Some Blue Staters Moving to Canada
Christopher Key knows exactly what he would be giving up if he left Bellingham, Washington. “It’s the sort of place Norman Rockwell would paint, where everyone watches out for everyone else and we have block parties every year,” said Key, a 56-year-old Vietnam War veteran and former magazine editor who lists Francis Scott Key, who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” among his ancestors. But leave it he intends to do, and as soon as he can. His house is on the market, and he is busily seeking work across the border in Canada. For him, the re-election of George W. Bush was the last straw. “I love the United States,” he said as he stood on the Vancouver waterfront, staring toward the Coastal Range, which was lost in a gray shroud. “I fought for it in Vietnam. It’s a wrenching decision to think about leaving. But America is turning into a country very different from the one I grew up believing in.”
In the Niagara of liberal angst just after Bush’s victory on Nov. 2, the Canadian government’s immigration Web site reported a surge in inquiries from the United States, to about 115,000 a day from 20,000. After three months, memories of the election have begun to recede. There has been an inauguration, even a State of the Union address. Yet immigration lawyers say that Americans are not just making inquiries and that more are pursuing a move above the 49th parallel, fed up with a country they see drifting persistently to the right and abandoning the principles of tolerance, compassion and peaceful idealism they felt once defined the nation.
America is in no danger of emptying out. But even a small loss of population, many from a deep sense of political despair, is a significant event in the life of a nation that thinks of itself as a place to escape to. Firm numbers on potential immigrants are elusive. “The number of U.S. citizens who are actually submitting Canadian immigration papers and making concrete plans is about three or four times higher than normal,” said Linda Mark, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver.
Other immigration lawyers in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, Nova Scotia, said they had noticed a similar uptick, though most put the rise at closer to threefold. “We’re still not talking about a huge movement of people,” said David Cohen, an immigration lawyer in Montreal. “In 2003, the last year where full statistics are available, there were something like 6,000 U.S. citizens who received permanent resident status in Canada. So even if we do go up threefold this year, we’re only talking about 18,000 people.” Still, that is more than double the population of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “For every one who reacts to the Bush victory by moving to a new country, how many others are there still in America, feeling similarly disaffected but not quite willing to take such a drastic step?” Cohen asked.
Well, don’t let the doorknob hit you on the way out. . . .
The American political climate over the last few years has become more bitter than it has been in my memory. Still, it’s nothing like it was during the 1960s or, certainly, much of the 1800s. In a democracy, there are winners and losers. While my side has been on a winning streak of late, we had to endure the Clinton presidency not that long ago. We didn’t abandon the country.
Update: “Captain Ed” Morrissey concurs, adding: “[G]iven the example of Iraq and Afghanistan, watching pampered Americans go weeping across the border to Canada simply because they can’t adjust to losing their monopoly on political thought in the US is an embarassment to America and to the very notion of democracy.”
Moreover, commenter Sailfish adds the following bit of perspective: “According to the latest figures from the US Immigration Statistics (2002), the US allows anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 immigrants from Canada yearly. ”
Update (2-8): Oddly, the NYT version of the piece comes out a day later.