Yes, I am Canadian (sorry, eh?)

When all else fails in your attempts to make change in your community towards ending homelessness or increasing affordable housing, blame my nationality. Apparently this is a thing.

Summer. 2013. National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference. World-renowned expert (won’t mention names) says that I can’t possibly understand HUD requirements during a conference session because I am Canadian.

Spring. 2014. Oklahoma. Implementing the SPDAT is a bad idea (and not aligned with Gospel values) because…wait for it…I am Canadian.

Summer. 2014. Texas. I made an offer to help a shelter move forward with coordinated access and common assessment in that community. The Executive Director rejects the idea on FaceBook. Why? Because I am Canadian.

My mother came to Canada from Scotland. My father came to Canada from the Netherlands. My older brother – born in Canada – moved to and has become an American citizen. I am first generation Canadian, with a global perspective on ending homelessness.


I am Canadian.


That could be a bad beer commercial waiting to happen (for Canadian beer – we make fun of American beer because it is like making love in a canoe).

I could haul out Shane Koyczan’s awesome spoken word piece from the Vancouver Olympics, which does a good job explaining why we are more than stereotypes.

Or I could blare Classified’s alternate national anthem (Canadian rap…really awesome if you want to laugh and understand Canadians more…playing with stereotypes – “Oh Canada, we love our beaver.”).

Or I could talk about how being Canadian is being the little brother goalie in a game of road hockey (with Americans being the forwards taking slap shots at us).

I am proud to be a Canadian. That, however, does not make me unqualified to work or share ideas in the United States (or elsewhere for that matter), in the same way that Americans can share (and influence) Canadians.

First of all, I am proudly Nexus certified, allowing me Global Entry. I have been heavily vetted by both the Canadian and American governments to be able to be in that position and I am very happy to move across borders in this manner.

For US work, OrgCode files a W-8ECI. We are transparent when we have business dealings in the United States. We file taxes through Buffalo, New York.

I feel it is just as important to end homelessness in the US as Australia as the UK as Canada. Homelessness, in this sense, is more than a border. It is a condition that is happening because of so many common policies across borders.

I grew up in a border town (Sault Ste. Marie – which, coincidentally is the name of the city on BOTH sides of the border). I have been “speaking American” for a long time. The fact that I know the names of government programs, funding sources, benefits, etc. in two countries makes me additionally qualified, not under-qualified.

Allow me to make a very un-Canadian statement: I am good at what I do. That goodness transcends borders. I am grateful to have been to the White House with the Community Solutions group, and I am also grateful to have been honoured with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Best Practice in Affordable Housing earlier in my career.

Some of the people that pick my brain the most on how to end homelessness or increase affordable housing in a community are – you guessed it – not Canadians. There would not be a demand for my time in such a way if I was an idiot or if I had nothing to offer non-Canadians.

So the next times someone pulls out the “but he’s not from here” card, remember this: I am working my butt off to end homelessness and increase affordable housing throughout the developed world. Believing in my ideas and expertise is more important than my nationality. My passion to end homelessness knows no borders.

Oh. Canada.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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