Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada
While trying to come up with a letter to President Trump, and finding every excuse in the book, not to, it dawned on us: the reticence might be because we are writing to the WRONG country's leader. Of course: USA didn't cause this problem, why should we expect them to fix it? So we changed tack, acknowledged the reason for of our ongoing struggle to remain ourselves, free, and not dead, and came up with an appropriate letter. Here it is:
Open letter to:
Prime Minister of Canada
Dear Prime Minister:
Eleven years ago a LGBT, Russian refugee and her Canadian partner fled by sailboat to Canada's west coast to be together. They are still fighting to stay together. The Russian is still stateless. Recently, the couple's lives were placed in grave danger by your government's department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
We are Elena and Meg, that couple. We are in desperate need of refuge and safe passage on our sailboat, from Halifax, Canada, through USA, to warmer waters to save our vessel (also our home) and our lives. Unfortunately, in 2016 IRCC knowingly stranded us in USA, rendering us inadmissible to America for years to come.
In July 2017, to alleviate our illegal position in USA, we undertook a life-threatening, non-stop, 2000 km, offshore sailboat-run to Halifax (with Elena denied documents and facing arrest if blown ashore). In Halifax, IRCC continued to deny Elena the human right of movement, and Meg refused to leave her partner of 11 years. For nearly three months, IRCC knew we were trapped in Halifax on our light, tropical sailboat while winter conditions in the North Atlantic became increasingly more deadly. Finally, following six applications over the course of one year, IRCC -- possibly spooked by a reporter demanding answers -- issued Elena a refugee travel document in a matter of hours. We have a hard time seeing this behaviour as anything but contemptuous.
Despite Elena receiving a Canadian refugee travel document, our lives, our home and vessel are still in grave danger due to our US inadmissibility and egregious delay in Halifax, both caused by IRCC. At this late time of year, passage through American waters and canals, with the right to land, is the only feasible way to safety for a small vessel of this type and size.
We respect USA, its people and its laws. We refuse to let the Canadian government force us into future illegal acts to save our lives and home. Because your department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada placed us in this life-threatening predicament, it is the responsibility of the Canadian Government to rectify it.
With the onset of winter in Nova Scotia, we either give up our freedom, rights, home and dreams, we have fought so hard for over the last 11 years, or we endevour a 2800 km, non-stop, high-seas passage to Bahamas. Given the time of year and our loss of access to USA, this is a run which will very likely result in our deaths.
Over the decade that Elena has remained stateless, with nearly six of those years waiting for a grant of Canadian citizenship that is still in process, we have received significant media attention in USA and the world. As we head into the open Atlantic, and uncertainty, we will share with the public, our satellite tracking and log entries. If our satellite feed should go dark, those who have been inspired by what we have done to be together, may want answers from Canada.
Morgan (Meg) Stone
Looking for news?
Hey everybody! I know you're looking for news. I'd update this page more often, but we're seriously busy saving our asses. It's absolutely down to the wire, and not looking good for our heroines, but I can assure you; that if we live, we are going to sue,* for damages, for human rights, and an apology and acknowledgment of the endemic contempt within Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This craven abuse has got to come to light, and it has got to stop! I used to be a blissfully ignorant, smug (and reasonably wealthy) Canadian, now I am embarrassed to call myself a citizen.
Because we are concentrating on Elena's website, cadenza.ca - Talking To the Moon it is where you will find the latest news.
*Lawyers, this is an open call: please get in touch with your proposal, via the contact form on this site, or Elena's, at cadenza.ca
How NOT to be Depressed
Being tossed, kicking and screaming, into the Anticruise, has taught me enough -- I figure -- to impart a little wisdom on one of the finer aspects of survival - and thrival (that's not just physically staying alive, but actually LIVING).
Don't get me wrong: I HAVE been depressed. It's no laughing matter. I've found myself deleting narcissistic drivel from diaries and logs to make the most handsomely paid therapists blush. For days, I'd lie in bed, just begging to die until the need to pee forced me to move. I'd drink myself into a coma, listen to miserable music, have panic attacks (still have those, but now see them for what they are: physical, like cramps, or hot flashes, or gas), self harm, pop antidepressants, plan my own suicide in exquisite detail, hate myself, blame myself, come up with excuses to be more miserable, more put-upon, more of a victim - it's all so fracking unfair! Why me?
