RENEWING YOUR CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP WHEN ABROAD.

     Okay, you have renewed you passport, paid your Canadian taxes or submitted your non-residence exemption form, renewed your Japanese visa,but did you know that as an expat you HAVE TO RENEW YOUR CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP while living abroad for more than a year or it is possible to FORFEIT ALL CLAIMS to a full CANADIAN IDENTITY.  Luckily for you there are numerous ways to do so within your new country that will not cost you dear, and ensure that you are a true Canadian.  Like the passport application you will NEED A SPONSOR of any nationality in order to GUARANTEE YOUR APPLICATION.   Luckily, like the new passport regulations, this sponsor need not be a medical, legal or other professional.  Any witness to your application will suffice. 

Unluckily, there are no strict guidelines, nor easy to fill in forms that may be obtained from your local consulate or embassy.  We realize this is a setback for expats residing in Japan who have become so native that filling in blanks is an expected necessity, possibly a joy, and definitely an anxious frustration when not provided.   BE PREPARED: You are ON YOUR OWN. YOU MUST DEVISE, ENACT, AND CERTIFY YOUR OWN CITIZENSHIP RENEWAL.

Luckily for you there are a few groups and places that facilitate citizenship renew processes.  Here are a few suggestions from the Kansai area of Japan:

 1.  POLAR BEAR SWIM

     By far the number one way to prove your Canadian citizenship is taking part in a traditional POLAR BEAR SWIM on January first.   This may be done in a group.  (See figure 1.) Here members of the Kansai Canadian Association prove their Canadian identity en masse at Maiko beach near Kobe.  While it was not actually snowing at this moment, the requisite zero degrees Celsius temperature was obtained, and so these expats were successful in renewing their citizenship for this year.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 (Figures 1 and 2) :  Polar Bear Swim Do’s and Don't’s 

DO’S AND DON’TS.  In figure 1, the people with shirts on are considered cheaters and are put parole and will have to fulfill at least two other PROOF OF CANADIAN IDENTITY applications within the next 12 months or have their citizenship revoked.

Although Mr. Levesque’s shirt bears a Canadian flag, it is still officially recognized as a WIMP OUT and is penalized in the point count of his application.

     The Canadian flag shorts, however in figure 2, show both bravado and a slight mockery of the national flag.  Mr. Robinson, here, earns full points, as a true Canadian enjoys life and refuses to take nationalism seriously!    Note also the breaking of waves on the pier.  The more blustery the day, the better the application.

Swimming in snowy or icy is conditions is almost and absolute guarantee of renewal of citizenship.

 2. BALL HOCKEY. 

     Participating in any kind of hockey event is a plus for any application for citizenship renewal.  Not enough decent hockey games in your area?  Then make one.  Ball hockey is especially high on the citizenship point count.  Anyone in any country with ice can play hockey, but only a true Canadian loves the sport enough to play in on cement without any protective gear.

(Figure 3):  Ball Hockey

Here a group gets full points for managing to scrap together a game WITH NETS in the Kobe area!   Further bonus points were for sloppy casual attire and team shirts from actual Canadian teams!  Although, the Senators shirt is questionable. Those looking for actual games should contact Gen Hamada at the Owl’s Rest in Umeda, whose hockey coaching has won him a lifetime citizenship guarantee.

 3. WATCHING HOCKEY DRUNK IN TEAM SHIRTS.

     Lower on the list is watching hockey while getting shit-faced with friends.

While this is an easy to perform application in today’s web connected world, BEWARE!  Make sure you wear an appropriate shirt.  Below, figure 4 is a group fail!  Although Mr. Dupuis appears sufficiently shit-faced, he should have known better!  All members of this application were rejected despite their appropriate activity for wearing extremely inappropriate Detroit Red Wing Shirts. 

  

Figure 4:  Failed Citizenship Application.

4.  FINDING AND EATING POUTINE, or very cheap Pizza slices in your new country at a Certified Canadian Establishment during a Canadian celebrated holiday event. 

Simply knowing what poutine is, or having eaten it without knowing what the heck it was you ate, is enough for citizenship renewal.   But finding an establishment in a distant country that serves it on its daily menu is a guarantee.   Every Canadian also understands that Pizza is a cheap food.  Large slices should go for $1.50 or under.     (500Yen/slice accepted with exchange rates and life standards adjustments).

Here, Mr. Tanderich, a Mexican, gets automatic honorary Canadian citizenship despite never having been to Canada or even having applied for citizenship renewal.   

