Month: July 2015

Something (vaguely) positive: BIKES!

bicycle-benefits-imageWell, I say vaguely positive.

Three years in Regina, and I still, defiantly, don’t have a driving license. I’ve survived quite happily walking or cycling everywhere, and even managed to do epic shopping trips picking up supplies for the cafe without driving. However, a few weeks ago, my beloved two-wheeled bike, Yoshi (don’t judge, it was green and fast) was stolen from it’s spot chained up outside the cafe. Some little **** didn’t just pick it up, they actually cut through my lock, implying it was premeditated: someone had obviously clocked that I lock it up there every day and had deliberately turned up with bolt cutters or something. Grr! Even worse was how quickly it disappeared. About 40 minutes prior to discovering it had gone, I had been out to load it up with all the dirty rags from the cafe to wash at home. The thief carefully removed the milk-crate bike-basket I’d made and placed it tidily on our back step, (thus leaving me the dirty kitchen rags) and even put the neatly cut lock in the basket too. AAAARGH!!

But this is Canada! I hear you cry…Things like that don’t happen here! Whereas there is no comparison at all with the petty crime rate in Darlington, UK, there are still some arseholes in my little flatland utopia, it seems.

I reported it to the police, but they weren’t really optimistic. Next, I posted this all over the internet:

lostbiketweet56 retweets on Twitter, and about 80 shares from the cafe’s facebook page. My online followers are wonderful!! I never got the bike back, but I’d like to think with enough people on the look out for it, the thief will have a hard time selling it on at least. Then I got a message from someone who I think I’ve only met in the flesh on one brief occasion – he’d set up a ‘Go Fund Me’ page to collect donations and buy me a new bike!!! So, so sweet of him, and that restored my faith in humanity a great deal. To be honest, it wasn’t the money that was the issue. Yoshi was cheap and second hand three years ago and worth virtually nothing anyway. It’s just the inconvenience since I don’t have any other option: my trike was in need of repairs (after doing some serious damage hitting potholes too hard) and walking any distance while this pregnant is increasingly agonising, especially when I had to carry milk deliveries to the cafe. I could have got myself another secondhand bike I suppose, but there didn’t seem much point since I can’t fit the newborn baby on it in a few weeks time.

Instead, Carl managed to bodge a repair job on the trike so I at least had those wheels back again for now. And then I thought, I could treat myself. I need a new stroller (Look! I said stroller not pushchair!! I’ve gone native!) but, I couldn’t get a normal, conventional one, could I? And I miss Yoshi and the trike’s back wheel configuration makes it difficult to attach any newborn baby seats to anyway…

Then, I found this!

Weird trike-stroller hybrid THING!

It’s a e-guruma (or rather, “Taga” bike, as the original company appears to have been bought out!) and it cleverly converts from a backwards trike with two wheels at the front to a “normal” stroller. You pull the seat off and the back wheel flips up over the top and pokes out the front, so you end up with a three wheeled “jogging” stroller thing. The Parents even got me an adapter for it so we can clip in the baby’s car seat until it’s big enough to sit up in that seat by itself. (Yes, “it” – still not sure!)

Miranda can just about sit in that seat and absolutely LOVES it. But she is a colossal weight nowadays and it’s very, very hard work cycling her on it, because the wheels are so small! Steering is very odd, it feels like the love child of an exercise bike and a supermarket trolley, but even when faced with Regina potholes and terrible road surfaces (Rae St and 12th, I am looking at yooooou!) it is remarkably stable, and in comparison with the big trike, it feels far less scary when it tips, because you are only 6 inches off the ground. I feel like I can go much further with it than I could walking with a pushchair, so hopefully when Baby arrives I have plenty of freedom to get around – and I still don’t need a driving license. MWUHAHAHAHAHAAA!

isn't it awesome?
isn’t it awesome?

Yet more bureaucratic woes

Last February, I wrote about how nothing to do with immigration bureaucracy is ever straightforward or finalised. That was when the Saskatchewan  health services miraculously managed to “lose” Miranda in the system and then refused to believe she existed at all. This seems to be a common error, because this time it’s happened to me, at the exact time I am most in need of the health services! This last few weeks of pregnancy are pretty damn uncomfortable anyway, let alone when it’s extraordinarily hot and I still have things to stress about. I only managed to “leave work” last week (at 36 1/2 weeks) – but that only means not standing behind the bar any more, I am still doing general errands, marketing and admin stuff, except I am no longer paying myself to do it. On that note, I am also in the complicated situation of being semi-self employed, in that I have to issue my own Record of Employment in order to get Employment Insurance payments while I take maternity leave. Needless to say, this has turned into a complex nightmare of online registrations and waiting for special ID codes to be mailed to me, only to find they aren’t accepted. So at the moment I am living off thin air, and I really, really didn’t need any more hassle.