Did any of it help? Nah... it sucked. And HUGE surprise, things just got worse. I'm rather amazed I'm still here, and that I didn't actually off myself (probably by way of a highly embarrassing accident).
So, what got me out of it: broke the spiral-dive into blackness? Easy answer: REALITY.
A cold, hard look at what's really going on, and what's really going to happen if one doesn't chop the throttle, level the wings, and ease out of the dive. In my case, it was realizing that a sniveling, woe-is-me fest wasn't helping, and that nobody really gives a rat's ass how you feel. Reality just keeps on going; events and ramifications unfolding along a natural order, regardless of your mood. You could say I was distracted from depression by the need to survive, much like being distracted from the cool feeling of pulling a lot of G, by the ground rushing up to kill you during a spiral-dive.
Doing something very real, like surviving a storm, or kidnapping, or the number 21 cross-town bus, or war, or mugging, or a self-inflicted fall from a bridge, or anticruise, or bear mauling, or... Has a very real way of taking you out of your mindfulness and misery and getting you into the NOW and the REAL. Whatever it happens to be, if you survive (or are lucky enough to have a reality epiphany without a threat to your survival), you have a chance to see what's real (level the wings) and change your life (pull out of the dive).
Okay, now that the depression (a self perpetuating condition) has been interrupted, let's cover some of the things that have worked -- for me, anyway -- to keep it at bay. And believe me, it is so easy just to pull the covers over your head and sink back into that cozy, comforting, safe, self-indulgent state of depression.
1 - Do something real that risks your life a bit: climb a mountain, ride your bike in traffic, sail a boat, take public transit, bet on a horse.
2 - Don't listen to music that you associate with sadness. Emotions are like chemicals (in fact, they ARE chemicals) so don't bring it on if you don't have to! I've got a stack of Evanescence and Mozart and Bach that can just blast away the sunshine in seconds flat. I figure I'll keep it for a really good snot and tears session when I'm all alone and feel the need to toy with depression... or not.
3 - Don't drink! Emotions are chemical, and booze is chemical depression. It's just that simple.
4 - Don't oversleep. Lying around without needing rest is consciously forcing your mind and body into a state of depression.
5 - Don't take shit. Really... stand up for yourself, respect yourself, don't be a victim (although the world NEEDS you to think you are).
6 - Don't take SSRI's (like Prozac and it's cousins). This is dangerous stuff, if you really are depressed, or suicidal, or anorexic... in my studied opinion and experience, SSRIs muffle the screams. Sounds dramatic and purple, so let me explain it clearly. SSRI drugs take away the fear, stifle emotion: no happy, no sad, no fear. Great way to lose weight: no hunger. Great way to commit suicide: no fear. Great way to go broke: no responsibility. Great way to lose all your friends and family: become a psychopath.
7 - Drink lots of coffee, you can sleep when you're dead.
8 - Don't overestimate yourself. You just aren't that important to anyone but yourself - duh! If you don't realize this, you are living for someone else that isn't you! You will not own your life, others will. Don't trust anyone with your life but you! TAKE BACK YOUR LIFE AND LIVE IT - it's all you've got.
Video Footage of the Sail to Halifax
Made it to Halifax
In from the sea; further from "home," and infinity to go.
Okay, storms, waves, big fish, won't get us. We have a legal right to be here. The streets are clean, the trees are green, the air is cool and fresh. People are well behaved and polite. Racism and class-ism isn't overt. But whoa, just visited the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron, and the reception we got (guffaw, pahhhh, wheeze...); drove it home: we're vermin! We used to BE Royal Yacht Club members, but without flirting with the dockmaster, or waving money around, we were pretty much thrown off the premises. What a lesson! Before I cashed in "safety" -- meaning: my home, tangible assets, Royal yacht club membership, place in society -- and ran for my life (as well as Elena's) from Kiev, I was ignorantly unaware of this class divide. Boy, did I see it today!
