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”Home Away From Home” – Joshua Thomson

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My mother once said that this country felt like a home away from home for The Queen of Canada. Prime Minister, I am pleased to report that it still does.

Queen Elizabeth II, Canadian Royal Visit – 2010

Growing up, I spent a lot of my time with my grandmother. My grandfather passed when I was only seven so my grandmother and I became quite close in the years that followed. One thing I so fondly remember about my grandmother was her love for the Union Jack and the Royal Family. She grew up in a much different Canada than that of today. A Canada in which she recited the words “The Union Jack the flag we love, shall guard our maple tree” every morning at school. These words resonated with me enough that they have remained with me to this day. My family recognized how much pride my grandmother had in the Union Jack, so much that we made a point to have it present at her funeral years later.

As I have grown and matured, I see the significance and importance of the Commonwealth more now than ever before. All of the Commonwealth countries being represented in the CFMO (United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) all joined the Commonwealth on 11 December, 1931, in the Statute of Westminster. Some may say that the Commonwealth is a relic of British Imperialism; an old tradition no longer relevant to the modern world. In a world, where countries have tried to do away with the Commonwealth altogether, I can’t help but feel a personal sense of loss. I see the CFMO as an opportunity to renew the Commonwealth and its purpose in today’s world. Too often do we want to take away or destroy what others before us worked so hard to build. Sometimes, we need the best of our past to embrace our future.

In December 2005, I left home for the first time and moved to New Zealand at the age of 19 on a New Zealand/Canada Working Holiday Scheme. I traveled to New Zealand twice before with my parents while I was in high school and I knew I wanted to go back someday. I moved to the city of Palmerston North on the country’s North Island, where I got my first apartment and began working full time. I started making new friends and enjoyed exploring my new found home. This was a time in my life where I needed to get away to figure out who Josh really was. It was where I began gaining my independence and became my own man. New Zealand quite literally became my second home. When the time drew closer when my visa was going to expire, I applied through New Zealand Immigration for another work visa so I could stay longer. In the end, I was not permitted to stay. New Zealand Immigration felt that I had a job a New Zealander could do. Knowing what I know now, their decision made sense. Needless to say, I was heartbroken at the time. I was forced to uproot myself and return to Canada in November 2006. I would return to New Zealand two more times in the following years and I still keep in touch with all my friends I made while living there.

Little to my knowledge, my experience with New Zealand Immigration would be a source of inspiration for me almost ten years later. In March 2015, I found an article on CBC News about an effort proposing free movement between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand called the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation. Knowing my passion for the Commonwealth and my experiences from traveling, I e-mailed the Executive Director and offered my support. Not long after, I was made the Representative for East Canada.

For the past year, I have campaigned locally for CFMO and raised more localized awareness. We finished off 2015 with over 100,000 signatures on our online petition! A true accomplishment! I am so very grateful to be a part of this organisation and I am excited to see what we can achieve together in the future. Together, let us create a stronger and more unified Commonwealth to share and cherish for the world of tomorrow.

Joshua Thomson
C.F.M.O Representative for East Canada
Saint John, Canada


[Image Attribution]: Canada Passport – CIC Travel