But noooooooooooo… I discovered  a few weeks ago that my health card – which is linked to my work permit – expires precisely TWO DAYS before my baby due date. I’d already sent off the forms to extend the work permit and paid the extortionate fee, but Citizenship and Immigration decided that they needed 76 business days to process it. Fine, I thought, I won’t be working soon anyway. But, eHealth say, no work permit physically in my hand = no new health card. And hospital birth with no health card means tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills!! So, after a lot of panicking, we eventually had to trek down to the US border again, flag pole, get refused entry to the US, re enter Canada, wait around for border control to go through my forms, then get a brand new work permit on the spot. It worked, fortunately, and I now have my new health card, but WHAT AN ORDEAL.

"The alien(s) listed below have been: Refused admission into the United States"
“The alien(s) listed below have been:
Refused admission into the United States”











So, angry Open letters have been written. The following went to the Premier Brad Wall, the health minister of Saskatchewan and our local MLA. So far, no response from any of them. Now there’s a surprise!!

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to you regarding my status as a British temporary foreign worker living in Regina and the almost insurmountably difficult circumstances I find myself in currently. While I recognise that my situation is exceptional, I cannot imagine I am alone in having fallen through a hole in the system. I wish to raise awareness of these issues and seek your advice.

Following a successful Labour Market Opinion application, my husband was granted a work permit with his employer, valid until April 2016. I was issued an open work permit to support his status. We have also applied for permanent residency through the SINP; we have so far received provincial approval for this but we are still waiting to hear from the federal office.

Despite my husband’s work permit being valid for another year, mine apparently expires  in July 2015. This is because my UK passport also expires on this date. I have renewed passport already and applied to Citizenship and Immigration Canada to update and extend my work permit accordingly. However the CIC website states that they currently need 76 working days to process these applications. What I had not realised until recently was that my Saskatchewan health card also expires at the end of July along with the original work permit, and it is this issue that is causing me a considerable amount of stress.

I am nearly 36 weeks pregnant, and my due date is somewhere between 29th July and 3rd August. As my health card expires on 31st July, I face the very real possibility of giving birth in Regina hospital with no health coverage at all. If I need any special treatment, c-section recovery time or neo-natal care for our baby, we could be billed for tens of thousands of dollars.

I asked E-health for advice and was met with utter inflexibility – in short, if I don’t have a work permit, I can’t get a health card. There is no system in place within Saskatchewan Health Authority to allow for “implied status” or to cover lengthy bureaucratic wait times.

I then tried to contact CIC directly to try and expedite my application due to exceptional circumstances. The irony being of course that I won’t actually need a work permit after July as I intend to take maternity leave! Again, the response I received showed at best an inability, if not a complete unwillingness to help. There is no method to expedite applications, no accessible authority to contact, no means of adding additional, urgent information after the application has been submitted, and no alternative solutions to my problem offered. It also became increasingly obvious that the CIC do not communicate effectively with other governmental agencies, there is a large gap between provincial and federal authorities and furthermore, there is no central body that immigrants can rely on for comprehensive information and advice.

I ask you on a personal level, do you think it fair and reasonable to face a potential five-figure hospital bill entirely because the CIC are incapable of processing a simple, 4 page form in under 13 weeks? Is there any justifiable reason why E-health cannot accept implied status? What do you suggest we do in this situation?

Our only options as we saw them were extreme: either persuade my midwife to induce me early before the health card expired (an unnecessary and risky medical procedure), or even fly back to the UK in the hope that I would still be covered by the British National Health Service (now not an option since my pregnancy is too far advanced for me to be able to fly.) The fact that we even had to consider these options should speak volumes about the gravity of our situation.

As it happens, we are now indebted to an immigration specialist in the HR department of my husband’s work. On her advice alone, we drove the 7 hour round trip to the US border at North Portal, and despite a 2 hour wait there, the border control officer was able to look over our details and issue me with a new work permit in just ten minutes. This should allow me to get a new health card before our baby is born.

My final questions to you are: why did it have to take such an uncomfortably long trip (on the hottest day of the year so far) to sort this out? Why was our only source of useful information in the whole debacle an employee of a private company, who is actually based in Edmonton? In your opinion, should anyone be subjected to this level of stress at 8 months pregnant? If not, what are you planning to do to address these issues?

I look forward to your response.