, for the good stuff -- genuine wilderness. There's TONS of that not far from Kanata. In Kanata, you are:

5 minutes drive from the NCC Greenbelt.

25 minutes drive from the amazing Gatineau Park , with hundreds of kilometers of hiking, biking and cross-country skiing trails in a gorgeous wilderness dotted with lakes, cliffs and caves.

2 hours to the famous Parc du Mont-Tremblant and Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort.

2.5 hours from the world renowned, massively wild (however also well used) Algonquin Provincial Park.

Plus, in general, there's just tonnes of wilderness across the river in Quebec.

Other notes:
You are 2 hours from Montreal
You are 2 hours from Kingston
You are 5 hours from Toronto
You are 5 hours from (gorgeous) Quebec City
You are 7 hours from Boston
You are 7.5 hours from Philadelphia
You are 7.5 hours from New York City

As well, you know someone in Ottawa (me). :) Laura-- feel free to give Steve my email if he has more questions.

Scott M. said...

Oh, and you're 3 hours from Lake Placid in the middle of New York's Adirondack Park.

MJ said...

Really, I think any "large" city in Ontario outside of the GTA will probably have what Steve is looking.

The other suggestions sound more likely to meet all the criteria, but if you want the (consumer-related and economic) advantages of a city without actually feeling like a city, Ottawa (or, more accurately, the suburbs where everyone seems to live) might also work.

MJ said...

Scott M. has a better run-down. Kanata, Barrhaven, Orleans, and Cumberland are the main areas in the Ottawa area that might be worth looking into.

Justin Beach said...

KW is good, I'd also suggest taking a look at Guelph - a little smaller than KW but with a strong arts community and a little closer to Toronto (less than an hour by car). Again I don't know about 'lots of nature' but it's right on the edge of the green belt and the escarpment so there is some.

Lots of wildlife in it's natural habitat is what cottaging is for. You should explain about 'the cottage' to them. There is also Sudbury (and surrounding towns) if they really want the 'back to nature' thing but that might be a bit more culture shock than they want.

Jen said...

Well, Scott M did a much better job of describing the amenities of the Ottawa area than I would've.

I'd have argued Ottawa proper mind you, given the evils of commuting the Queensway at rush hour or on Sens game nights. And the fact that even though Ottawa is billed as 800k and change, that's due to amalgamation. Having spent my teens and 20s in a Calgary of 750-800k, Ottawa feels small in comparison. So very very small.

There are great neighbourhoods throughout the Ottawa area, and great schools (public, college and university). French is not a requirement (helpful, but def. not req'd)

On the Catholism front: there's an Ottawa chapter of Dignity Canada Dignite* : http://dignitycanada.org/chapters.html#ottawa

There's a great GLBT community. Here's my fave groups:
www.rideauspeedeaus.com
www.tenoaksproject.com

As well as a gay dads coffee klatch... somewhere,

http://www.pinktriangle.org/pts_site/Eng/Wellness/community.html

Cheers, Jen
*any advice on creating hot links in comments greatly welcomed*

Justin Beach said...

You can use links in comments with the standard

a href=""

command (inside the <> of course.

It won't let you use target= though

Jen said...

Forgot to mention: the medical community is well integrated here and there are a couple of gay meds groups. One of these is listed on the pink triangle link in my other post, and the second is primarily med students and residents with a handful of staff and faculty that go to both. Speaking of which, even if Stephen's spouse were looking to cut back, I wouldn't think that getting licenced here would be too tough from the US...

http://www.cpso.on.ca/Info_physicians/applicants/regist.htm#IMG

L-girl said...

This is awesome. Thank you to everyone! I look forward to hearing more from Steve, and from more commenters as well.

Jen, to make links in comments, you type this:

[a href="URL"]nameoflink[/a]

substitute > < for ][

URL HERE = http:// etc.

nameoflink = whatever words you want the person to click on

If you knew all that and I'm answering the wrong question, sorry about that. :)

L-girl said...

Lots of wildlife in it's natural habitat is what cottaging is for. You should explain about 'the cottage' to them.

Hm, well, maybe not.

As far as I can tell, cottages are summer rentals or second homes for people who don't travel, places were Ontarians go to escape the city, to hike, or canoe, or maybe just sit around drinking beer.

We might rent a cottage for a few days to go away with the dogs, but the whole off-to-the-cottage-on-weekends thing will never be for us.

