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A test of patience

Author’s note : this article usually goes on KLAIO with beautiful photographs but (1) I do not have photographs and (2) there are comments relevant to tech

Like any other country, Canada has its share of contradictions.

It prides itself in having the lowest corruption in the world.

This is true in my experience. Federal workers are polite and helpful but they will not deviate in any case.

And most of the time, service is efficient and fast.

Yet there are times when it is horribly frustrating.

Waiting times in clinics and hospitals can be hours, if not days. Even an urgency can mean waiting for several hours.

The situation is hard to explain when half of the government’s budget goes into health care.

Another mystery is immigration. Applications carry the dreams of hopeful families and individuals throughout the world. They have paid a good sum of money and went to extra lengths to supply required papers and credentials.

But months will pass before they will hear a word from Immigration Canada. The envelope is opened with excitation, husbands and kids are called, and already a few are day dreaming about maple leaves and pictures with Canadian mounties. What a shock to read in the letter that Immigration Canada has opened the application.

The maple leaves dream darkens. Was the application lost and found by the post service? How does it take 3 months to open an envelope?

Little did they know that the vast majority take between 6 months and 2 years from applications to the final immigration visa.

In 2016, you can think of document digitizing, optical character recognition and powerful databases to process applications.

I imagine the main issues are verifying that individuals are who they claim to be (authentication), that they have clean backgrounds, and that said individuals will have a chance in a Canadian province.

It is fair to state Immigration Canada has massive archives of applications coming from all over the world. There should be also data on the results of analysis and the success of immigrants in Canada. A good machine learning system can correlate the cases [1], and then predict future applications.

Open envelope. Digitize documents. Get prediction from system. It should not take more than a few minutes.

A person with good human judgement can follow-up and can decide to overturn the system’s prediction, if necessary.

This is done in airports to sort out good travellers and potential criminals.

But it seems Immigration Canada is still using a good old technology, namely eyes and hands.

But I digress. I did not mean to discuss technology but peaks of bureaucracy.

You will be reminded of the bureaucracy, once in a while, like the last time I went to the “Régie de l’Assurance Maladie”. This is where you ask for your RAMQ health insurance card.

Waiting at the RAMQ is torture for some.

I love it.

It is like being in an international airport and see diverse faces from all around the world.

I see a Chinese mother running after her young kid.

An arabic couple go through their papers.

A Russian girl was messenging her friends.

A group of French students were arguing about culture.

Two French-speaking africans were happy to meet again and speaking loudly.

Face after face, row after row, you think that for a moment, all humanity was in a Montréal building.

And this was everyone’s patience test.

Posters and high-definition screens taunt maximum waiting times of thirty minutes. Yes, you will get your RAMQ card in 10 business days! And you can email or phone if you are not happy.

I waited forty minutes. I smiled to the Romanian-born employee. Yes, it’s for a renewal. No, he does not know about ElectronicBox, my Internet Service Provider. No, I do not have other proof of residence with me.

I insisted. Finally, his coworkers confirmed it was indeed a legit Internet provider.

They took a picture, and my adventure was finished for the day.

In Canadian provinces, a health card allows you to see a doctor or get medicine without paying full cost. Without it, you will have to fill form after form, and many services will simply be not available.

In my case, I went to the office in December.

Three months later, I received a letter asking for a proof of residence.

I do not know if there was a typo in the previous document or if the employee from Québec city did not know about ElectronicBox. Maybe it got lost? But I know that three months is rather long to open a file and realize a proof of residence cannot be accepted.

One would get angry about this. I don’t. Every country has its idiosyncrasies and this is just how Québec and Canada is [2]. You learn what matters (healthcare and taxes) and what doesn’t. Other countries will make a big deal about culture, or land ownership.

To each its own.

For me, I have sent since then an invoice from the electricity company. The company is owned by the government of Québec, and I guess they must have heard of it. It is now late March and I do hope I will get the card before I move out 1st of July.


[1] See previous post on bots to read about machine learning.

[2] Don’t mistake me, Canada and Québec are amazing countries. Qui aîme bien chatie bien.