Didn't notice this chasm in USA. It might be there, but nobody went out of their way to denigrate us.
Halifax or Bust!
Our satellite tracking and messaging site is now online and open to the public.
Follow the link (above) to see our latest position, read our log entries and posts, AND communicate with us via satellite text messages while we are at sea and off the grid.
Tracking and position reports will appear when we depart (Thursday, June 29, 14:00 EDT).
Messaging is available now.
Departure delayed by 48 hrs
T minus 3 hrs and holding
Onshore flow (poor weather and sea conditions: increased risk to life and vessel outweighs overstay risk). Departure for sea delayed until Thursday, June 29, 14:00 EDT
On Thursday -- when the countdown resumes -- all contact and tracking instructions will be posted and available to the public without password.
More info on Elena's site: cadenza.ca
The Next Anticruise is About to Depart
The Prospekt Magazine article/interview with Elena went viral; movie deals, book options, speaking and coffee invitations poured in; and low and behold, a Canada Immigration and Citizenship receptionist, actually deigned to speak to Elena. Regardless, they won't renew Elena's travel document because she is stranded (albeit, by their incompetence) outside of Canada.
We can moan about being forced into a risky, non-stop, way offshore sail to Halifax (and out again, before freeze up, and getting stuck like Shackleton), or we can load groceries, batten down, put canvas to wind, and have one heck of a great adventure! All part of the anticruise, own-your-life and make it count, attitude. And guess what, we WILL be having a great adventure (thanks for the quote, Steve Irwin).
There's more info about this situation on the (ever expanding) NEWS page of Elena's site: cadenza.ca/index.php/en/news/
Rules for Survival
Been going through The Anticruise (while working on it) with the intent of presenting it as a motivational speaking gig. The wisdom it imparts works really well as a set of rules. Here they are!
Dump emotion. It's not going to help. You are the only one who feels it. Sad, angry, hard-done-by, scared, lonely, betrayed... forget about it. It eats precious time, destroys motivation, and saps the energy you need to survive whatever it is that's making you emotional!
What is happening now? What is about to happen? What can you do to mitigate the negative ramifications? Standing on the track with a train bearing down; pray, whine, trust god, ignore or deny the train... or get the hell out of the way?
Nobody cares as much about your survival as you do. Miracles are random outliers that survivors-of rarely see as such. Rescue is for the privileged few; the ones you hear about. Considering it wastes time and incurs emotion.
Take responsibility for your survival, nobody else will. You are alone, regardless of where you are, or who with.
Get the job done
Take back your life! It's all you've got, cherish it. If you're living for someone else, it's wasted.
Want your customers, clients, employees, society, club members, conference attendees, fans, audience to see and hear the same message with "The Anticruise" live? Then, get in touch. We're good to go, and we'll do it for COST (for a while). It's become intensely clear that this is a message, people we've encountered and presented to, want (and need) to hear.
Lawyer's and Latest
Reality time: we've done nothing wrong (or we hadn't, until Canada Immigration and Citizenship supposedly lost all of Elena's documents with the first renewal for a simple travel document), and really, all we want to do is go on with our lives, which means sailing our boat and adventuring on this planet until we can't. The most reasonable thing is to try to get the travel document, it's been so many years since Elena applied for Canadian citizenship and passed the citizenship test that we've pretty much given up on her ever NOT being stateless). We are now working on try number FOUR. So far nothing, and we don't have high hopes. EDITOR'S NOTE: Try number FOUR has failed. This time they couldn't find the credit card information slip. We are now working on TRY NUMBER FIVE. What a joke! Had thought of lawyering up because we have a pretty darn tight case and can probably sue for damages, but all we want to do is go on with our lives. Called lots of lawyers in USA - they were friendly but can't do anything with the Cad Gov: understandable. Called Canadian lawyers and they want $350 for a consultation before they will even tell us what they can actually do! Pretty typical - they are Canadian after all. Things are done differently up there. We've already shoveled thousands of dollars at Canadian immigration lawyers and they have been absolutely USELESS. Unless they have a magic phone to Canadian Immigration and Citizenship there is absolutely nothing they can do that we can't do ourselves. AND they won't tell us that without a $350 consultation fee, pahhh, but of course. The idea of immigration lawyers going after Immigration and Citizenship to right wrongs, is absurd: they rake it in from the victims of CIC (or whatever it calls itself after yet another obfuscating name change). Immigration victims are immigration-lawyers' golden calf in this scam; last thing they want is less victimization.