I think - although I couldn't swear to it - that KW and Guelph would offer enough nearby nature of the kind Steve is looking for.

L-girl said...

You are 7 hours from Boston
You are 7.5 hours from Philadelphia
You are 7.5 hours from New York City


Sorry, but these cannot all be true.

Certainly travel times to NYC and Philadelphia are longer than this.

Hey, at least no one said it was 1.5 hours away!

Scott M. said...

It was intended to be a rough estimate based on Google maps. I should have stated that in my post -- my apologies. Traffic is rarely taken into account by Google.

Ottawa to Philadelphia
Ottawa to New York City
Ottawa to Boston

L-girl said...

Traffic is rarely taken into account by Google.

Or speed limits, I guess. Google is really full of shit on this one.

Not you, Scott. You are a truly reliable resource.

Justin Beach said...

"We might rent a cottage for a few days to go away with the dogs, but the whole off-to-the-cottage-on-weekends thing will never be for us. "

Me either, I personally love Toronto. I don't have enough time to do everything I want to do here and we are close to High Park - which while it is a planned park is largely kept/left in it's natural state and is fairly large.

Usually we go north - to a cottage in NE Georgian Bay for a week or two a year and it's a complete escape. The area we are in is sparsely populated, the cottage is on it's own island, at night it is dark except for the moon and silent except for the nocturnal animals. And it belongs to nature. You truly feel that you are guests of the animals that live there. It's a good place to recharge the batteries for another year in Toronto.

L-girl said...

we are close to High Park - which while it is a planned park is largely kept/left in it's natural state and is fairly large.

And for us, believe it or not, relaxing in our large backyard in Mississauga, and the occasional hike in the woods (although I do want to increase the frequency of that) is enough.

I know what you're saying re Toronto. Someone once described NYC to me as a place everyone spends a lot of time and energy trying to get away from. Well, I lived there 23 years and I never experienced that. There was never enough time to do all the things I wanted to do.

For me it's also that I crave travel - sightseeing, exploring new places. Trying to sample as much of the world as I can. Cottaging is a nice break, but it's not stimulating enough to be my main form of vacation.

L-girl said...

The area we are in is sparsely populated, the cottage is on it's own island, at night it is dark except for the moon and silent except for the nocturnal animals. And it belongs to nature. You truly feel that you are guests of the animals that live there.

Wow, this sounds heavenly.

Justin, do I recall correctly, you are from the US originally?

Scott M. said...

Google is really full of shit on this one.

Not you, Scott.


I can be... :)

L-girl said...

I can be... :)

Well, who can't be...

Scott M. said...

I wonder if it just has problems when it crosses the border. On the Canadian side, it seems to expect 90km/hr (which, for those parts of the route, is quite acceptable). I have no idea what the limits are on I-81 or I-89 when you get mid-state... that might be where the problem is.

Either way, they never take into account Customs time, or even the time to stop and use the bathroom or get some Coffee Crisp and Canada Dry.

James said...

I was wondering about London, but I remembered your mentioning anti-gay activity there.

Well, I haven't lived there for over 10 years, so it's probably mellowed at least some.

We are close to High Park - which while it is a planned park is largely kept/left in it's natural state and is fairly large.

High Park also has an excellent off-lease area for dogs, with a large hilly open area and about 2km of fenced forest trails.

One thing about Ottawa: winters are nasty. Supposedly, Ottawa is the second or third coldest national capital in the world, after Reykjavik and possibly Moscow.

Jen said...

Thanks L-girl that was exactly what I was looking for!

I also agree with you re: the cottage. I don't think that's the kind of thing that Stephen was refering to. I think he was referring to stuff like going for a night ski after work to a lodge with a wood stove, meeting up with other skiers, having a bit of wine & chocolate and skiing back to your car. OR going for a skate down 10 km of canal. The first one is a 20 min drive from my house, the second is a 5 min walk. I do think the winters can be occasionally brutal like James mentions, but that's what gets us the skiing and skating, so well worth it! Plus, it feels so good to come inside and your skin is all tingly from the cold...

Jen said...

Sorry, I sound like I'm bragging. Really, I'm just being prematurely nostalgic in anticipation of leaving!

L-girl said...

You don't sound like you're bragging! Not to me, anyway.

There is nothing like loving where you live. Soon after we moved to Canada, I felt so happy, so deeply at peace, and I loved where we lived so much (and still do), that I always felt like I was bragging. I would tell people how happy I was... then apologize!

