Venessa Farn: immigrated home to Canada from the U.S.

Venessa Farn returns home to Canada after living in the US for 18 years

Venessa Farn is a therapist who now lives in Alberta Avenue. When the pandemic began she was living in Wisconsin, her home for the previous 18 years. She returned to Canada from the United States in November of 2020.

The political atmosphere in the U.S. over the three years prior to her return had created uncertainty and anxiety for Farn as a foreign citizen. Former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric regarding immigration left Farn and other immigrants wondering about their future in the U.S. 

Farn said, “At that time, we didn’t know if they were going to revoke green cards.” To establish security for herself, early in 2020, Farn got her U.S. citizenship, as well as dual Canadian citizenship for her son. “I thought it would be best for him to have dual citizenship, just because it gives him more opportunity.” 

Venessa Farn returns home to Canada after living in the US for 18 years

When the Covid pandemic began, the already tense political environment was exacerbated by the clash of politics and public health measures. Farb noted, “As much as Governor Evers tried to do in Wisconsin [to enact public health measures], at every step of the way, the Republicans would undermine him.” Farn emphasized, “They were blatant about it.”

Farn recalled what the atmosphere was like when Trump declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020. “The level of fear and anxiety around it was just insane. The thing that was so hard was nobody wanted to wear masks. Nobody wanted to treat it like it was a problem.” 

The politicalization of the public health crisis extended into everyday life. “Every single time you’d go to the grocery store, people would harass you because you were wearing a mask. Wisconsin is fairly progressive, but it was insanity. The mask became such a political symbol that opened you up to harassment.”  

The combination of the pandemic and the widening schism between people with different political views left Farn feeling very isolated. She said, “When Prime Minister Trudeau said ‘Canadians, it’s time to come home’, I sat on my couch and cried.” Farn made the decision to return to Canada. One of her colleagues helped confirm her choice, saying, “You need to set a date, and you need to get out.” 

Shortly after that conversation, Farn received a phone call from one of her long-term clients. Unbeknownst to her, he had been hospitalized with Covid. He said, “I’m calling you from the hospital. I’m on my way home now, but I almost died.” Farn said, “He told me, ‘People did die in the room around me.’” 

“He’s doing OK, but that hit so close. It would have been really hard to lose him; I have had him as a client on and off for seven, eight years. He’s somebody I knew very, very well.”

When Farn’s client left the hospital, he “ended up with a $100,000 health medical bill. “That’s with insurance,” Farn said. 

Over the next few months, she began dismantling the life she had built over the previous 18 years. The political events, the global pandemic, and its politicization had Farn feeling like she was living through a movie. She explained this time period was “surreal; like Zombieland.” She wondered, “When’s Bill Murray going to show up? Because it was just insanity.” 

“Every single day, I’d wake up with a pit of anxiety in my stomach. I felt so isolated, so alone. I was like, ‘I gotta get out of here.’” 

Farn’s worries about her situation in the U.S. extended to her family’s situation in Canada. “On top of all that, I’m worried about my 86-year-old mother. She lives by herself in northern Saskatchewan. Her health deteriorated significantly. Mostly because of worry. I hadn’t seen her for almost a year, face to face.” 

When Farn put her house on the market, she worried it would not sell, given the financial situation caused job instability. She wondered, “Who’s going to buy a house in the middle of a pandemic?” Surprisingly, the housing market remained active as many people working from home re-evaluated their space needs. Farn said, “It ended up that the house was on the market for four days.”

Over the next few months, she began dismantling the life she had built over the previous 18 years. The political events, the global pandemic, and its politicization had Farn feeling like she was living through a movie. She explained this time period was “surreal; like Zombieland.” She wondered, “When’s Bill Murray going to show up? Because it was just insanity.” 

She continued, “I packed up a three-storey Victorian into this 25-foot trailer. I rented a truck. My son and his girlfriend were going to drive with me, just the three of us.” Because her son was only 18 years old, he couldn’t drive the rental truck. A friend of Farn’s stepped in. She said, “I will always be in debt to him—he took two weeks off work. He’s an essential worker. In order to [help me], he worked overtime. He was working six days a week for five weeks leading up to us leaving.”

