Just before the Nov. 2 election, it was common in some liberal circles to hear people joke or threaten to move to Canada if the president won. Not since the days...
Just before the Nov. 2 election, it was common in some liberal circles to hear people joke or threaten to move to Canada if the president won. Not since the days of the Vietnam War and the draft, when an estimated 50,000 Americans fled north, had so many citizens considered getting out of Dodge and moving to Moose Jaw.
Then the president won. As anger turned to resignation, thoughts of Canada faded like a patch of snow in a spring thaw.
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Indeed, while the media churned out stories in early November about a great northern exodus and Canadian Web sites reported huge increases in traffic, once the emotional dust settled, Americans went about their lives. Or at least most did.
It now appears that a small (and as yet unquantifiable) group really is pulling up stakes.
Consider Ralph Appoldt, an Oregon-based sales manager for a firm that makes power wheelchairs. His fury has yet to subside. Slowly and deliberately, he is planning his move to Canada.
“This is a hard thing to do,” said Appoldt, 51. “It’s not like we have miserable lives. In a nutshell, I think our administration is just very ugly. Everything they have done is regressive and against my basic beliefs. If this is what America wants, then I don’t want to be an American anymore.”
“The November spike”
In Ottawa, immigration officials dubbed a huge increase in visits to their official Web site “the November spike.” Traffic grew from an average of about 50,000 hits a day to 180,000 on Nov. 3. A majority of the hits 64 percent came from south of the border. Traffic on the site did not return to normal for 10 days, then shot up again and is still running above average.
Whether this will translate into a real immigration boomlet will not be known for at least four months, Canadian immigration spokeswomen Maria Iadinardi said.
One thing is certain: Canada, which has a population roughly the size of California’s in a land mass larger than the United States, needs immigrants. “We are one of the largest countries in the world,” Iadinardi said, “and we only have 32 million people.”
For certain people, Canada opens its arms. People who want to apply for permanent resident status in the easiest category “skilled worker” need only score 67 out of 100 on a test that awards points for education, language proficiency (French and English), work experience and age. There are no sure bets, say immigration attorneys, but virtually anyone in good health with a college degree, a decent work record and a blank rap sheet can make the grade. (Even illness is not necessarily grounds for inadmissibility, although Canada reserves the right to refuse entry to people who might put an undue strain on social resources.)
About 1 million U.S. citizens live in Canada; fewer than 6,000 move there each year. Canada has a goal of about 250,000 new immigrants a year.
For disappointed blue-state types, the list of reasons to consider Canada are featured succinctly on a Web site called CanadianAlternative.com: The country has universal health care, no troops in Iraq, has signed the Kyoto Protocol, and its Senate has recommended legalizing marijuana.
“We are certainly promoting a certain vision of Canada,” said the site’s creator, Jason Mogus, 31, CEO of a communications firm that works for progressive nonprofits. “We love the fact that Canada is a more tolerant and open society.”
The Supreme Court of Canada last week ruled that the government could redefine marriage to include gay couples. Public opinion has been nearly evenly split on the matter, but six of the 10 provinces already have legalized such unions.
While Canada officially welcomes well-qualified U.S. citizens, there is an undeniable strain of animosity in the popular culture. Last month, in a Calgary Sun column about disaffected Democrats heading north, Ian Robinson wrote: “I hope I’m not alone in gently suggesting to those considering coming to Canada: Stay home, you pathetic whining maggots.”
David Frum, a Yale-educated Canadian and former speechwriter for President Bush who lives in Washington, D.C., isn’t so harsh. He did, however, note in an e-mail: “If we opened the U.S.-Canada border to migrants dissatisfied with the current government of their country, you’d find 20 Canadians moving southward to George Bush’s America for every American who moved away.”
For many U.S. citizens who leave as a matter of conscience or expedience, there are tremendous emotions involved.
“I have always been proud of being an American, especially after 9/11,” said Lorraine Wright, 45, who was living in Redmond when she decided to move to Whistler, B.C., after the 2000 election.
“But that was an opportunity that was squandered. Instead of taking that goodwill and using it, the path we took was exact opposite of anything I could support. I mean (invading) Afghanistan I could understand, but invading Iraq was so out of left field.”
Wright, whose father was Canadian, drove to Seattle last month to cast her vote for John Kerry. The next day, back in Canada, her new citizenship card arrived in the mail. “It was a nice pick-me-up,” she said. “I get the feeling that some Americans go, ‘Good riddance, you traitor.’ But I got 40 good years left, and I want to be surrounded by people who reflect my values.”
Appoldt, the Portland wheelchair salesman, will be moving as soon as he can sell his house and arrange for work. He doesn’t know much about Canadian history, but he figures the cultural similarities will ease the transition.
“Culturally, it’s pretty much the same without the violence and the belligerence,” Appoldt said. “I would add arrogance, but then, I’ve never been to French Canada.”