Figure 5. Honorary Canadian Citizenship obtained at SLICES, Shinsaibashi-West, 

Yoshimoto Building 1F
2-3-21 Nishi Shinsaibashi
Chuo-Ku Osaka

Let us look at his point count on the official application form below:

  

As we can see, Mr. Tanderich has scored over the requisite 50 points to earn an honorary citizenship.  You too can get your Canadian Citizenship renewed easily and cheaply by following any of the above steps. 

Dangerous Signs:  

     “But finding time and motivation to renew is めんどくさい!”, some complain.  BEWARE.  THIS IS THE FIRST SIGN OF CANADIAN IDENTITY LOSS.  Note the slip into Japanese.  Sliding into your host country’s language and adopting their attitudes is a sure sign your Canadian citizenship needs renewing.

     “And besides, I love Japan.” Uh OH!   This phrase is often followed by, “I’m not sure if I could even live back in Canada, what with the winters!”  If you have spoken these words or even had these thoughts, it means FULL IDENTITY CONFUSION IS NOW IN PROGRESS.  YOU ARE IN DANGER.  It will be very difficult for you to reenter the country and renew your medicare card and have access to medical marijuana. 

 To see if you have reached this phase, take this simple test: 

 CITIZENSHIP TEST # 1. BASIC VALUES.

1. What team did Wayne Gretsky originally play for?

2.  I like lots of foam on my beer.

3. Budwiser is alright.

If you answered  A) Eh?  Or B) Piss off! to any or all of the above, then you are still fine.  If you answered correctly or “yes” to any of the above, then your citizenship is already forfeit and you will need to take a full citizenship renewal course. 

       But first, do not worry. Let me reassure you that loss of identity is both understandable and, yes, forgivable. I, the author, confess to having had to undergo the full citizenship renewal course.  So I will explain both how this happened to me and how I re-attained my identity and citizenship, so you can avoid the loss or reattain citizenship identity if you have the most unfortunate experience to lose it.

 

How I lost my identity:     

    Japan, it turns out is one of the easiest countries to lose your virgintiy-- I mean identity in.   Let’s face it:  the daddies are rich, the mothers good looking, and the living is easy!  It’s always Summer Time, at least in comparison to Canada.  Seriously:  the people are kind, the culture rich, and the food fantastic. Hence we get lulled, seduced--I do not think seduced is too strong of a word-- into a false comfort.  The jobs are plentiful and our egos constantly fluffed by too easy praise.  The electronic, cultural and other distractions are plentiful.  We are kept too busy to care or think about who we are. 

    Further it all happens so slowly and insidiously because there are many ways the Japanese are just like us:  they love nature, they like peace, and they respect other cultures.  Well two out of three is not bad.  They say すみません、as much and in the same places we say sorry, even when it is the other person’s fault!  Just like us!

     And we are like them: we will negotiate and see the other person’s point of view rather than punch our way out of a bad situation, unlike some other North American country I won’t mention.  While we may be spiritual and enjoy going to places of worship, it is more for the community, the architecture and atmosphere; we do not  wear our religion on our sleeves, as do our Southern neighbours.   And like the Japanese we are quiet and listen to others rather than shout our opinions.  Well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. (As Will Ferguson wrote in Why I hate Canadians, we are only quiet compared to Americans, not compared to any other country on the planet.)

      But the point is that these similarities lure us into a false sense of shared identity that is only shattered on the occasion when we are reminded we are gaijin. Ok admittedly that happens on a daily basis, but it happens so often we’ve become inured. And before we know it we wake up one day and realize, we do like lots of foam on our beer!  AgggH!  We find ourselves pointing at our noses when referring to ourselves.  We clap when someone makes a joke.  We cover our mouths with our hands when picking our teeth.  We sleep on any train anywhere.  We even piss in public.  Well 5 out of 6 is pretty bad.     

 CITIZENSHIP TEST # 2. HAVE YOU GONE NATIVE?  THE SYMPTOMS.

Look at the pictures below.

  

(Fig. 6):  A typical sign in Japan.                              (Fig.7): Restaurant Décor.

     If you understood the sign in figure 6 and accepted the décor in figure 7 as normal for a public eating space you may have advanced symptoms of Canadian identity loss. Here are some other symptoms:

  1. You find yourself lining up because other people are.

  2. You do not speak up about injustice so as not to upset the Wah.

  3. You stay at work overtime without any expectation of extra pay.

  4. You automatically withhold yourself from freely kissing, hugging or even touching another human being, reducing powerful emotions of joy or sorrow so as not to appear out of control.

  5. You do not find any irony in signs like these:

 

   

(Fig. 8) A transport company sign. (Fig. 9.):  A t-shirt on a student at a university in Osaka.

    If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, then it is desperately time to make an act of citizenship renewal.  I suffered such terrible, terrible, sad symptoms. That is when I knew I had to do the whole course, as outlined below.