Wmtc readers assured me I had done nothing wrong. :)

Scott M. said...

Winters are Brutal [in Ottawa]

I guess. It depends on if you are an outdoor enthusiast or you're a person who likes to run from their car into the mall and back to their car again.

It may be the third coldest national capital, but it's nowhere near the third coldest capital in Canada, nor does it appear even on the top lists of cold cities in the world.

Ultimately, if you dress properly, you'll find it's not that bad at all. No kidding. The key though is to dress properly.

And if Steve is the kind of guy who likes to excercise outdoors, the Ottawa area has lots of opportunities. And those people who do exercise outdoors (ex. cross-country ski) can tell you -- it's not too cold at all. In fact, perhaps I'll take off another layer...

Scott M. said...

Ottawa's not that much colder...

If you don't want to wade through the hyperbole that everyone will tell you about weather in Canada, myself included, you can just check out Environment Canada's Canadian Cliamte Norms for the cities you're interested in. They give you a month-by-month breakdown of the averages of everything from sunny days to windchill to humidex to snow on ground, etc.

Here's the report for Ottawa.

Here's the report for Kitchener Waterloo.

Justin Beach said...

Yep from the US once upon a time.

M@ said...

Late to the party, here, but the KW/Cambridge/Guelph area really does seem like a good fit for the criteria. And all the cities are in easy commuting distance of each other -- my wife and I both used to commute from Guelph to Waterloo and Kitchener without too much hassle.

But as for green spaces, there are actually a lot of good opportunities for tramping through the woods in this area. Guelph and KW do have trails threading around and through the cities, and the Grand River has trails following it from north of Waterloo straight down through Cambridge. There are some nice wild parks in the area, as well as some great conservation areas (e.g. the spectacular Elora Gorge just north of Guelph). And if water is your thing, there are many great spots for canoeing and rowing.

For someone looking for an IT career, the KW area is also great there is not only a lot of high tech there, but also a lot of work with insurance companies. (Most of Canada's biggest insurers started in KW -- one of those little facts that not many people know.)

That said, I agree that Ottawa is great too. If we had to move to another area in Ontario, that would be our top choice. As it is, the KW area is working out well for us...

impudent strumpet said...

First thing that came to mind was the Westdale neighbourhood of Hamilton, even though Hamilton's bigger than what they're looking for. I'd be hesitant to recommend Ancaster to a same-sex couple, and I'd normally have similar hesitations about Dundas except that a gay couple I know who grew up in Dundas recently moved back and bought a house there, so I have to assume they know what they're doing. Westdale strikes me as a much better place to grow up though.

Also, my friend was recently gay-bashed in London, so that's, like, one unit of anecodatal evidence.

kclare said...

I cast my vote for Kingston, ON, where I went to school. It has great historic roots, small-town feel, and is closer to the size they are looking for than Kitchener-Waterloo.

It has excellent cycling in the thousand islands, and a free ferry over to Wolfe island where I did plenty of cycling in my school days.

The Lamoine point conservation area is close by, and there is excellent walking along the cataraqui river, there are some spots where you can see baby rabbits at certain times of the year as you walk.

There is a beautiful catholic church in the historic part of town right near the historic bed+breakfast area.

There is an excellent busker festival every year in the summer, as well as a blues festival.

On the gay community side of things, there is a pride parade, a gay bar and a gay film festival.

The Grand theatre has recently been renovated and has a full schedule of concerts and plays, and Kingston attracts many rock/pop artists to its bars as groups travel coast to coast.

My personal favourite in Kingston was getting involved in sailing at the Kingston Yacht Club. Kingston has the best freshwater sailing in the world, and it's a heck of a way to see the thousand islands. It was even neat to have the poker run boats come in to town one weekend a year (although I woudn't do it myself), it is quite a sight to behold to watch them start their poker run. Especially if you've hoisted yourself up the mast of a sailboat to watch the start!

Scott M. said...

Kingston definately fits the bill if you want a large regional centre that's not near a major city such as Toronto, Montreal and (the much smaller town) of Ottawa. I still wouldn't say it's near lots of nature, but it does have Frontenac Park nearby, which is a nice backpack-and-canoe-only Provincial Park. Make sure you book well in advance, sites 6 and 9 are my favourite.

Kingston also has it's downtown going for it probably the nicest and most historic downtown in Ontario. Queen's University is top-notch, and it's great to be in a town with so many youth. It's a very LGBT-friendly town due to that.

