Comment on Reddit to an individual considering a move to Ottawa.

I’ve been all over the world, including most major European cities, and have a good basis for comparison. You will find Ottawa very clean, very modern and very safe with excellent schools and health care.

That said, the experience will feel more like living in a rural setting compared to a European city, even in heavily populated areas. Ottawa has numerous parks and forests, and public buildings are also in park-like settings. There is a large experimental farm in the middle of the city, a ‘green belt’ around the older part and the newer part (Kanata is outside the Greenbelt). As a result, public transportation is not up to European standards.

People have commented on the health care. First of all, it’s free (for Canadian citizens and permanent residents; I’m not sure what you’re status will be but check on this) except for prescriptions, dental and optical. There are no deductibles, user fees, or limits to this coverage. It’s good to have a family doctor – when we arrived five years ago (after a long absence) we got one almost right away. But post-covid, your experience may vary. There are clinics, or in emergencies, go directly to the hospital. There will be little to no wait for emergency services. Overall the standard of care is very high and Canadians have some of the longest life expectancies in the world.

Ontario’s education is world class, no matter where you go. That’s not just me saying it; the province scores at the very top of international student rankings. Primary and secondary education are available in English and French, and if you are Catholic, you can attend a separate Catholic school in English or French. Education is again a public service and there are no fees (though some schools will ask parents to contribute for extras). There are private schools in the city, and International Baccalaureate is available, but really, they’re not at all needed here.

It’s safe everywhere in the city. And by ‘safe’ I mean really safe, world-class safe, even in the supposed ‘bad areas’ (those areas, by the way, are in east downtown, though this is changing because of the cost of housing).

Housing is expensive by Canadian standards but not by European standards. Shop around. Although the cost of housing has increased a lot in recent years reasonable housing is not out of reach for most people with decent jobs (especially considering you’re not paying for health care or education).

Some people commented on culture in Ottawa. Culture in Canada is different from culture in Europe. You won’t find (many) corner cafes (but look for them eg. in Manotick and Stittsville, or in higher traffic areas like Westboro). You will find abundant outdoor activities at your doorstep – cycling, sports of all kinds, skiing and more. The city has professional hockey (in Kanata!), football, basketball and baseball teams (the latter two at a lower level) and there are numerous opportunities for children to play any of these. There are numerous museums and galleries. Outside the city (which you can visit because you’ll have a car) are farms, forests, fantastic parks, historical areas, and more. You will never lack a new place to visit with the kids.

Again, by Canadian standards, Ottawa is expensive, but not like Vancouver or Toronto. Public transit is substandard. Winter is cold, but comperable to northern Europe, with a bit more snow. It’s not Prague or Vienna or Berlin, but it doesn’t try to be any of those things. And if it’s accepted on those terms, then with a standard of living that is one of the highest in the world, it is an enviable destination.

Ethics Immigration

Failing the Values Test

This article in the Gazette offers examples of five questions from the new Quebec values test. I confess that if I answered them honestly, I would fail. Let me illustrate.

1. In Quebec, women and men have the same rights and this is inscribed in law. True. False.

The same rights as whom? Each other? Other men and women?

In fact, the people with the most rights are rich old white men. There is plenty of evidence that the justice system is tilted to favour them. I have seen numerous examples of this with my own eyes, both in Quebec and elsewhere.

The people with the fewest rights are young indigenous women. Especially if they’re missing or murdered. Perhaps the mechanisms of the law will be moved to help them. Maybe. Unless a rich old white man is indifferent to their plight. Which is most of the time.

Maybe if the question had asked whether they have the same rights as each other in theory. Though even then, it’s hard to make the case.

2. Choose the illustration or illustrations that indicate who is allowed to marry in Quebec. The illustrations depict: two men; two women and one man; two women; a man and a woman; two men and one woman.

The putatively correct answers are those with fewer than three people. It is not explained why the cut-off is two. This is especially ironic coming right after the question suggesting that everyone has the same rights.

A more challenging question here would be to ask whether old men can marry children (whether one, two, or many). Or whether people can act as though they’re married even though they’re not. Things like that.