Funny thing happened...
... while taking part in a little petty vandalism
So there's this electical services box, just off the beaten path; it's festooned with stickers (wanna-be snooty-gang tags, "hello my name is" tags, advert stickers for computer gaming hardware, kiddie-hard-liquor labels, band stickers) and I contribute a 4cm x 6cm pride-flag sticker. It lasted a few days before I noticed it had been savagely scraped off. Being in the bible-belt, this came as no surprise. What did though, was a plan Elena came up with: Come back with 3 pride stickers, then when they get scraped off, nine more, then twenty-seven. Eventually the whole area would look like "Trouble with Tribbles" - pride stickers spreading out, bible thumpers scraping to beat the devil.
Trying to get Elena a travel document
I am a Canadian citizen, born in, and lived in, Canada all of my life (until this happened). My common-law, same-sex spouse is a Russian refugee, and permanent resident of Canada. We have been together for 11 years. We are currently trapped in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
IRCC Refusal to renew Elena's Refugee Travel Document
October 2016, our sailboat was hit by hurricane Matthew. Delays due to repairs and climatic conditions meant Elena's temporary Canadian refugee travel document (like a passport for stateless people) would expire in a few months and needed to be renewed. The expiring travel document and all required original identity documents were sent to IRCC for the travel document renewal. We followed instructions for the renewal (verbal via phone with Passport Canada, on the application materials, and online). We were told the processing time would be 20 days.
20 days later, nothing. Told by Passport Canada, it can take up to 30 days and to go away.
30 days later, nothing. More phone calls to IRCC produced the same result - no record of their receipt of the documents or a file being initiated. A UPS Courier investigator confirmed that the documents were received by Passport Canada in Gatineau, Quebec on Oct. 25, 2016 and signed for. IRCC phone staff speculated Elena's documents and application were lost. Elena is now completely without ANY official international identity or travel documentation.
January 2017, missing travel document renewal application mysteriously shows up in the snail-mail. Elena's application had been rejected by IRCC saying she only included ONE photo instead of two. How lame do they think we are? Not only did IRCC make up a spurious claim, they took 2.5 months to reject the application. So much time had passed that Elena's travel document had since expired. Elena's freedom of movement and travel has been effectively taken from her.
February (early), 2017 - contacted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for instructions on renewing Elena's (now expired) travel document from outside of Canada and with a notary in lieu of a guarantor. Guarantor in first (failed) attempt had retired and was ineligible to act as a professional guarantor. Passport Canada approved the process and faxed the "in lieu of guarantor form." Completely new package and materials (including photos) sent via courier.
February (late), 2017 - Application for travel document rejected. An expired permanent resident card had been included as additional identification material (as indicated on the application form and in an enclosed letter). It was unnecessary for the application, but Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada used it as an excuse to reject the renewal. The actual, required document (for proof of Permanent Residence) that was included was valid and not expired. The correct (indicated) document was likely not even looked at. Application summarily rejected.
March 1, 2017 - expired Permanent Resident Card removed from the application package (to keep from confusing anyone) and package sent back to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
April 4, 2017 - Application for travel document rejected. Reason given: Travel documents not issued to anyone outside of Canada. To reiterate, this was the third attempt, if this was the case they could have said something before Elena had been completely stripped of the right to travel or board a plane, so we could have gone to Canada to apply for the renewal. No information about not being able to apply from outside of Canada could be found. IRCC staff told us many times that applying from outside of Canada was not only possible, they provided the forms to facilitate us doing so.
May 4, 2017 - Return address outside of Canada scratched out. Application mailed from within Canada.
May 16, 2017 - Application for travel document rejected. Reason given: They couldn't find the credit card payment information. Once again, like how stupid do they think we really are?
May 18, 2017 - Credit card information scratched out, and cashier's check included with application. Application sent via courier.
