Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Crossing Borders 1–Travel to UU Ministers’ Convo in Ottawa

I flew to Burlington, Vermont, stayed overnight with friend Abigail in her big old house in the country (well, a block from the town green, but there are fewer than 1,000 souls there, in a town I never heard of, even though it’s named after one of Ethan Allen’s brothers).  No heat upstairs but Frisky sat on the bed waiting for me.  Though allergic, I let him stay as long as he would.

The sky was clear and sun bright Wednesday as we drove to Ottawa in her minivan.  We passed the midpoint between the North Pole and the Equator–I had no idea; it felt as if we were 3/4 of the way to the North Pole already.  We drove through the countryside of Quebec, stopped in the neighborhood of Old Montreal for lunch at an upscale Polish restaurant (bypassing the upscale Indian and Thai restaurants), plodded along the city’s streets and freeway and headed into the sunset to the nation’s capital, Ottawa, just across the border from Quebec.

At the border crossing from Vermont into Canada, Abigail  handed over our passports and answered the guard’s questions:  Going to Ottawa, going to a conference,  coming back in five days.  I wanted him to say Welcome to Canada, but he didn’t.  His dark suit had a lovely lapel pin, a deep-red poppy, which we would see on many people, as it was Nov. 11, Remembrance Day, in Canada.  (Veterans’ Day in the US; which meant we couldn’t get money changed at a bank before leaving.)

I read later in the Globe and Mail newspaper that there Canadians have had a resurgence in attention to this holiday, perhaps due to the involvement of Canadian service members in Afghanistan.  Lots more people attend Remembrance Day ceremonies now.  At 11:11 AM (on 11/11) Canadians observe a full minute of silence whatever they are doing; there is a move to make this two minutes of silence now.  That’s what it used to be, till interest waned in Remembrance Day observances!

In other news, the Conservative government has revised the booklet that immigrants have to study to include more history about Canadian and First Nations encounters, tensions over the relationship of its French-speaking province to the national government, and the Queen of England (who is still the Queen of the Dominion of Canada).  The book also says more about the peacekeeping roles played by the Canadian military in recent history.  (I didn’t realize that Canada was in the Korean conflict but not the Vietnam war.)

A colleague told me that Quebec gets to choose its own immigrants.   Immigrants to other provinces are processed by the feds, not the provincial governments.  For immigrants to Quebec, the federal government only conducts a background check for security purposes, which slows down the process a bit.   Quebec ranks would-be citizens through a system of points:  more points for speaking French and for being of baby-making age.  (Immigrants from from former French colonies are at an advantage.)  It’s good to know French, as all the road signs in Quebec are not bilingual, as they are in the rest of the country.

Wednesday night’s opening worship for our convocation included a welcome from the minister emeritus from the Ottawa church and the other Canadian ministers on the planning committee.  He said:  “Welcome to the second coldest national capital on the planet, after Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.”   Fortunately for the next three days of lovely fall sunshine you couldn’t tell this was true.  Unfortunately, I was one of the dutiful conferees who did not leave the Westin Hotel and attached mall-with-food-court until the weather became overcast and wet.  But a Saturday night walk in the mist wasn’t too chilly for me, and going by Parliament I felt as if I were in London, but at a much better exchange rate.

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