12.31.2008

final thoughts on the will-you-move-back question

Two months ago, there was a flurry of media interest in this blog, as reporters searched for US ex-pats to pose that vital question, "If Obama wins, will you return to the US?" I would have thought the question was beyond asking, but some people only pretend to read blogs.

Now year's end seems to have revived the story. Two people sent me this from the Hartford, Connecticut Courant.
Each time George W. Bush won the presidency, some people swore they would move to Canada.

Most of it was just talk. But there are those who actually made good on their threats. So now that Bush is leaving the White House, will the expats be coming home?

Kaitlin Duck Sherwood, now a computer programming consultant in Vancouver, was among those who moved north. When she was living in Palo Alto, Calif., Sherwood was vexed by Bush policies that she saw as eroding individual rights. When he beat John Kerry for a second term, she started applying to grad schools in Canada.

It wasn't just Bush, Sherwood says. She felt disillusioned by her fellow Americans.

"In the second [election], my fellow citizens knew who George Bush was and knew what he was going to do, and they elected him," Sherwood says. "That was just heartbreaking to me."

Last month's election, of course, was heartening for Sherwood.

"Obama's election, that shows me that they are, in fact, reasonable people," she says. "They have restored my faith in America." So she's moving back, right?

Not so fast.

Besides her frustration with the Bush administration, she had concerns about the U.S. economy when she left. . . .

Later in the story, we hear from a USian who moved to Canada for non-political reasons.
Kastrina Brogden, who moved to Canada from Dallas about eight years ago when she married a Canadian, thinks there was a lot more talking about moving up north than actual moving. Although she's a member of Democrats Abroad, she does not know anyone who moved out of the U.S. specifically because of President Bush.

"I think that was kind of a mythology," she says. "That sprang up, and people wanted to believe that. I think there were people who were happy to be away from the Bush administration, but I think you'd have to be pretty extreme in your political views [to move away]."

Welcome to mythology! This woman ought to get out more. Or are the thousands of us who actually did emigrate - not "because of Bush", but because of what his residency in the White House says about the US - extremists? To many people in the US, yes, we are. In Canada, we're just ordinary NDPers. (And a few of us are voting Liberal!)

The story continues:
Lee Rowan moved to Canada shortly after the first Bush election and is now settled in a town close to Toronto, where she writes gay romance novels. Rowan's discontent with Bush had been simmering since the 2000 election and all of the controversy that surrounded it. Then came the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq. Then the second Bush victory. Finally, she and her partner of nine years decided to move to Canada in 2004 when their home state of Ohio passed an amendment banning gay marriage. The emigration process was a lengthy one, and they finally settled in Canada in the summer of 2007.

Rowan is encouraged by the election of Obama, but the jury is out on whether she'll head back to the States. For one thing, she likes living in Canada. Also, gay marriage is another big issue for Rowan. She and her wife got married at Niagara Falls a few years ago after the federal government legalized same-sex marriage. Obama seems to lean more toward her own world view, but has said he doesn't support gay marriage. Until he changes his mind on that, Rowan says, she'll probably stay where she is.

"Yes, I could see moving back to the U.S. someday, possibly," she says. "Many friends and family are there. But for the moment, I think we made the right decision and we're putting down roots here."

A reader from Nelson, BC - another US-to-Canada defector, whose move pre-dates mine - sent me a very strange story.

It was written by the same AP reporter who contacted me after the US election with The Annoying Question about moving back. We emailed a bit, but she never interviewed me. I guess she kept looking until she found what she wanted.
For Jeb Assaf, Barack Obama's election win and America's overwhelming vote for "change" has forced him to seriously consider a long-feared change of his own: moving to Canada.

As a John McCain supporter, Assaf says he is fed up with the direction of U.S. politics. He feels his only real option is to make the move north that so many Americans joke about when things don't go their way.

"I am so disappointed that my fellow citizens have looked past the lack of (President-elect Obama's) relevant experience and poor judgment and have treated something so important and sacred like it was 'American Idol,' " said Assaf, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y. "At least I know what I am getting with (Canada's Conservative Prime Minister) Stephen Harper."

