Some Blue Staters Moving to Canada

Some in U.S. voting with their feet) (IHT)

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.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Afghanistan War, Democracy, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ken says:

    Ah, the Clinton Presidency: eight years of peace and prosperity, eigth years of record economic growth topped off with the Clinton budget surpluses. Yes James I can see your angst at having to ‘endure’ this.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Ah yes, the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

  3. Brian says:

    Don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out hey. If there is anything I can do to speed your departure, just let me know

  4. Jack Tanner says:

    What’s funny too is the people being mentioned are mostly moving from Seattle to Vancouver or from Vermont to Quebec. Take some more hippies with you.

  5. capt joe says:

    Yes, and say hello to lower salaries, higher taxes and waiting months for medical procedures you could get in a few days.

    Anyone with professional qualifications (lawyer, doctor, prof engineer, etc.) are in for a rude awakening. Your credentials will have to be “evaluated” which is a scam so that in country professionals will be able to get better jobs that you.

    And going to a country where they vote for the same political party 78% of the time. Certainly the place for those with rose colored glasses.

  6. bryan says:

    I want to see a follow-up story on this. How many of these folks get there only to discover the truth behind that old saw … “The grass is always greener …”

  7. DC Loser says:

    Frankly, those who are leaving for political purposes have already decided the US political atmosphere not to their liking and I’ll just go out on a limb and say that they are more in tune with the Canadian foreign policy outlook. Canadian domestic politics hasn’t probably entered their thoughts and that’s always interesting in its own right. All the people constantly putting down Canada here doesn’t show what that country is like. I have been going to Canada regularly for the past two decades and have always encountered wonderful people and great places to visit, and frankly I find it a very pleasant prospective place to live and work. It’s not paradise, but it’s every bit as nice a place as the U.S. in nearly every aspect.

  8. Ol' BC says:

    Any chance of Kennedy, Boxer and the gang of whatever-Bush-says-I’m-against tagging along north of the border. We could use some senators who put the U.S. first. Oh, by the way, the good times of the 90’s were a result of Reagan’s bold moves in the 80’s.

  9. McGehee says:

    Canadians are wonderful people — but how such kind, generous people can keep voting for such obviously corrupt, power-grubbing pols is beyond me.

  10. DC Loser says:

    “Canadians are wonderful people—but how such kind, generous people can keep voting for such obviously corrupt, power-grubbing pols is beyond me.”

    That’s probably what they think about us.

  11. bryan says:

    It’s too danged cold.

  12. DC Loser says:

    I’ve froze my butt off in North Dakota courtesy of Uncle Sam, I think I can handle most everything the Canadians can throw at me 🙂

  13. Old Joe says:

    The story about Christopher Key is an example of a publicity seeking person bambozelling (sp?) a reporter. What doesn’t appear in the story is Mr Key quit his editorial job at a local magazine when his publication was merged with another and the market coverage nearly doubled – without adding staff. This decision was made easier with his upcoming marriage to a woman who lives, you guessed it, just over the border. Never has his hatred for the result of our democratic electorial processes ever come up.

    Now, as they say on the radio, you know the rest of the story.

  14. Old Joe says:


    My previous post stated that Mr Keys rational for moving to Canada was one of convenience mitigated more by other factors and then labelled as political. I stand corrected based upon a blog posting dated 12/12/04 he declared his eagerness to flee. That post is here: