Saturday, June 30, 2007

O! Canada!

It was 1971.

I was nineteen, tired after a tearful parting from friends in New York and a long bus ride to Montreal.

I guess I didn't look too appetizing. Long hair, torn jeans and a tie-dye shirt, a scruffy hat and a guitar. I can only imagine what the Immigration officials thought of me at the border when they hauled me off the bus, put me through the third degree. (a) How long was I going to be in Canada? b) How much money was I bringing in? c) Who would I be staying with in Vancouver, etc. etc.

I can't say I was quite up front with them.
I told them a) a few weeks - even though I had no idea, b) I said $400 - I actually had $38, c) I said with friends, although I'd planned to sleep on the Beach at English Bay.)

So they strip-searched me. I guess expecting to find drugs hidden about my person.

(There were none to find).

An hour later I was escorted back to the bus, and handed up to the waiting driver who was trying to placate the passengers who hadn't come all this way in the middle of the night to be held up by a longhaired guitar-carrying hippie.

As he saw me on my way, the Immigration Officer said, "Welcome to Canada!"

How very Canadian, I think now. Personal violation and suspicion, promptly followed by ritual courtesy. (Although I won't tell you what I thought at the time!)

But I'm not bitter. And I'm still here thirty years later.
And glad to be.
Happy Canada Day to you!

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