Expats Confused, Enraged By Holiday Rules

Canadian expats like me who have lived outside of the country for more than five years were barred from voting in the most recent federal election. The arguments for this reform made little sense to me and many of my peers. To ease my rage, I imagined what would happen if we were also barred from celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving...


OTTAWA — An Ontario court ruled this week that Canadian citizens living outside Canada for over five years are barred from celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving.

“Permitting all non-resident citizens to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving would allow them to participate in giving thanks in an uniquely Canadian way when they have little to no practical reason to give thanks,” wrote Justice Terry Neaux-Fun.

Actor Donald Sutherland publicly denounced his ineligibility to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. “There’s a beaver wearing a cornucopia as a hat somewhere in my underwear, eh,” raged the screen legend. 

 Expatriate actor Donald Sutherland has "a beaver wearing a cornucopia as a hat somewhere" in his underwear.  Arthur Mola/Invision/AP

Expatriate actor Donald Sutherland has "a beaver wearing a cornucopia as a hat somewhere" in his underwear. Arthur Mola/Invision/AP

Justice Neaux-Fun noted that “residence is a determinant of holiday eligibility in all provinces and territories,” referring to the fact that Canadian Thanksgiving is not a statutory holiday in the Maritime provinces. “If you move from Manitoba to British Columbia, you can’t continue to observe Louis Riel Day willy-nilly,” he scoffed.

Although several high-profile Canadian expatriates have decried the decision as unconstitutional, it is unlikely that an appeal will be heard before Canadian Thanksgiving, this Monday. Some have claimed that the timing of the decision was a political tactic on the part of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Leslie Maplebottom, a Canadian-born student living in Seattle, spoke to us from a Whole Foods where he was attempting to return a turkey he had purchased for the occasion. “This is bullshit,” he said. “America, Germany, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland let citizens absentee-observe national holidays indefinitely. You could never tell Swiss expat from Glarus that he can’t celebrate Näfelser Fahrt. Harper is just trying to limit the merriment of people who are unlikely to support him.”

Meanwhile Guillaume MacDonald, a Montreal man, stated “It makes sense to me. Canadian Thanksgiving is a privilege, not a right. Why should a non-resident, who doesn’t pay Canadian taxes or suffer under the crushing yoke of Harper conservatism, be allowed to indulge in all manner of pie-eating, turkey-carving, and festive-gourd-centrepiece-arranging that Canadians wait all year for?”

While many countries restrict the celebratory rights of non-residents, the trend is toward allowing greater participation in national cultural events by citizens abroad. The 1.4 million Canadian expatriates will have to wait to see where the all-dressed chips fall.