My arrival in Canada as a permanent resident coming from France took place under extraordinary circumstances, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. I feel like I have been exfiltrated and parachuted into Ottawa through various stages worthy of a spy movie.
The health crisis has put a stop to many projects around the world. I am one of the lucky ones to have managed, despite the seriousness of the events, to realize my life project. With perfect timing.
A compromised start
As a new permanent resident in Ontario, my situation was urgent. It was the very beginning of confinement in France (March 17th) and my international moving company could not guarantee that the transfer of my boxes to Canada, originally scheduled for early April, could be carried out.
In addition, my plane ticket, booked for mid-April, had been cancelled, and I had already quit my job and put an end to my lease. I had already found a job in Ottawa, as well as an apartment. I was ready to take the plunge. The real change in my life that had already begun was being jeopardized by the international health crisis.
I decided to pursue the project on the advice of the Union des Français de l’étranger (UFE Ottawa), despite the challenge, the uncertainty and the unknown that the situation represented.
I proceeded step by step. One difficulty after another had to be solved and various obstacles had to be overcome, but I had the benefit of excellent information. Two factors were decisive for my success: the international moving company finally gave me the final approval, despite the confinement, for “reasons of urgency”. Finally, the UFE in Ottawa informed me that Air France had provided low-cost routing solutions for travellers to Canada (to Montreal only) for the last days of March. Against all odds, these last-minute arrangements changed the game as time was running out. As a permanent resident, I was allowed to enter the country, despite the closed borders. But I still had to cross the Atlantic! The prices of the last tickets before the suspension of international passenger flights had exploded (some tickets to Ottawa were over $3,000), and many people, who could not afford them, decided to stay on the ground.
The five-hour wait at Terminal 2 of Charles-de-Gaulle airport made me feel like I was in a science-fiction movie, with travellers on their way to Shanghai dressed in white suits, looking like ghosts. Once I was on board, I definitely had the feeling of being privileged.
Moreover, it would have been impossible to carry out my project without the unexpected help of the Union des Français de l’étranger, Ottawa chapter. The association was able to find a solution to accommodate me in a private home during the 14 days of quarantine, upon my arrival on March 27th, as my future accommodation required me to quarantine outside its walls. This involved a specific domestic organization in order to respect the sanitary guidelines.
Few doors would have opened under these conditions. All Ottawa hotels were locked up. Therefore this unhoped-for solution was the sine qua non for me to be able to move to Ontario. The arrangement amounted to applying the required social distancing measures and hygiene rules: isolation in a regularly ventilated room, a dedicated bathroom, separate meals with dedicated utensils, followed by disinfection of surfaces, as little contact as possible with the inhabitants of the house, and wearing a mask if necessary. Groceries were placed outside on the porch for protection.
The essence of volunteering
By collective applause, particularly on the balconies of Paris, the French population gives thanks to all health workers every evening at 8 p.m. They are the saviours of their fellow citizens, and are an essential element of society. Their profession exposes them to the virus. Others commit themselves to different situations of distress. Exceptional situations, exceptional people. In extreme cases, real allies can come forward. Governments try to allow their citizens to return home from all countries, but many are still stranded abroad for lack of flights. And in special cases, voluntary associations make sense in the extra support they offer, alongside diplomatic missions and governments.
I would like to thank the entire team of the Union des Français de l’étranger for its commitment. Through their sense of solidarity and their awareness of their mission as volunteers, they all took the initiative to enable me to complete my life project.
Note: This article was originally published in Le Droit on March 16, 2020 .Union des Français de l’Étranger (Union of French people abroad) www.ufe.org