In my previous stories, I mentioned how we went from going on a trip to Roatan to finding a firefighter exchange to Whangarei, New Zealand.
If only it were that simple. Little did I know that to get to New Zealand, I would almost be arrested, which could have ended any chance I had to a clear police record and allow us to emigrate.
Before I tell you about almost getting arrested and some of the other issues we had to overcome, Canada Post was also on strike at the time. We had to send all our documents via private courier. Since they were inundated with work due to the strike, the courier costs increased substantially. Moreover, we couldn’t submit anything electronically to NZ immigration, even if it was notarized. We had to courier everything to England, and each package cost us $70 in courier charges. We did this numerous times because they did not accept what we sent despite us meticulously following every rule as carefully as possible.
To emigrate, we needed to provide police checks for our residency application. So, off we went to the Edmonton Police Service, got our security clearance, and couriered this to New Zealand Immigration.
The answer came back from New Zealand Immigration that this security clearance wasn’t good enough. Instead, we needed to provide a security clearance from the National Police Service, and The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP, the red mounties you see in the media).
Canada’s difference is that there are multiple police services, and the RCMP doesn’t have jurisdiction for local matters in Edmonton. They can act for national security matters, but they don’t have an actual police station in Edmonton. To pass the New Zealand Immigration standard, we needed to provide fingerprints along with our security clearance from the RCMP.
No one I talked to could answer where I could get an electronic version of our fingerprints to send to New Zealand immigration. Coincidentally, this was the only thing we were able to send electronically.
After I called the RCMP, they said they could only do a paper copy, which would take a minimum of six weeks to process. NZ Immigration said we needed the new clearance, in London, within 14 days. If we didn’t keep to this timeline, NZ Immigration would cancel our application, and we would have to start all over again. Timelines were tight, and the stress was rising.
I phoned the Edmonton Police Service three times, asking if they did electronic fingerprinting, as the six-week option was not possible for us. On three separate occasions, I was told that yes, they did them and that I should just come in. So, we brought the whole family to Police Headquarters, stood in line, and then the clerk said, “no, we don’t do that here.” I was shocked! I told the clerk I had spoken to three different police officers at three other times; they assured me they could do them at Police Headquarters. She was incredulous, and despite my attempts at peaceful and calm discussion, she was agitated.
Her response was, “Sir, we don’t do them here, and you’re going to have to leave.” I said, “I understand you don’t do them here, but we are desperate to know where we can go. Can you please tell us where to go instead?”.
Her reply was the same, “we don’t do them here, and you’re going to have to leave because you are wasting my time.” As I felt she was now quite rude and unhelpful, I asked to speak to her manager, and this is when things got serious.
Her manager came out and spoke to me, and right away, she was mad and told me I was wasting her time, her staff’s time, and I had pulled her out of an important meeting. She was even more agitated and rude than her staff member. I said, “I understand you don’t do electronic fingerprinting, but I have this 14-day deadline, and I need to know where I can go instead. Can you please help me? Her answer was, “I don’t know, and if you continue to waste my time, there will be serious repercussions.”
Unbelievable. We had bundled up the kids, ages 4, 2, and 11 months, to get this done, and she refused to give me any answers. I asked again, almost pleading for some direction. And then she said, “If you don’t leave this office immediately, I will call the constable, and you will be arrested immediately for disturbing the peace.” She then proceeded to call for a constable to arrest me. I sat there for a moment and was flabbergasted.
I have never been in trouble with the police ever or ever been threatened with arrest. The situation had escalated quickly, and throughout the process, I had tried to remain calm and get some answers. I wanted to stand my ground, but the situation was so ridiculous. Sonya pulled me aside, and we left so that I wouldn’t be arrested.
We left the office, and I was so angry. I am usually a patient and calm person. Still, the way the clerk and her manager had treated us was unbelievable. I can’t remember a time in my life where I have ever been treated worse by anyone.
As we were exiting Police Headquarters, a constable from a different section saw our evident frustration and anger and asked what they could do to help.
I explained the whole situation, and she could not believe we had been treated that way and asked us to file a complaint, which I ended up doing.
And then she said, you get electronic fingerprints from the Commissionaires Canada. I was like, I have spoken to 5 different people (three other constables and two clerks), and no one could give me an answer. She was confident and said, “give them a call; they have an office about 15 minutes from here”.
I left the police station, called the Commissionaires (a company contracted to the Canadian Government and the RCMP). They said they could see us as soon as we arrived, so we drove 15 mins to their office and got the fingerprints done and sent off to New Zealand Immigration. Crisis averted for this week. While getting our scans done, I told the story to the technician, and they said, “It happens all the time. No one knows we are the ones who do this for the RCMP”. We were in and out within 30 minutes. It’s a funny story now, but at the time, I wasn’t laughing.
This fingerprinting fiasco wasn’t the only mini-crisis we had to overcome.
In another plot twist, we had not proved we were in a genuine relationship to NZ Immigration. Despite sending our marriage certificate (it was 10+ years old), our children’s birth certificates with my name on them, and everything else we could think of that would prove our relationship was genuine; we weren’t in an honest, loving relationship. In my mind, how could we not be in a relationship? We lived together, owned property together, raised our children together. Do you know what proved it? A utility bill that had both our names on it, seriously? Is this the value our society puts on marriage these days? Anyways, we sent our utility bill off to NZ Immigration, and that proved we were in a genuine, loving relationship…*shrug*
One last anecdote so you can feel my stress and frustration through this time. We also had to provide medical clearance to NZ Immigration. Because we were doing a medical clearance to leave Canada, we had to pay for all these tests out of our own pocket; it wasn’t cheap. Due to our children’s age, we also had to provide a urine sample for Laurel (4 years old). Now trying to get a 4-year-old to pee in a cup to send off to a lab is difficult in itself, let alone when this child also has a urinary tract infection. She refused to go, no matter what we bribed her with because it hurt so much. Somehow Sonya got enough drips to send to the lab and then courier the results to London.
We had six weeks to get all the correct info sent to NZ Immigration from start to finish, and somehow we did it. I can’t even remember how much money we spent having all the stuff couriered to England, nor all the fees to apply, but it was in the thousands.
I still have never understood why we had to send all our information to the High Commission in London and not to New Zealand, but that is what we had to do. No one could give us proper answers or guidance, and through sheer determination, we jumped through every hoop. We were granted permanent residency at the end of June 2011. It was a frustrating and maddening process, but here we were, we had done it!
Our exchange started in October, and now we had to pack up our lives and live for an entire year out of 2 suitcases each. Our journey to New Zealand was finally getting started.
Next time I will share the story about our final flourish and getting our family to New Zealand.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 1 – My Journey Begins here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 2 – My First Yoga Class here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 3 – Firefighters doing Yoga here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 4 – The Odyssey Begins here.
Read Yogafire Origins – Part 5 – The Immigration Quagmire here.