    First, I played lots of Canadian music.  Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young,    The Guess Who, Alanis Morisette.  Leonard Cohen, Orealis, Ashley McIssac, Bare Naked Ladies, The Great Big Sea, Oscar Peterson, Glenn Gould, Sarah McGlauglin, are all acceptable musicians you may play or listen to in order to renew your identity.  Justin Bieber or Celine Dion are NOT and will be punished heavily with scorn and looks of disgust.  And I participated in traditional Canadian events. 

 (Fig.10.) Author playing Farewell To Nova Scotia at KCA Thanksgiving dinner 2013.    Sorry but flags mandatory.        

   Second, I indulged in Maple Syrup, salmon and Canadian club. Consuming Canadian products internalises and speeds up the citizenship renewal process by getting Canadianess directly into the bloodstream and the rebooting the identity genes!                       

 

 

 

 (Fig. 11) Author gorging on Canadian products.  Step two of Full Canadian Identity Renewal process.

 

 Third, I returned to Canada to participate in classic Canadian outdoor activities: teaching my daughter the joys of climbing trees and canoeing into the sunset. (figures 12-13)

  

(Figure 12.)  Climbing a maple tree –here my daughter for her first time and -- (Fig. 13):  Canoeing into sunset, while gazing wistfully, are mandatory parts of the third step of the renewal program.   NOTE.  You must look wistful.  Wistfulness is an absolute necessary quality for passing the test. 

      Finally, I engaged in dangerously dumb outdoor activities myself.  Further, I taught my students the joys of the outdoors and the staple of Canadian cuisine: the Potato!

  

14. Zip lining in Rigaud.  Any dumb dangerous sport will do. 15. Leading students to field to dig potatoes-real Canadian cuisine. 

  All these activities are part of the full citizenship renewal course. You may invent your own version, alter the order, change the intensity level, but if you are feeling out of sorts, detached, isolated, cut off from your roots and alone as an expat, these are all the kinds of things you can do to renew your citizenship as a Canadian.  Basically anything you do that brings you in close contact with nature, that is lots of fun, that involves a community of people, and especially the sharing of various cultures will reconnect you.  In other words, anything that celebrates your humanity, your love of nature, your love of life, your love of people from all cultures, races and nations, automatically renews not only your Canadian citizenship, but your human citizenship on this planet.

Beware of Slipping Back!

    But even then you must be careful.  Once you have gone native once it is easy to slip back in.  For me the final test came just this January first.  I was engaging in my favorite Japanese activity: having an onsen in a traditional Japanese setting-- a cypress clad mountainside in a riverside rotenburo-- after a day of participating in a traditional Japanese festivity: oshogatsu, at Hongu Shrine.

    Despite the intense citizenship renewal course, I was slipping back into my Japanese identity.  I was too happy here. I mean, in what other country in the world can you get stark naked in an outdoor bath with perfect strangers of both sexes and exchange pleasantries as if you met them on the street fully clothed?  

 

  Fig. 16 The Rotenburo from hotel window in the evening.


  And as I enjoyed sitting in the hot water up to my neck, snow drifting down over head, talking to two strange women, with only a thin towel and a few feet of steaming sulfuric water between us, it occurred to me, I was failing the test.   I was getting lost again.

Maybe it was the fact that they were talking to me because I was a foreigner and not just being polite.  Maybe because they asked me where I was from.  But I was suddenly reminded that I am not a citizen here; that I cannot vote; that when it comes down to the Japanese version and the English version of my work contracts the former will be accepted; that I will never be fully accepted and I will usually be in the wrong if trouble occurs because of my foreign identity.  Then I knew that I had to prove once and for all my Canadian citizenship. 

So when they asked me what country I came from--and before I answered and they could tell me that Canada is cold there and that it produces maple syrup and has a maple leaf on that flag, all unknown to me-- I knew there was only way I could show them where I came from:  I went traditional: 

I got up from the rotenburo, and in my birthday suit, I crossed the rocks barefoot to the river, my pale white butt competing with the moon.  And with the wind blowing cold, and the snow swirling around me, I plunged into the ice cold river.  I went back to the rotenboru and then returned a second and third time to the river.  And after a few of them tried and failed to get in the river,  I replied to their question of my origin:  I AM CANADIAN, I said.  It was then I knew I had passed and succeeded again in fully renewing my citizenship.

 (Fig. 17): Snow dusts the trees and riverbanks in the morning.  Steam rises from the rotenburo in the distance.  Ice cold rivers are a good place to renew your Canadian and world citizenship. 

RENEW YOUR CITZENSHIP TODAY.  DO NOT SACRIFICE YOUR VALUABLE IDENTITY.

 

 

 

 

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