May 23, 2017 - Received information from IRCC that although the application wasn't in the system, there is "absolutely no way you (Elena) will be issued a Travel Document, as long as you are (she is) outside of Canada." When this agent was informed that the only option they left for us is a non-stop passage to Halifax, she replied "Oh no, such a journey would not be recommended." Meaning, evidently, that an illegal, land crossing of USA, and possible arrest at the border as "fugitives of US law" would be.
June 5, 2017 - Passport Canada agent informs Elena, the application was initiated on May 23, and to call back 20 business days after that date.
June 24, 2017 - More than 20 business days after May 23, Passport Canada agent tells Elena they will not give her any information about her application.
June 29, 2017 - With no communication from Passport Canada or IRCC, we sail, non-stop, 2000 km, offshore to Halifax, Nova Scotia - the closest Canadian port. Elena embarks on this voyage, devoid of international identity, and travel documents. A forced landing in USA, or coast guard intervention would result in Elena's arrest and deportation to Russia.
July 12, 2017 - We land in Halifax. Following a painstaking examination of document photocopies, phone calls to head-office, and confirmation of our relationship, Elena is allowed entry to Canada by two Border Patrol officers. Elena is warned by one officer that she could have thrown the book at her but wasn't arresting her, or forcing her back to sea, on humanitarian grounds.
July 14, 2017 - Two unexplained payments (totaling $120 -- the travel document application fee) were paid into Elena's visa account, that Passport Canada claimed not to have access to. This was discovered later, and no explanation was given. It should also be noted that our satellite position tracking was public, and it is very likely, given the timing and that border agents would have contacted immigration Canada, "someone" knew we were in Canada, thus overcoming their last barrier to being issued a travel document, BEFORE Passport Canada rid themselves of the processing fee.
July 15, 2017 - Elena requests information from IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada) using the only avenue of communication open to their clients, a restrictive web-form. This results in an automated reply a few days later, saying: "We have forwarded your enquiry to the responsible office. Rest assured that we will communicate with you if further information is required." After no response Elena tries the IRCC web-form again, on July 26, without result.
July 17, 2017 - The Halifax city paper, The Chronicle Herald, runs an article "Couple has message for Halifax Pride after 10 years on the run" which mentions "Ten years after fleeing across the oceans, Ivanova remains effectively stateless, owing to continued bureaucratic foul-ups..." within the text.
August 2, 2017 - A concerned Ottawa citizen contacts his Member of Parliament (MP for Ottawa South, David McGuinty) about what is happening to Elena. McGuinty, accompanied by his lawyer, phones and grinds Elena into dust, so she footballs the phone to me, in bed with the flu. He then goes on for nearly an hour, in which I can't get a word in edgewise, scolding us for going to the press instead of our Member of Parliament, then warns me about further media involvement.
August 4, 2017 - Under McGuinty's orders, Elena and I approach Halifax Member of Parliament, Andy Fillmore's office for help either getting a travel document, or at least her application materials, including her USA B-2 visa back, so we can make a sixth attempt at a renewal. There has still been no word or communication from IRCC or Passport Canada. Fillmore's office made contact with Passport Canada, saying that although they would not speak to clients, they may communicate with an MP's office. Two or three weeks later, nothing had been heard or resolved. Finally, an assistant to Andy Fillmore was told verbally that Elena's travel document application had been rejected on a technicality that had previously not been a problem and that we had been instructed to carry out by Passport Canada; Passport photos taken in USA and printed to Canadian standards, and a USA notary, which we had been instructed to use, by Passport Canada. No official rejection was communicated to Elena, in fact IRCC or Passport Canada have had no communication with Elena, nor have her original documents been returned, preventing her from making a sixth renewal attempt.
August 17, 2017 - The Halifax city paper, The Chronicle Herald, runs an article "Couple who fled Russia fighting for right to travel" in which the local Member of Parliament, Andy Fillmore, is quoted: ' "What she really needs is a travel document," said Fillmore, adding that the turnaround time is about 20 days.'
September 20, 2017 - to this date, there has still been no communication from IRCC or Passport Canada, no notification of rejection, and no documents have been returned. This is 34 days after MP Fillmore stated in the press, "turnaround time is about 20 days," and more than 120 days since Elena applied for the 5th time, on May 18th, 2017.