I wouldn't say that it's near a lot of wilderness -- again, it's in the middle of farming country. As well, the job market in Kingston isn't all that great, unfortunately.

I guess a good caveat for anyone looking for a job in Ontario is that, in general, there are no major Ontario places within minutes of great expanses of Ontario wilderness. Ottawa is the closest to that, but the wilderness is actually in Quebec and not in Ontario. (Everywhere around Ottawa in Ontario is farmland as well).

Stejosaur said...

Holy cow.

Thank you, all of you, for your help. Those suggestions are exactly what we're looking for. Almost too many, in fact! It'll be hard to narrow the list down to a short set of places we can reasonably visit and try to get to know before committing to a move. Perhaps good places to start would be Kitchener / Waterloo / Guelph, Kanata (or another Ottawa-area town), and Kingston, but I don't mean to disparage any of the other suggestions that you've made.

This is, obviously, a major undertaking for us. Both my husband and I have agreed that if it were just the two of us, we'd probably just up and go and make it work. But we have to consider the needs of two young kids who aren't old enough to understand the decision we're about to make for them, and that's what's got us dithering. We're thinking that our next step should be to make some visits. We're already planning to come up to Toronto this coming summer to take in some of the tennis, which would be a good opportunity to go visit some other cities and get an impression of what they're like.

Can I toss out a followup question?

One big topic for us is schooling. I know next to nothing about Canada's education system. From a bit of Googling, I gather that Ontario has taxpayer-funded schools as well as private and parochial schools, much like where we are now. What about home schooling (which may be our best choice for one of my sons)? Is that common? Practically unheard of? Somewhere in between? How about cyber-schooling? Does anyone know anything, even anecdotally, that I could use to compare one school system with another? I'd appreciate hearing anything you have to say.

Our other big concern is one that no one can help us with: there's a conflict inherent in this proposed move. We are choosing between living in a culture that emphasizes consumerism and materialism but is where our families are, and living in a culture that emphasizes community responsibility but means leaving our extended family behind: not exactly a responsible thing to do, as my parents and in-laws will one day decline in health and need care and we'll be off in another country...

Sigh. No big decision is ever easy, of course.

I very much appreciate all the postings. I was absolutely floored to see that by the time I got word that Laura had posted my story on her blog, there were already forty replies. Forty! You're all very kind to share your ideas. Thank you.

- Steve

stejosaur said...

I goofed up the cyber-schooling link. It should be this.Note to self: preview first!

M@ said...

Steve -- I happen to know that home schooling is definitely an option in Ontario. I recently met a young man who was home-schooled for health reasons. I don't really know where you might look for more information but this might be a start, if you haven't already seen it.

As for cyber-schooling, I don't know that there is a real program in Ontario. The Ontario government is desperately trying to catch up with the Internet age, in my (direct) experience, so don't expect much from them on that score. It might be worth asking some questions via the Ministry of Education (here) about companies like the one you linked to.

As an aside, I've done a lot of work with various Ontario ministries lately, and my experience is that they take inquiries from the general public very seriously. It's probably worth your time to put your query in with them. My feeling is that the squeaky wheel really can get the grease in this province, especially if the grease is full and explicit information about what the province does and does not provide for its citizens.

And don't be surprised by the number of replies here. 40 is nothing -- just check out what happens when someone mentions free speech! :)

I'll bet that if you have any follow-up questions about specific regions and so on you're looking at, you'll get another 40 replies. So... ask away!

PALGOLAK said...

Guelph!

And housing is less pricy, too.

James said...

We are choosing between living in a culture that emphasizes consumerism and materialism but is where our families are [...]

Well, consumerism and materialism are pretty rampant up here, too. We like to think that it's at least a little less blatant than in the US, though. :)

L-girl said...

We are choosing between living in a culture that emphasizes consumerism and materialism but is where our families are [...]

Well, consumerism and materialism are pretty rampant up here, too. We like to think that it's at least a little less blatant than in the US, though. :)


Exactly.

I get quite a bit of email from people looking for the same thing, and that's just what I say.

It's still North America. It's still planet Earth. But in Canada, more important values are sown in to the fabric more strongly - and if you subscribe to those values, you're not a total freak!

Lone Primate said...

Guelph!

Gesundheit!

L-girl said...

Holy cow.

