Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quick run across the border

I am pleased to announce that our immigration process is just about complete. We received Yoshiko's passport back from the Manila Embassy, where her application for Permanent Residency was being processed, last week. After calling Immigration here and asking them what the next step was, we were somewhat dismayed at the final hoop we were told to jump through. In order to confirm her permanent residency status, she would need to leave Canada, go through the proper immigration channels and re-enter as a landed immigrant. Quite annoying that we couldn't just visit an Immigration office to get this done, but luckily we have our pick of some 4 or 5 land border crossings within a few hundred kilometers of us here running up and down the St-Lawrence River.

And so it was that this morning, passports and packages of paperwork in hand, we headed on down the 416 to Prescott, a lovely little town on the river which has a bridge over to Ogdensburg, New York. Upon arriving in downtown Prescott, we made our way to the river side to have a look and get our bearings, see if the bridge was up or down river from us. Here is the mighty St-Lawrence River, the major shipping route into North America to this day.

At one time or another, I have travelled my way all the way down the St-Lawrence from Lake Ontario on up to Tadoussac, over 800 kilometers away... and that's only about 2 thirds of the river's length! As it passes by Quebec City, the river starts to really widen, first reaching 15 kilometers, the 50 and up over a hundred kilometers wide before it dumps into the Atlantic. I remember the first time I crossed it when I was around 10 years old. We took the Ferry from St-Simeon on the North Shore to Riviere du Loup, where the river is a mere 20 kilometers wide and I remember not being able to see the far shore because of the fog. At that age it was the closest I'd ever been to such a huge body of water, having never seen the ocean or any of the Great Lakes. Massive is a good word to describe it.

With the river marking the Southern border between Canada and the state of New York, border crossings in these parts are all bridges. This is the Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge, which took us to the United States. Lovely bridge it was, and a nice view from up there too... almost worth paying the 3$ toll twice.... almost....

So we got across the bridge and notified the US Customs Officer that we weren't actually entering the US, but just turning around and heading back through to clear Immigration. He said that was fine and a common occurrence, but then to our surprise he kept our passports and had us park and go inside. Turned out to be just a little paperwork, but the US officers didn't impress me very much. When we came in, our passports were laid out on the counter, left there by the officer who stopped us, and the only 2 customs officers inside were chatting away. One of them finally came to the counter and asked a few questions before asking us to sit down and proceeding to continue her chat with her coworker. After a good 5 minutes, she finally pried herself away from the in depth discussion they were having about their pets and managed to fill out the proper form and send us on our way back across the border. Upon arriving back in Canada, we were stopped by a rather gruff old timer who told us there was no one here to process our application but to go in anyway. The people inside told us an Immigration officer was on her way from the Cornwall border crossing and should be there shortly. Within 10 minutes, she arrived and after 5-10 more minutes of paperwork, we were on our way and Yoshiko was officially a Permanent Resident... yay!

Seeing as we were in the area anyway, we opted to stop in at the Fort Wellington National Historic Site to check it out as we'd driven right past it coming in. It turned out to be quite interesting. With the St-Lawrence being an important shipping route since the early days of European colonization of the New World, a multitude of military fortifications were progressively erected along its shores. With Prescott a mere stone's throw from the American settlement at Ogdensburg, Fort Wellington was originally built by the local militia when the war of 1812 broke out between the United States and Britain and her colonies. It was rebuilt and expanded over the years, with the walls remaining original and the buildings dating to 1838 when the fort was rebuilt and modernized to protect the area from Canadian Rebels and their American Sympathizers. While the fort was never attacked, it did play an important role in a few battles, during one of which Canadian and British troops crossed the frozen St-Lawrence and took Ogdensburg. All in all, it made for an interesting history lesson and the guides on hand were quite knowledgeable and dressed in period clothing, a nice stop on our journey.

Here is the main gate of the fort.

The South-West facing Canon, with the Union Jack still flying over the fort.

Here is a view of the whole interior of the Fort. The small building in the forefront was the officers' quarters, which were designed to house 2 men but ended up only housing one when the commander opted for classier digs in town. The main building was used for storage with the second and third floor used for living quarters for the soldiers and their families, totalling about 150 people.

As you can see, Fort Wellington had a good vantage point over the river and caused American commanders to think twice before trying to sail their ships up river to attack Montreal and other settlements.

By far the most interesting feature of this fort was its caponiere, a room built out in a ditch which runs along the front of the fort. The room was heavily protected from canon fire and ringed with holes from which to rain flanking fire on attackers. Very ingenious construction! It was accessed via this tunnel.

While there, we were also treated to the firing of an authentic Brunswick Rifle, which with it's percussion cap and rifled barrel, was quite advanced for its day.

Really a beautiful day, nice sun and blue skies, and the river keeping us nice and cool. Fantastic!

After a quick lunch, we headed on back to Ottawa, and that was the day. I promise at least 2 more blogs before the weekend is over, so stay tuned!


Blogger tornados28 said...

Wow, your wife's immigration process for Permanent resident sounds a million times easier than what my wife had to go through with U.S. immigration. It was a long process.

Why was her passport at the Manila embassy?

1:32 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Well the entire process, form the time we started filling out the forms and getting the medical checkup and stuff was about one year... from the time they received the application, 5 months... so not so bad.

The reason we were dealing with the Canadian Embassy in Manila is that the Canadian Government decided to streamline their visa process for Asia. Embassies (ie. Tokyo) now only process student visas while the rest of the work (family class, skilled workers, etc.) is done through the Manila Embassy, which is now the main hub for immigration from Asia to Canada.

1:54 PM  

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