I’d probably get this one right because it asks a factual question about what the law states, not a theoretical question about how it’s applied.

3. Identify which situations involved discrimination. A job refused: to a pregnant woman; to a person lacking the required diploma; to a person because of their ethnic background.

They are of course all situations that involve discrimination.

The intent of course is to ask which of these involves discrimination prohibited by law. But of course there’s the law as written, and the law as applied, and these are two different things.

For example: the Montreal Canadiens refuse to employ a pregnent women as a power forward on the second line. Is this because she is a woman, because she is pregnant, or because she didn’t make the team? Bonus points if you can answer in the case where the player is Hayley Wickenheiser.

Discrimination takes place in fact, and is often sanctioned in law, even if it is the sort of discrimination that is prohibited in theory.

4. Since March 27, 2019 by virtue of the secularism of state law, all new police officers may not wear religious symbols. True. False.

So, this is false.

Christians may wear their small crosses under their uniforms. Jedi can wear their Star Wars underwear.

The only religious symbols actually prohibited by the law are the visible religious symbols worn by some minorities that make Christians uncomfortable – turbans, kirpans, yarmulke, Odin-horns.

5. What is the official language of Quebec? French; Spanish; English; French and English.

Canada is officially bilingual, and Quebec is a part of Canada, so the answer is ‘French and English’.

That’s why when you’re in an airplane in Montreal, as I was just a couple of days ago, all the announcements are in English and French. Also Arabic, which is what was spoken by 90% of the people in the plane.

French is the official language of the government of Quebec, but that (of course) is not the same things as Quebec.


That’s the problem with a values test.

I get that the government wants to get the message across to new immigrants that women are equal, gay marriage is permitted, job discrimination is prohibited, there is a secular government, and there is a common (linguistic) culture.

But the way to establish this is not to put the values in a test, unless the questions in the test are very carefully worded. The test provided here requires the respondent to answer with known falsehoods in four of the five questions.

It’s also unreasonable to require that new immigrants share a set of values and attributes a large number of people already living in the country do not possess.

We should promote our values, not by forcing them on people, but by living them, and proving by our own example how tolerance and respect for others creates a better society.


New Brunswick

Responding to a LinkedIn post by Herb Emery.

I was one of those ‘pushed away’ by New Brunswick. I gave the province a good run, spending fifteen years in Moncton, but staying ultimately became untenable. I could write a book about it, but I’ll highlight a few factors:

– business and government practices that appeared to be corrupt, led by self-serving insiders

– the overbearing presence of a few large employers that constantly lobby for low business taxes and reduced services resulted in very high personal taxes and chronically inadequate services, and which meanwhile used their market position and leverage over government to stifle competition within the province

– a strong practice of favouring ‘native’ New Brunswickers — everything from preference in hiring practices, preferences in in-migration campaigns, funding, political association, etc. – had I ever lost my government position I had no real prospect of obtaining employment elsewhere in the province

To succeed, New Brunswick will have to welcome immigration, and to achieve a level of immigration such that new immigrants are not chased away from the lack of any real opportunity for growth or development in a New Brunswick context. It’s not about stimulating “sufficient opportunities through investment to keep young New Brunswickers here” – young people are *always* going to leave and explore the world – it’s about creating a fair, equitable and inclusive society based on quality of life and opportunities for growth. But this is exactly what the Powers that Be in New Brunswick opposed for the entire fifteen years I was in the province.

If I were in charge of New Brunswick I would take provincial control of immigration (following the example of Quebec) and make an effort to double the population in ten years by welcoming refugees and migrants from around the world, welcoming many thousands of Syrian refugees, the Rohinga in Burma, the people crossing the Mediterranean, the Central Amer4icans at the U.S. border.  I would make it the business of New Brunswick to help people around the world who have to home to find a home in New Brunswick, and I’d pay for it by the increased revenue from the federal government, from international agency support, and from the efforts of the resettled people.

Probably the only people opposed would be the self-same ‘native New Brunswicker’. This, though, should be the one and only political issue in New Brunswick today.

Image: Heritage New Brunswick