Thank you, all of you, for your help. Those suggestions are exactly what we're looking for. Almost too many, in fact!


Wmtc readers are really smart and incredibly generous. That's a great combination when you're looking for information!

Both my husband and I have agreed that if it were just the two of us, we'd probably just up and go and make it work. But we have to consider the needs of two young kids who aren't old enough to understand the decision we're about to make for them, and that's what's got us dithering.

Allan and I have said that to each other so many times - how much easier it was for us, being child-free. I was going to say something like "you don't have to move to the perfect place straight off, you might move, then re-settle elsewhere"... but then I remembered your children. I'm sure you don't want to uproot them more than once, or more than is absolutely necessary.

I personally believe a life in Canada, where their parents are respected fully as equals, would be one of the greatest gifts you could ever give your children. But I'm very biased, and I'm not their parents.

You might like to talk to Two Moms To Canada about their decision (link on the sidebar). I also know another couple (male/female) with a 13-year-old daughter who moved here from South Carolina. They're very nice and would probably be glad to be in touch.

Good luck with everything. Anytime you want another post asking a different question, let me know.

(An aside: you do know you can't just "up and go", right? That it will take about 2 years to get through the immigration process?)

Scott M. said...

Hi Steve...

I can't speak much to home schooling, other than the fact it is permitted in Ontario. Never heard of cyber-schooling before.

However, an important (and weird) note about Ontario schooling -- for each place in the province, there are four publicly funded school boards:

- English Public
- English Catholic
- French Public
- French Catholic

Yes, that's right -- the Catholic school board is fully funded. Many people choose the Catholic school board up here not just because they're Catholic (that's not a requirement oddly enough) but because they feel the Catholic board does a better job of infusing morals and values into their children. It certainly has a much better reputation for discipline and, in general, you'll find Catholic schools have uniforms whereas public schools do not.

You cannot send your children to french language school board schools unless French is their mother tongue; however the English language school boards have French Immersion schools you can put your children into. If you do not, the amount of French language instruction is minimal.

We are choosing between living in a culture that emphasizes consumerism and materialism but is where our families are, and living in a culture that emphasizes community responsibility but means leaving our extended family behind: not exactly a responsible thing to do, as my parents and in-laws will one day decline in health and need care and we'll be off in another country...

Hmm. Canada's quite consumer-oriented as well -- maybe not as bad as the US, but it's still pretty bad up here -- it's going to be hard to get away from that. Again, consider the Catholic school board for a bit more of a community culture.

Another option would be to live in a very small village where your kids don't have the opportunity to be consumers... I grew up in the hills between Oshawa and Peterborough and the closest village was a 30 minute bike ride away. But then you have to deal with a 45-minute bus ride to the school... etc. Lots of choices. There are similar small towns close to Ottawa, K/W, Guelph, etc.

Note again that Canada *does* have a consumer-driven culture and is *not* considerably more community minded here, unless you go for the very small towns and rural areas.

Another option available up here which may help build a sense of community is Scouting (Scouts Canada) which accepts both Boys and Girls, Gay, Straight, any religion, etc. The only real requirement on the books is a belief in a higher power (and no one is ever asked about that, though there are non-denominational/non-religion specific prayers offered at times when the religious affiliation of group is mixed). If you get a good Beaver Colony (ages 5-7), Cub Pack (8-10) or Scout Troop (11-14 or 16) or Venturer Company (14-17) or Rover Crew (18-24) they’ll help with the sense of community. As well, you will both be welcome to apply to be leaders (there’s a bit of a interview/reference check/police check involved that everyone has to go through). I’m a cub leader.

The danger I would caution against would be that of the Winter Hibernation. No matter where you are in Ontario, it gets cold in the winter (make sure to check out Environment Canada’s Canadian Climate Norms to get an idea of what the weather is like). The vast majority of Canadians stop any outdoor activities in the cold, which leads to a proliferation of video games and TV viewing. Buck the trend! If you find yourself cold, it is *always* because you are not dressed appropriately -- we live in an age of amazing clothing that can keep you feeling toasty warm and having fun in any climate, without having to look like the Michelin Man. Cross-country skiing (skate or classic style) and snowshoeing can easily get you into the wilderness well away from all noises of urbanized life. Ice skating and hockey on outdoor rinks are great ways to pass an hour during the week amidst your neighbours. Biking and hiking are options as well. If you feel like just goofing around, going for a weekend of snowmobiling every few years is a great way to check out vast expanses.

