Before You Buy Land in Canada

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Check the soil before buying a piece of land.

Sharon Woolley tries to move to Canada and experiences some obstacles with the Canadian Consulate, passing immigration and a shared homestead. In spite of these troubles, she settles happily on a new homestead with her family in Alberta Canada.

I’d like to tell MOTHER EARTH NEWS and her friends the whole sweet-sour story of our back-to-the-land move from the U.S. to Canada.

It all started in the spring of ’73 when we (my husband, myself and our two children) met some people through a P & S in the magazine. They were living in Alberta and looking for folks to share land expenses and labor. We were looking for a way out of North Dakota and our more or less routine life.

We corresponded with our newfound friends and even drove 2,600 miles (round trip) to meet them, look at their land and decide if we could all make it together. My husband and I had reservations. (We should’ve taken the advice in some of your articles, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and at least talked to the neighbors to get a better idea of what was going on.) If we had been true to ourselves we probably would have called the whole thing off right then and there anyway. We didn’t, though, and went ahead with our plans to emigrate.

I don’t know if the process we went through would be the same in all regions, but here’s how it was for us: The nearest Canadian Consulate was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I wrote and got application forms in October of 1973. We filled ’em out in triplicate and passport photos of each of us except the baby (under 18 months) had to be included. We sent the papers back and waited for a reply.

Know what the answer was? “Forget it. You can’t immigrate. We don’t need teachers” (my husband’s occupation). Of course, they hadn’t bothered to notice that I’m a nurse. I knew they needed nurses!

I was angry and persistent and sent a barrage of protesting letters to the Canadian authorities. We eventually got another reply. They would consider our case if we could show them a written job offer. That meant taking another trip to Canada . . . more time, more money and more hassle. We did it, though, and got the job offer.

(A note: Last week on the news I heard that a new policy automatically deducts 10 points from the 50 points you need to pass immigration if you do not have proof of employment.)

Now it was time for our personal interview — another requirement — at the consulate in Minneapolis. For us, that meant a 350-mile drive. For anyone else it might mean more or less. There are only so many consulates across the U.S. and there just isn’t much choice in the matter.

The interview itself wasn’t as bad as I had expected. Some of the determining factors are age, education, occupation, the place you’re moving to and your overall personality. Beyond that, who knows what they’re looking for?

We passed the interview . . . but there was more! Now we had to have complete physicals — all four of us — with X-rays, lab tests, eye tests and the whole thing. A single line left blank in the medical reports could delay us five to six weeks! It took some doing but we complied and eventually sent the final forms off to Ottawa.

Our papers came a month and a half later: August, 1974. It had been nearly 11 months since I filled in the first application, but now — at long last — it was over. We were going to Canada!

A happy ending, right? Wrong. Not yet, anyway.

We had already settled on a deal with the folks we knew in Alberta and it took us only a short time to move on up and hand over our money. We didn’t “bother” with going through legal channels. After all, we were “friends”, right? Bad mistake.

Three weeks of their philosophy, their diet trip, their child-raising ideas, their everything and we had had it. Somewhere along the line they had forgotten the old saying: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” We didn’t feel much like giving up our identities. Who does?

To make things worse, we had yet to so much as see the deed to “our” land . . . so we decided to consult a lawyer.

The attorney told us we could take our “friends” to court and [1] keep the land or [2] get our money back. Under the circumstances we couldn’t give much thought to keeping the land. We didn’t feel like a big court hassle, either. Watta mess!

OK. We were lucky. As it turned out, our money was returned with no problem. But the entire situation could’ve been avoided. I’d like to reinforce a few of your ideas, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and say I wish we had followed your advice more closely. If anyone is thinking of buying land in the country:

[1] Try to rent a place in the area you’re considering before you buy. Check with the local people about land for sale. If you already have your eye on a specific piece of land, talk to the neighbors. It’s good to know what kind of people will be living nearby and you’re likely to pick up on all kinds of useful information.

[2] Once you find a place, check the soil. Ask around. The land we nearly bought was all clay and wouldn’t have grown a blasted thing. We eventually had the ill-fated property appraised and discovered that its “low” price was actually much too high!

[3] When you do buy, go through proper legal procedures. Get a lawyer. If you’re in a hurry . . . don’t be. Go to a realtor. You may end up paying a bit more but the legal security is worth it.

Now for the happy ending. I’m glad (overjoyed!) to say that today we’re living in Alberta on 160 beautiful, fertile acres — 70 in hay and 40 in timber — with a one and one-half-story log cabin, barn, a couple of other buildings and a creek running in front of the place. There’s a one-acre dug-out reservoir which gives us great water (we don’t have a well yet) and a 25-acre pond behind the house. Lots of ducks and geese land there . . . we even have a muskrat! Our neighbors are wonderful, we’ve got lots of privacy and there’s a general store just 6 miles away with everything from nuts and bolts to Post Toasties.

Folks in these parts tell us this is the nicest fall they’ve seen in 6 or 7 years. I’m glad, ’cause we need all the time and fair weather we can get to ready our place for the winter and cut our wood supply. I’m stocking up on wheat, honey, potatoes and beans. We’ve got a cow giving us fresh milk and in the spring we’ll have chickens.

We’re glad we came . . . despite all the red tape and initial struggle! I want you to know, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, that you have really helped us a lot. We truly love the country and wouldn’t trade it for the noise of the city ever again! Thanks, Mom!