Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reflets de Montreal

On the few occasions that I have ventured into Montreal, I have never had any problem with speaking French.  In the sixth form at my grammar school, I took conversational French  with Mademoiselle Rose from Paris  (for whatever reason, this was easily the most popular language option), and later on I actually lived and studied for a short time in Paris. The result of these misadventures is that although I still do not speak French very well, I speak it with a Parisian accent, which is anathema in Montreal. A few years ago a distinguished visiting professor from Paris was asked by his audience (in Montreal!) to please speak in English because they could not understand his 'Parisian French'. My experience has been similar; whenever I have ventured to speak French to anyone in Montreal, they have always politely asked me to please switch to English, because 'you 'ave an 'orrible Parisian accent'. The aquisition of this accent is therefore of inestimable value to anyone planning to move to Montreal, as they will never have to speak French except very briefly. In any case, the best place to go in Montreal is Charlie Biddle's Jazz Club, where English is the Language of Heaven.

The ability to speak French, or any other language, usually has nothing to do with what school you go to anyway.  The late Jack Layton learned French from his hockey pals and not at school. My daughter is completely fluent, despite going through the English-language school system here with never a hint of immersion. She is also fluent in several other languages that she picked up from her friends.  Meanwhile, people who have known her for years, including her husband, cannot pronounce her Welsh name properly.

On a recent visit back to 'the Old Country', one of my cousins told me 'you do have an interesting accent - half Welsh, half Canadian'.  That is what happens when you have been away for a long time, you do not really belong anywhere, except in your family, et dans les recoins de l'imaginaire.

Keith Jones, Manitoba

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Emigrating to Canada - What Was Your Biggest Mistake

When you are sitting comfortably in the UK anxiously waiting to fly to Canada to start your new life, everything seems exciting and you can't wait for the challenge to begin.

Often the reality of emigrating, once the novelty has worn off, is much harder than you expected.

What do you think was your biggest mistake when you emigrated?

Mine was not securing a job before I left and arrogantly assuming that my qualifications would be accepted at face value. Often, in Canada, your qualifications are not accepted and you have to take and study for their exams (With a hefty fee attached) before even being considered for a position you would have walked into in the UK.

Click hear to follow link to Bye Bye Blighty for a nice little article concentrating on this common mistake (And some surprising statistics regarding your chances of finding work).

Mick McCafferty
Author of "The Illogical Debtor"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bill 101

IF YOU ARE EMIGATING TO QUEBEC WITH KIDS THIS WILL AFFECT YOU. A topic that effects almost every immigrant to Quebec is "The Charter of the French Language" widely known as Bill 101. The Bill basically says that if you are an immigrant to Quebec then your children, if under the age of 16, MUST attend a French school. On the face of it this seems crazy and raises serious question concerning human rights. What do you think? Is this Bill crazy or a perectly reasonable measure to protect French culture in Quebec? Did you fight the Bill and win or are you of the opinion "When in Rome do as the Romans do"? Whatever your opinion we want to hear from you!

Discrimination in Quebec

Each weekday morning my twelve year old child wakes up with a sad resigned look on his face. Slowly but surely his spirit is being broken by the despicable school system practiced in Quebec that excludes him from learning in his mother tongue. He is one of the unfortunates who is bright, intelligent, has no learning difficulties or other defects and who's parents did all of their education in English but, crucially, in England and not in Canada (This blatant, disgusting discrimination is just unbelievable - Shame on you Canada).Therefore, in the bizarre parallel universe that we live in, he must go to a French school. Rather like the Black kids in 1960's Alabama he is forbidden to enter into certain schools based on his race. In most civilised countries damaging and abusing children based on race is considered a crime but, oh no, not in Quebec, Canada.

Of course, in Quebec this will immediately be considered a language issue. THIS IS NOT A LANGUAGE ISSUE IT IS A FREEDOM ISSUE. There is an English School Board in my area and the schools are much closer to our home than the French school. It is my human right to choose where I send my child to school. I am an adult and I have the right to freedom of choice.

Instead we are all treated like children and our basic rights are abused. The rest of Canada then turn a blind eye and let this happen without sanction.

My eldest son also had to go to a French school. He was brow beaten, made fun of by one of the teachers and broken to the point of depression over a two year period. Even when diagnosed by the school psychologist as suffering depression they still would not let him go - Bastards. I am convinced the policy of the school is to make the lives of English immigrants so difficult that, eventually, the kids are withdrawn from the school. After all, they have committed a crime by being born in England so surely they deserve to be abused? Once withdrawn from the school what do they do? Who cares they're only immigrants!

Fortunately we found a way round the situation due to the kindness of a couple who reached out to us and gave us the opportunity to send our son to Ontario to finish his high school education.

As someone who gives a lot of my time volunteering to advance the development of kids in Quebec whatever race, creed or colour, the only words I can find to describe the medieval policies practised in this province are SAD and BIZARRE.

The smoke screen of the language issue, as always, obscures the real issue here; a child?'s welfare. The best interest of a child is not being taken into consideration at all. Yes he can now speak French but what is the use of this if he is put off the whole French culture and language because he is being forced to do something he hates? My son is now bilingual; he speaks French. The job is done. What moral argument can possibly be put forward for keeping my son in a school he detests? Canada should be ashamed!