Finally, if you become citizens of this fair country, you could always sponsor one or two members of your family to come up here and take care of them in their old age.

Just some thoughts, forgive me if I'm rambling.

L-girl said...

Note again that Canada *does* have a consumer-driven culture and is *not* considerably more community minded here

In my experience, this is not true.

Canada does have a consumer-driven culture, but it is much more community minded than the US. With all due respect to my friend Scott M, I think I am in a better position to judge, having lived in both cultures.

I live in what is considered the "most Americanized" area of Canada, a term which I despise, since it is so false and misleading. Yet this sprawling suburb full of big-box stores is way more community-minded than its equivalent in the US.

Scott M. said...

You're right, of course, I haven't lived in both.

However, having lived in a rural area and in big cities, it appears to me that the big cities in Ontario are almost completely devoid of a community spirit.

If the worst community in the world had 0% community spirit, and utopia had 100%, I'd put Toronto at 10%, suburbs and mid-sized cities (eg. Ottawa and Hamilton) at 20%, smaller cities (eg. Moncton, Kingston, Guelph) at 30%, small villages near a major centre at 50%, small isolated villages at 70%. So to me, the difference between near 0% and 10 or 20% is negligable.

(Now I guess coming from the other side, 20% is 20 times greater than 1%...)

L-girl said...

However, having lived in a rural area and in big cities, it appears to me that the big cities in Ontario are almost completely devoid of a community spirit.

That sounds like anti-city bias to me.

Most people who don't prefer big cities think cities lack community spirit. Often they define that spirit in different ways - they're looking for something that isn't there, so they're not recognizing what is there. Big-city community looks different from small-town community.

Toronto has a lot of community spirit. I have to assume that if Canada's largest city does, than Ontario's smaller cities do as well.

Scott M. said...

There could be some anti-city bias, but I've lived in both so it's not an unfounded bias. (I used to live near Yonge and St. Clair, right behind the CHUM building -- a nice part of town). I'm certainly not saying their's no community there - heck, I was part of it (still in Scouting). But it's only a fraction of the community that is felt in the rural environment where I grew up. Yes, my numbers were randomly subjective, but 1/7th seems about right.

L-girl said...

Perhaps the community that exists in large cities is not the kind you prefer, so much of it goes unrecongized. Similarly, what you recognize as community spirit in small towns might look like intrusive busybodies to me. Much of what small-town people love about small towns makes me recoil in horror.

Again, this speaks to how one defines community.

Scott M. said...

BTW, if you're looking for IT jobs outside of Ontario, places to consider would be Montreal (which BTW does have a more palpable sense of community, mostly because there are stark divisions), Calgary (which has very little community-feel to it), and the Greater Vancouver Area (which does have some nice close-knit communities). Some smaller communities have some jobs, (like Kelowna) but not a great selection unfortunately.

Off on a bit of a tangerine are places that I'd like to live if I didn't have to worry about work: Canmore, AB; Squamish, BC; Sechelt, BC. But probably Canmore.

James said...

Guelph!

We're just lucky there isn't a city across the 401 named Ghibelline. ;)

Scott M. said...

Maybe she's born with it..?
Maybe it's Ghibelline!

James said...

[The Catholic school system] certainly has a much better reputation for discipline and, in general, you'll find Catholic schools have uniforms whereas public schools do not.

Yeah, but the kids who come out of it tend to have this irrational fear of penguins... ;)

[Canada] is *not* considerably more community minded here, unless you go for the very small towns and rural areas.

Head to one of the Toronto neighbourhood festivals like "Taste of the Danforth" and you'll see plenty of community mindedness. I find Toronto much more community-oriented than my home town of London, and while my mother's home village of Creemore might have a strong community identity, it has also tended to be pretty insular.

"I came to realize that the only way I would ever be accepted in Penelope County would be to arrange to have been born here fifty years ago" -- Walt Wingfield, "Letter from Wingfield Farm", from the plays based on the rural communities around Creemore and Dufferin County.

James said...

Guelph!

We're just lucky there isn't a city across the 401 named Ghibelline. ;)


[...]

Maybe she's born with it..?

Maybe it's Ghibelline!


I think this counts as a jinx. :)

PALGOLAK said...

What is with all the people making fun of the name Guelph?

I personally view as a sign of immaturity...

L-girl said...

What is with all the people making fun of the name Guelph?

