becoming canadian: another step completed

We took the test! Like every step in the lengthy process of immigrating to Canada and becoming a Canadian citizen, this involved a lot of waiting. We'll know the results in about two months.

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There were about 50 people waiting at the CIC office with us, faces and accents representing the global village of Mississauga. Many people seemed nervous and excited. Some people were studying their "Discover Canada" guide. It was amusing to be doing this at the same place I once protested, waiting for our pal Jason Kenney to appear!

First we waited to be checked in, which went pretty quickly, simply matching names on the letters we had received to our CIC files.

Then we waited to be interviewed by a CIC officer. The woman we saw was - like every service person I have dealt with in Canada - pleasant, friendly, encouraging, and seemed to actually enjoy her job. I always expect Patty and Selma at the DMV, but we left them behind in New York City.

Ms Nice CIC Person checked our passports and the out-of-country trips we had declared on our applications. She asked us questions about where we live and where we work.

I was surprised about this, as being employed is not a qualification for citizenship. I asked about it, and she explained that the questions are to prove that you do in fact live in Canada. Because, said Ms NCP, there has been a lot of fraud in the past, people becoming citizens who don't actually live in Canada, there is now a more thorough check of residence requirements. If we had children, they would ask for the names of their schools and teachers.

I told her that a few years back, I lost my job when a company went out of business, then was unemployed for a while. Would that have been held against me? Ms NCP said, Absolutely not. In fact, if one was collecting social assistance in some form, that would show that you were living in the country, so it would be a positive residency factor. She also said that these types of questions have been added to the application, so they can be checked in advance.

Ms NCP gave us scan-forms with the fill-in-the-letter circles used for standardized testing in the US (don't know about Canada) and sent us through to the next step, saying she was sure we'd have no problem becoming citizens.

We sat in the adjoining room, a courtroom type of setting where, presumably, we'll be sworn in one day. There, we picked up clipboards, filled in the letter and number bubbles for our names and application numbers, and waited.

And waited.

Everyone had to be interviewed. There were three or four CIC staffers interviewing, but it still took a long time. We had planned to go out to celebrate, but as time ticked away - baseball starts at 7:00, and I had plans to meet a friend - we kept scaling back. It went from dinner in Port Credit to "we'll go someplace closer" to "we'll just have a quick drink" to "we'll pick something up and bring it home". Oh well!

Finally everyone was checked in, and another very friendly, chipper CIC person addressed us in the swearing-in room. She explained the test-taking procedure. She had us spread out among the seats, and partners were to sit on opposite sides of the room from each other.

There would be 20 questions, with 15 correct answers needed to pass. There are two mandatory pass questions - meaning, questions number 10 and 11 must be answered correctly in order to pass. And there is a one-of-three mandatory group: of questions 12, 13 and 14, at least one must be answered correctly for a pass.

There are several different versions of the test. Allan and I compared questions on the way home, and we definitely had different versions.

My test was a snap. I'm sure I got a perfect score. Since it took me about five minutes to complete, and knowing where my weakness lies, I went back and checked my answers, and found one question where I filled in the wrong circle by accident. I corrected that, handed in my test and waited a few minutes for Allan to finish.

Allan appeared a few minutes later. His test sounded a bit more difficult than mine. He may have missed one or two questions, but none of the mandatory ones, so still well within passing.

The mandatory questions are about the Canadian system of government, such as who do Canadians vote for in federal elections; after an election, how is the government formed; who is eligible to vote.

Both Allan and I had a question that reflected the "barbaric cultural practice" flag in the new Conservative-written citizenship guide. (See here, shorter versions here and here.) Mine was, "Which of these is a right of Canadian citizens?" One choice was, "The right of a husband to force his wife to cover her face and avert her gaze in public." Allan had the same question, and one choice was, "The right of a father to choose who his daughter will marry."

The correct answer for mine, by the way, was, "The right to believe whatever one chooses and freely express one's beliefs". True, but still debatable.

I also had a question about the significance of Vimy Ridge. There was no choice containing the words "useless bloodbath" so I chose "important battle in the First World War that cemented Canadians' reputation for valour". Allan had questions about Remembrance Day and the Victoria Cross.

Other than that, it was all very straightforward, a smattering of geography, government, history, and culture. What are the two official languages, which of these provinces make up the Prairie region, how long have the Aboriginal people been in Canada, who was the first Prime Minister, which is the most populated province, how many provinces are there, and so on. I think the best way to study is to take practice tests online, such as the kind I posted here, and of course, read the Discover Canada guide.

We learn the results in about two months. I was hoping to get sworn in by Mayor McCallion on Canada Day, but we probably won't make that.

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