September 27, 2017 - The Halifax city paper, The Chronicle Herald, runs an article "Refugee, partner vow to sail south despite red tape" stating: "Elena Ivanovna and her partner Morgan Stone have given Citizenship and Immigration Canada an ultimatum. If the federal government doesn’t grant Ivanovna a refugee travel permit by Oct. 13, they are sailing south anyway. ... They are reaching the end of the available sailing season, when the onslaught of late fall weather will make heading south dangerous." During the interview with staff reporter, Aaron Beswick, Elena explained that she would write an open letter to US President, Donald Trump requesting safe harbor in USA, upon departure from Halifax. Reporter Beswick told Elena he would contact CIC, as a member of the press, but didn't expect CIC to communicate with him.
September 28, 2017 - CIC agent phones an elderly reference, provided on the many application attempts, at 5 am local time, then phones Elena directly (the first actual contact from Passport Canada, CIC, IRCC -- or any other gov acronym -- since June 14, 2017) to inform her that the reference can't be reached. Is this the technicality CIC is looking for to reject yet another application? CIC activity is noted on websites belonging to Elena and her partner, Morgan (Meg) Stone. Apparently, reporter Beswick of The Chronicle Herald, got through to CIC (whether or not CIC spoke to him) and CIC is cognizant of Elena's refusal to go down without a fight (or at least, media coverage). As to whether or not Beswick's story/contact with CIC, will result in a refugee travel document for Elena before Friday the thirteenth, of October, is pure speculation.
More pics up on THE ANTICRUISE
Just in time for the weekend, a new batch of stunning photos and zany captions have been posted on cruising.sucks - The Anticruise. Follow the ANTICRUISE link in the menu (above) to see em, read em, be amazed, and laugh yourself sick! What's new? you ask... lots: The tool-tips are all original (when you hover over the photo thumbnails) and all new photos and captions from Entry 060 through Entry 067 - check em out. I don't think you'll be disappointed!
Travel Doc Refused, Yet Again
Learned yesterday that Elena's application for travel document (like a passport issued to stateless people) has been refused, yet again. Why? No idea: call center clerks can only say, "Wait for official letter."
I'd say it's high time to stop being a victim. Just not sure, quite what to do... yet. Totally sure something has got to happen.
Anyone out there have: suggestions? assistance? support? Much appreciate your using the contact form (on this site) to get in touch.
PS: Thinking of crowd-sourcing some funding to "lawyer-up" and bring this bullying before the court; a class-action seems like a possibility.
Hey, I posted another video!
The Anticruise is now LIVE
To get to the Anticruise follow this link: anticruise.online
Things are as precarious now as they were when we fled Russia for our lives... more than TEN YEARS ago.
Forced back to the high-seas, it's Thelma and Louise time.
Drive, Thelma... drive!
You can check out The Anticruise (linked from this site) for a bit of background up to now. Read those DEBRIEFING REPORTS, you'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll be the worst of times, it'll be the best of times, it'll be the midwinter of your summer's discontent.
You can read The Russian Factor, with a huge grain of salt. It is the Hollywood-ized version of our escape from Russia. Eventually, I'll rewrite this story (or translate, edit and collaborate on Elena's heartfelt rendition Talking To the Moon, and the cruds who can't take love for a reason, can just eat it.
We ran for love. That's it. Elena loved a woman (that would be me) and her family was ready to see her dead for that. When the embassy wanted to evacuate me from Ukraine, I declined. I couldn't leave Elena to the jackals, so we held on tight, and ran like hell.
And... We're still running!
Like the girl in the Canadian, maple-leaf colored shoes said when the wizard of OZ just couldn't deliver "There's no such place as 'home' "
Here's a book review of one of my favorite bedtime/treadmill stories: THE MARTIAN, by Andy Weir
Hey! I posted a video...
I shot with my trusty (and waterproof) goPro
The following is an article pasted from BBC - Earth: We might live in a computer program, but it may not matter. I've stuck it here because it validates something I have pondered over for most of my sentient life.