While Farn had debated the merits of getting her U.S. citizenship earlier that year, it turned out having dual citizenship was the only way she would be able to cross the border. She said, “I’m glad I did, because it was the only way I could come home. The [Canadian] borders were closed to U.S. citizens. The [U.S.] borders were closed to Canadian citizens. Because I had both, I was the only one that could cross.”

Farn explained the logistics of crossing both borders with her car and a rental truck with a trailer. “What I had to do was come to the border, drive the trailer with the truck through, and get everything inspected. The Canadian border officials were phenomenal. They were just amazing because they could see just how this was after three days of driving with my cat and all my stuff.”

After passing through Canadian customs, Farn turned around and walked back into the U.S. to say goodbye to her son, his girlfriend, and her friend.

Crossing the border back into the U.S. did not go so smoothly. “They were just awful. The U.S. people were just ridiculous.” She continued, “I had to go into the U.S. Customs office. This is North Dakota, a week after Trump lost—they didn’t believe he lost. There were no masks, no hand sanitizer, nowhere to wash my hands. I was treated terribly.” 

The border guards’ masks were lying on the table. When Farn came into the building, one said, “I guess we’re gonna put our masks on?” The guards grilled Farn as to what she was doing. 

The border guard then demanded to see Farn’s U.S .passport. Farn handed it to him, and he said, “Oh, it’s a new issue.” The guard then threw it on the chair and said, “You’re free to go.”

After saying goodbye to her son, Farn got in her car and drove 800 kilometres to her hometown. Farn’s cousin, who lives near Lloydminster, had driven eight hours to the Saskatchewan-U.S. border to meet Farn and pick up her trailer. Farn said, “He waited for four hours because it took a long time to get everything situated. He took my trailer and brought it to his farm.”

She said, “I drove until I couldn’t see anymore. I stopped in Saskatoon and slept.”

At this time, there was a constant stream of news stories about out-of-province cars being vandalized by locals who were concerned that outsiders were spreading the Covid virus. Before going to sleep, Farn put signs on her car that had Wisconsin licence plates. “Please don’t touch my stuff. Don’t vandalize my car. I’m coming home.” 

After five days on the road, Farn finally reached her hometown. At this stage of the pandemic, anyone arriving into Canada had to be quarantined for two weeks. A family friend provided a house directly across the street from her mother. “I dropped off my cat, parked my car, and went and slept for two days, and just was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here.’” 

Shortly after she arrived home, Farn said, “I started feeling not that great. I thought it was the isolation. I didn’t have a clue that I was sick. I thought, ‘Well, God, you just drove for hours. You’ve spent the last six months getting your house ready. You’re tired.’” Then she started to feel achy, very tired, and then lost her sense of taste and smell.

 “I crossed the border on Friday, Nov. 13. And that’s when I got Covid.”

She explained, “That’s the only place that I could have gotten it. My friend didn’t get it. My son didn’t get it. My son’s girlfriend didn’t get it, and we all travelled together.”

Farn called Saskatchewan Health Authority. “They actually got mad at me. They said, ‘You’ve made too many stops.’” Farn responded, “Do you realize how far I had to drive?”

As unfair as it felt, Farn understood and appreciated the concern. “I get it. People—they’re taking it seriously. I was OK with that, as we honestly weren’t taken seriously in the States. So I looked at it as a sense of protection, and that they were looking out for me, rather than any kind of enforcement.”

A month later, Farn’s son flew to Saskatchewan for Christmas. Like Farn, he had to quarantine for two weeks. The same friend offered her house to Farn’s son. Farn said, “I will be ever grateful to her; she went and stayed with family so my son could have the house.”

“We ended up having Christmas the day he got out of quarantine,” Farn said. “It was kind of funny because the police actually came to the house and asked [if the quarantine was over], and I said, ‘You know what? I’m fine with it. You have to be protective.’”

Farn said, “It was pretty cool to be home for the first time for Christmas in over 20 years.”

She added, “I’m grateful for my freedom. I am grateful to be here and grateful to have money and health care taken care of. I’m grateful to be safe because the minute I crossed the border, I knew I was safe.”