Bill 104 has recently be thrown out by the Supreme Court of Canada seven years after it was first challenged. However, they have given Quebec a full year to put something in its place. The question is why are Canada so scared of upsetting Quebec? What hold does Quebec have over the Canadian government?
Anyway, one thing is for certain, nothing will change and Quebec will continue to find ways to antagonise and drive English immigrants out.

Mick, St-Lazare

The cost of living in Canada is much cheaper the Britain - What do you think?

Before we leave everything behind to venture forth into the unknown, we are lead to believe that the cost of living in Canada is much cheaper than in Britain. This is usually based on the fact that property is much cheaper. In my opinion, the reality is that the cost of living is not cheaper than in Britain. What are you thoughts on the matter?

Why do women feel the need to keep their connections with the UK?

Submitted by: Jane in Hudson

This is a good question; it is something I was aware of but something I had never really given thought to. Here are some thoughts, from my own experience and others I have met in the same situation;

  1. Relationships. For all of us these are real and long-lasting. We worry about parents, family and friends left behind and how they all are. We feel guilty for stealing away grandchildren and not being able to be there quickly when we are needed. We know how important these relationships are for our children and that they will miss out on something important if they are not part of a close family group. We need to keep in touch with home, for those still there, as well as for ourselves and our children.
  2. Winters! 6 months of winter is a long time with small children and babies to bundle up and protect from the cold. Skiing is all well and good if you have someone to watch your little nippers when you go off but when you don't have that, a British spring, with flowers in February, is certainly a good tonic!
  3. Pop music. How can you be brought up with Top of the Pops, only to discover that it is been banished to BBC Kids here! Where else can we hear decent new British music? How can we not occasionally go home for a top-up of Robbie?
  4. Vulnerability. For many of us, this is the first time we have been completely dependent on our partners. Many of us gave up good careers to come here to support our partners in their ambitions and also (without the pressures that having two working parents brings to the family) to try to be the mothers we want to be to our children. But what would happen if things went wrong? What if our partners died or something worse?! What if we couldn't stand the two-tiered school system any more or the constant discrimination? We need to keep our connections with our old lives, friends, family, and jobs; just in case! This is certainly there in our subconscious, if not at the front of our minds.
  5. Shopping! Come on, who can live without Next, Monsoon, M and S, Debenhams and John Lewis? City centre shopping is far more enjoyable than strip malls.
  6. Girl's Nights out. Where in Hudson can you go for a few girly drinks and a dance round your handbag? Montreal culture is all well and good but it's too far and often too cultured!
  7. Food! We all need our top-up of British sausage, bacon, malt loaf and British Special K (yes, it really is different).
  8. Practicalities. Our parents might actually die while we're here. This may actually be the last time we see them. We need to go home to see them, just in case.
  9. Reality check. Going home helps you evaluate whether that life-changing decision was the right one. What is important to me and mine? Do I want to swap the big house for pretty countryside, history and family? Is the children's education suffering? Are they safer here or there? We need to constantly evaluate this and going home helps us to do it.
  10. Remembering who you are and who you want to be. OK, I'm a "stay-at-home mom" now. AAARGH! I hate being a "mom". When I'm in the UK, I'm a mUm, on a career break who has job prospects, when and if I choose to take them up again. Here, I have no job prospects unless I learn a whole new language, start again from scratch and bite my tongue alot about discrimination and about a whole load of other crap! I am that apple-pie baking mom, who, according to the bank, cannot use our joint credit card to top-up my phone because my husband is the wage earner! AND I have to put on a Canadian accent to say "voucher" because the stupid automatic system doesn't understand my accent! So going home helps me relax, makes me feel that I belong somewhere and, that I have a future.

Submitted by: Richard

Does anyone at all / could anyone miss Britain these days? Every time I go back now I feel more and more alienated from the place. Too crowded, too busy, too expensive but most of all too aggressive. It's not the country I grew up in, that's for sure.

Who Misses Britain the Most Men or Women

It appears to me that most men I have spoken to are very happy to stay in Canada and do not feel the need to even visit the UK. On the other hand women have a much stronger desire to visit on a regular basis to maintain personal ties with family and friends.

Is this assumption correct and if so why?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

British Immigrant Carving out a Living in Canada

Faced with the reality of unemployment in Quebec, Mick McCafferty (, founder of, formed his own company together with a fellow expat (FINTEG, click here) and is now helping Canadians solve their debt problems. Once the debt problems are solved Mick also offers help and advice on budgeting, credit rebuilding and financial planning and is also a registered tax preparer and efiler. Mick is a great resource for British expats in Canada and is always available to give advice or a second opinion if needed. Mick has recently published his first book “The Illogical Debtor” (Click here) which is 'MUST READ' for anyone struggling to cope with high levels of unsecured debt. Please support Mick in his quest to consolidate and grow his business and to provide jobs for expats in Quebec and Canada.

About Me was conceived and designed in 2006 by Mick McCafferty who emigrated to St-Lazare, Quebec from Nottingham, England in 2004 with his wife and three children. The purpose of the site is primarily to provide help advice and support to British immigrants in, or about to move to, Canada. Mick also publishes the BritClub Gazette periodically to keep British immigrants informed.