Friday, January 2, 2009

No Country for Women with Criminal Records

In a glorious and undoubtedly prophetic start to the New Year, I spent the majority of January 1st driving, returning to the Great White North of Canada.

My interning in Canada requires that I hold a Work Permit: though I am working for no money.   The type of permit I have is good only for one institution: the one I currently have is only for the National Gallery.  Therefore I needed to get a new one (for the Canadian Conservation Institute) where I will begin interning in early February.  

The Canadian Immigration Office I have dealt with is situated at the border north of Interstate 81.  It has worked out well: when I moved here the permit took me 15 minutes to get, done as I crossed the border.  This, for reasons unbeknownst to me, was ten thousand times easier for me to do than for probably everyone else in the entire world.  Talking with Hye-Sung about what she needed to get her permit, I must have just bumbled into Canadian Immigration on a Good Day.

I stopped back at Immigration to get my new CCI work permit, so that I can legally work there for no money.  While waiting for the immigration officer to complete my paperwork, I witnessed the most fascinating thing one can witness at an immigration office.

"Sorry Ma'am, but you have been denied entrance to Canada."

I was thrilled to overhear this conversation!  How often do you hear about people getting turned away from Canada?  I did overhear most of the conversation, but not because I was nosy.  They were just talking really loudly right next to me.

A couple had come to Canada.  The man was either Canadian or had no impediment to moving in and out of Canada.  The woman was American and intending to move to Canada as a permanent resident.  The man was waiting for her at the immigration desk while I was waiting in a nearby chair.  The woman exited some back room, walked up to him, and said, "I've been denied entrance."

She was pretty angry about this.  I'd be too, if I, unsuspecting of my unfitness, had driven to the middle of nowhere New York to get turned away at the border.

Man: Did you have drugs on you or something?

Woman: No.

She stepped outside for a smoke and the man decided to try and convince the Canadians to let her in.  She was a little rough-looking.  Judging a book by its cover, and her watery eyes by their red-rims, I wouldn't have been surprised if she did have drugs on her.

The Canadians wouldn't tell the man why the woman wasn't allowed in: she had to put out her cigarette, come back into the office, and tell the Canadians that they could tell the man.  This is the entirety of what she said, "You can tell him," and then she and her cigarette left to sulk outside in their car.

Canada: She has been denied entrance to Canada because she has a criminal record.

Man: But she's only been convicted of misdemeanors.

Canada: Under American law her crimes are misdemeanors.  When coming into Canada, we take the actual crime and translate it into Canadian law.  Under Canadian law her crimes are more severe.

Man: (He appears incredulous: I was too... who had ever heard of getting turned away from Canada?  The nation that we Americans say we'll move to whenever 'the Man' starts in on us.  Looks like Canada doesn't want our deadbeats after all.)

Canada: She is prohibited from entering Canada for one year.  If, after a year, she would like to come into Canada, she needs a letter from the United States giving her permission to leave and to come into Canada.

Man: This never would have been an issue if I hadn't told the truth, that she was coming to Canada and wanted to stay as a permanent resident.  I should have told you that she was coming here on vacation.

Canada: That would be lying, and that would mean that I could have both of you arrested and deported from Canada.  However, I will not do that.  I will make a note that if she attempts to enter Canada again within the next year she will be arrested.

At this point my paperwork was finished and I could leave.  I really wanted to stay and eavesdrop some more, either that or have the Canadians forcibly remove the woman from Canada.  Which, granted, wouldn't have been much, as they could have just thrown her 1000 feet to the south and she'd be back in the US.  

Any thoughts on what the Canada-prohibiting crimes were?  Based upon the man's initial query, my guess is possession of some sort of drug: quantity level low enough to qualify the crime as a misdemeanor instead of a felony but high enough to fall under the harsher category in Canada.

O Cormac McCarthy: I may not like your writing, but you're right about one thing.  There is no country for old men, and no Canada for women with criminal records.


Ynn said...

Perhaps Canada's actions in not allowing miscreants from the US in to the country translates into Canada's reputation as a calmer, more peaceful, laid back, friendly, donut-offering country, eh? I won't be judgemental about the woman, but perhaps they should have examined Immigration laws a bit more thoroughly.

Michael said...

I was afraid when I first saw this post that the Canadian officials had somehow found out how you had rudely cut in front of that woman during the manifestation and decided to deny you reentry.

Mary Ann said...

Well that is an interesting happening,Jessica.I imagine that it was quite intriguing to watch the drama unfold. Glad to hear that you got your work permit for "no money." It was so nice to visit with you.