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The Test Of Citizenship

Posted on Wednesday, June 25 at 09:11 by jenmicah

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"Nice try, but Saskatoon is not a capital city in Canada!!!" it said in wobbly, permanant marker.

There is nothing like being reprimanded by a 9 year-old with autism.  As I set about the task of studying for my upcoming Canadian citizenship test, I also had to undertake the task of keeping up with Ryan (whose name I have changed for privacy).

Ryan is formidable.  Ryan is precise.  Ryan wields his autism like a weapon at times, and when it came to discovering my upcoming test, Ryan entered the field of battle with abandon.

I came to Canada 7 years ago as a newlywed 19 year-old from Oregon.  To me, Canada meant the historic Manitoba farm of my husband's youth with its rolling grassy hills and pungeant odors of new hay and cow pucks.  This familiarity with the personal Canada of my courtship was not of use to me as I began the seemingly arduous task of studying for citizenship.  This task was seen with interest by the grade 4/5 class at the local elementary school where I am employed as a support worker for developmentally disabled students.  Once my gaggle of students recovered from their shock that I was not Canadian, I was peppered with questions about what I had to know about Canada.

None carried the passion of Ryan.  He immediately set about the task of creating mock "tests" for me, wholly disregarding my offer of the study guide I had been sent when I applied for citizenship.  Ryan preferred to fashion questions he felt were of grave importance in his opinion.  Some sample questions on his initial test include, "Draw the Canadian flag," "Who is the Prime Minister of Canada?", and "Write each province and provincial capital (which you have seen I struggled with)."  He marked my tests with a flourish, requiring me to re-take each until I received 100%.

As my test approached, his tests became more difficult.  "What day was the current Prime Minister elected?" (hello wikipedia...), "What is on the back of each of the Canadian coins" (let me just dig my wallet out, Ryan...), and of course, the unfortunate "Sing the Canadian anthem to the class" (that was a humbling day...).

Finally, the day came for my test.  Sitting in the crowd of international flavor, my fear left me as I looked with respect on the many people gathered to take a test that would not be in their first language.  Many looked uncertain, eager, terrified.

When I returned to work later that day, I was steamrolled with hugs and questions.  Reaching my familiar classroom, I found Ryan articulating his disdain for the upcoming music class while creating a homemade comic book about "Captain Twitt and the Furball of the Opera".

"Did you pass?" he queried excitedly.

"They don't tell you right away.  I think so, though."

"What was it like?" he asked.

"Well, I guess I felt like I was very lucky that I could speak English and that I had received so much help in studying.  There were so many people who looked very nervous.  Instead of worrying about my own test, I felt like I was on a big team and I really wanted to cheer for all the people around me who were trying to join Canada with me.  I felt like we were all in it together, I guess."

After a thoughtful silence, Ryan asked, "Did my tests make it easy?"

"Definitely," I could not help but say.

"Okay, so if you don't pass, it is all my fault.  But if you pass, I will expect you to pay my standard fee," was his matter-of-fact reply, as he returned his attention to his comic book endeavors.

As I sit here today, reflecting back on my journey to Canadian citizenship, I sense two things.  First, I sense the richness of the heritage that I am being grafted into this summer when I take my oath to the Queen and this beautiful country.  It is a country of Manitoban farms that have been in the family for more than a century.  It is a country of people, people like my many "teammates" whose pencils scribbled alongside mine, people like Ryan.  This brings me to the second thing I sense -- that my initiation into citizenship, conducted by Ryan's battery of ten formidable tests, has more than qualified me to join the country that I call home.


  1. Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:53 pm
    A very nice article. Welcome home.

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