When All Our Licenses Failed to Convince Canada that We Could Drive!

By Piyushi Dhir

When you take up a project as big as immigrating to a new country, you know that not everything would go smoothly. We anticipated and faced roadblocks with some of the larger issues like getting permanent residence and then a visa for our son and finding a house for us to live in. We also faced some unanticipated problems like being confounded by the garbage sorting system on our arrival, and being refused a drivers’ license. The latter had been quite a nuisance.

So here’s what happened. We heard from many of our other immigrant-friends that to get a drivers’ license in Canada, one has to go to a drive test centre, clear the written test (G1), show one’s previous driving history and directly take the road test. If you clear this last test, you’re granted a full driver’s license called a G.

So a few weeks after arriving, we set out early one morning because we had heard of the long winding queues one has to get into the later one reaches in the day. We arrived promptly and cleared our written tests (for which we had laboriously studied all Canadian road rules). Before we could rejoice, however, we were met with a huge dampener.

The authorities refused to recognize my or my husband’s Indian driving licenses. We have been driving for over a decade, but given their refusal to accept proof of the same, we were asked to wait one year before we could even take the road test. A year without a car in a suburb of Canada is very difficult to imagine; especially when you have a toddler and a public transport system that requires you to often wait as much as thirty minutes at bus stops.

None of our Indian friends could understand why we had faced such a roadblock. All of them had been jumped straight to the test and were driving vehicles within weeks of arriving in Canada. In the freezing cold weather, my husband, son and I have stood huddled waiting for buses, we have taken our suitcases to grocery stores to roll back our weekly supplies, we have house hunted on foot, sometimes walking as much as fifteen kilometres in a day.

Drivers License

Drivers License

On people’s advice, we got letters attesting to our driving history made by the Indian embassy, got our driving extracts couriered from India and my husband even produced his driving license from Ivory Coast as well as his international driving license. For some reason, we were jinxed. Despite multiple visits, none of our papers were working.

I had given up entirely, wondering how we were going to continue to manage on foot. The worse prospect was of facing a full-fledged Canadian winter without the protection of a vehicle. But I have to give kudos to my husband’s tenacity. On more than one occasion, he woke up at 4am in the morning and arrived at drive test centres in surrounding cities at their opening times. His determination did finally pay off. Only a few days ago, one of the centres finally accepted his Ivorian license, on the condition that they would only credit him with a year’s driving experience. He has cleared the road test and received a conditional license, which does not allow him to drive on certain roads, and after certain hours and also requires us to pay higher insurance on the vehicle we use.

But we’re not complaining. After all these months of struggling with buses and begging friends for help when we had heavier stuff to move, we’d take anything.

The funny thing is that despite all the trouble we’ve had, there has been an upside of this entire episode. During all these weeks of struggle, no matter what we ate, we were not putting on weight, owing to the extensive exercise we were getting walking around carrying all those heavy bags.

Now it seems, we are going to have to start going slow on the muffins, cakes, kebabs and ice creams. I guess one never has it all!

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About the Author

Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.