I don't think they're making fun of anything. They're just being silly.

Scott M. said...

What is with all the people making fun of the name Guelph?

Just a bit of juvenile fun not intended to offend anyone named Guelph. I actually quite like the town and it's proximity to both the Bruce Trail and the moon (Cheltenham Badlands). Acton is closer though -- naah naah ny naah naa.

L-girl said...

It depends on if you are an outdoor enthusiast or you're a person who likes to run from their car into the mall and back to their car again.

Those are not the only choices. Lots of middle ground between those two. Plus, lots of outdoors enthusiasts hate winter.

L-girl said...

Head to one of the Toronto neighbourhood festivals like "Taste of the Danforth" and you'll see plenty of community mindedness.

When I lived in NYC, I noticed that many stereotypes about NY hinged on it being supposedly cold and impersonal. Most people who said that didn't realize that most cities are collections of neighbourhoods, and people tend to be very friendly, giving and neighbourly within those neighbourhoods.

Also, city people tend to live and work in the same town, which increases their connection to and investment in their community.

All in all, I think most Americans coming to Canada would find it a more community-oriented society than the US. The biggest evidence of this, to me, will always be the health care system.

Scott M. said...

Those are not the only choices. Lots of middle ground between those two. Plus, lots of outdoors enthusiasts hate winter.

Well I'm glad that more than one part of my post drew comment, if not controversy. :)

L-girl said...

Well I'm glad that more than one part of my post drew comment, if not controversy. :)

Your days as thread-killer are over. :)

James said...

What is with all the people making fun of the name Guelph?

Because it's a much more interesting name than "London", with some fascinating but somewhat obscure history attached to it. Why else? :)

MSEH said...

I've been out of touch - in NB working on the house plans - but... given what you describe as your interests in terms of location, Fredericton, NB is more than worth considering!

Paul Kemp said...

Hi Laura,

From your description of a new and better life ahead, I would suggest some time viewing the information on this web site. http://www.destination-ns.com/

Halifax Nova Scotia is one of the oldest cities in Canada. The people throughout all of Nova Scotia are among the friendliest in the world. Cape Breton Highlands are one of the most beautiful places on earth with music and arts as a main interest of it's people. Areas 30 to 40 minutes from Halifax are like dream towns right out of the movies with creative and artistic themes that will amaze, any lover of nature and mankind. The valley area 1.5 hours from Halifax will take you back to the days when the Beatles soothed the souls of all those who would face the most rapid transitions and change the world has ever known. The population of the entire province is just around 1 million, all of our towns and villages are as modern as those in the United States.

Canadians are conservative, Americans are liberal, you will enjoy the social challenges of breathing the American culture into the hearts and souls of your neighbors, and they will find the relationship refreshing.

Lots of luck on your search, and forget not to check withing the powers of your own soul for guidance on your journey.

http://www.PaulKemp.info
http://www.Machiventa.info

L-girl said...

Hi Paul, thank you for your comment. I hope you read the post, so you realize it's not me that's searching. I've been in Canada 2.5 years and am quite happy living outside Toronto. I'm sure the person who was inquiring will appreciate the info. Thanks for stopping by.

melodicmedia said...

I've lived in Kitchener-waterloo my whole life. It's a Great Place to live and grow up. If you can get through the winters. But I would recommend the University cities either Guelph or Waterloo. Guelph has a distinctly different feel to it than KW. much more open, community oriented. I might be moving there myself. Waterloo is also very nice.
Also, you'll find people around here very open about same sex marriage. There's a good night in waterloo to. Guelph is also pretty close to Niagara Falls, only about 1.5 hours drive. Close to the American Border if you ever need to go.

Miss Cellaneous said...

I recently moved to Oshawa, Ontario from Michigan and I think it fits all of the suggestions that Steve made. Plus it's still close to Toronto if you want a bigger city feel. All the cities surrounding Oshawa are super cute: Whitby, Ajax, Pickering. . it's been great!

passionera said...

Hi, I live in Burnaby, BC, and according to wikipedia, it apparently has the highest ratio of parkland to residents.

It's close to the larger cities and city centers, and the area is quite nice, especially North Burnaby where I was born and raised (I still live there!).

Good schools are around, prestigious high schools such as Burnaby North Secondary and up the mountain is Simon Fraser University.

It may be a little far from Ontario, but it's a wonderful place, and a growing art center.

I think it'd be a good place for the family.