Star and Garter

My parents went back to England when I was 18. My sister had already decided to move back herself and her new boyfriend, shortly to be her husband, solidified that decision. Wyn left with my parents and stayed with them for a while before moving on to a Kibbutz in Israel, leaving me with a difficult decision. Should I leave Canada, a country I had grown to love, to be closer to my family, or stick it out in Toronto alone?

Never one to close doors, I tried making my living in London, England for six months, slogging ale in a trendy pub in Soho called the Star and Garter. I didn’t mind the work, despite being up to my ankles in beer every lunch hour (the pub was a frenzy of activity, and with six of us in a tiny square of space, a fair amount of spillage was just one of the work conditions). What I objected to was the pay, barely enough to cover food, bus fare and rent and nothing put aside. In my tiny flat there were rats in the loo in the hallway, and not enough heat to keep the frost off the inside of the windows. It was a miserable way to live, and pretty standard in England in those days. Borrowing airfare from my brother, I high-tailed it back to Canada, and have been happy to be Canadian ever since. We have our problems as a country, to be sure, but of all the places I have travelled, it is by far the nicest, most decent place to live.

So it came with some true reluctance to file for non-resident status on our income tax form this year. No, we haven’t given up our citizenship, nowhere near. But we have declared ourselves to be non-residents of Canada. It is a step we never intended to take, but circumstances dictate otherwise. To remain residents will cost us too much in that we are forced to pay not only tax in both countries, but to also pay tax on our Malaysian income in Canada for the privilege of remaining residents of Canada. At the same time our residence in Malaysia ensures that we receive no benefit in Canada for the tax that we pay there.

We are, in some small sense, lowering the flag, and by doing so following the advice that we received two years ago when we came here. It has been only our stubborn national pride that kept us from acknowledging the obvious: now we bow to the inevitable leveler, the tax law.

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