In the days following the election, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration's Web site traffic went to the high end of its normal range, said spokeswoman Karen Shadd. The site, which averages 13,000 to 19,000 hits from U.S. visitors, logged just under 19,000 on Nov. 5.

While it's too early to tell if any recent interest will translate into a significant increase in immigration, Canadian lawyers say there was a significant flood of Americans after President Bush's 2004 re-election, when Web traffic at Canada's immigration site hit a record high of 150,000 visits in a day from Americans.

In fact, any influx of Americans disgruntled with Obama might be countered by a return migration of those who left during the Bush years.

About 11,000 Americans immigrated to Canada in 2006, the last figure Canada's immigration department has, up from about 6,000 in 2003. Because it can take years to finish the immigration process, experts said the latest numbers reflect moves initiated after Bush's re-election.

One of those immigrants was Shirley Kelley, 64, a retiree who left Seattle after Bush's win to seek what she calls a safe haven in Canada's beautiful coastal region of Vancouver, B.C.

"I was angry, I was ashamed of being an American. I was afraid of where my country was heading, and I just had to get out so I packed up my yellow Lab and headed North," she said.

. . .

And while Canada has not become starkly conservative by any means -- the country has single-payer health care -- the country's somewhat transformed political landscape does provide a slight political refuge for Republican Americans.

"What scares me about Obama is Democrats having control over both Houses and the Senate, and being able to ram through legislation. Democrats controlling the country is not good. Obama's policies are bad for the country," said Christopher Buck, 28, a recent law school graduate from New Hampshire, who is considering a move to Montreal as a result of the election results.

"There's a lot to like about Canada," he said.

There are more than a dozen Facebook groups of people threatening to move to Canada, with names like the group Assef founded, "If Obama Somehow Wins, I'm moving to Canada." Assef, a recent law school graduate, has been researching immigration requirements and how to get licensed as an attorney in Ontario.

. . . .

Despite "absolutely loving" Canada and its "gentle, peaceful ways," Kelley said that its the first time since 2004 she's thinking about heading back to the United States.

"I feel like I have a new lease on life. Obama is hope. He's my prayers answered," she said. "He's brought back my faith in the U.S."

Where to begin? First, a USian in Canada says Obama's election is the answer to her prayers. I wonder if she's been praying for increased military spending, more troops in Afghanistan, and "maintaining a strategic force posture" against Iran. Then again, she thinks Canada has "gentle, peaceful ways". Well, everything is relative. I doubt Zofia Cisowski finds Canada very gentle.

Then there's the conservative side. As Tresy, who sent me this story said,
How stupid do you have to be to be a US conservative? Stupid enough to think moving to Canada is a rational response to the 2008 elections. "I can't stay in the US - Obama's going to raise my taxes, institute single-payer, and legalize gay marriage. I know - I'll move to Canada!"

13 comments:

Dharma Seeker said...

So many thoughts, so little time!

A man of colour is against equal rights for gays and lesbians? For real?

Disillusioned right-wingers leaving the states? To come HERE? BAhahaha! Gay marriage -legal. Abortion -legal. Heck, from time to time, pot is legal too! Actually, that's probably just what they need - it will loosen them up a bit.

Mark from Slap said...

Did I read this right? Christopher Buck is terrified of Obama's left-leaning policies, so he wants to seek refuge in Montréal, Québec, Canada?

I'm happy when people take an interest in my favourite city in my favourite country, but good lord, man, at least Google the place first!

Scott M. said...

And to move to Quebec of all places! In addition to gay marriage, government-sponsored health care and post-secondary education, it's also the home of government-sponsored $7-a-day daycare, the lowest marriage rate and highest common-law rate, and the location where the norm is for women to keep their surnames when they *are* married.

Oh, and they speak French.

L-girl said...

Yes, it's hilarious, innit?

And a visit from Mark from Slap! I am honoured.

deang said...

Well, a close USian friend of mine who moved to Japan in 2004 for political reasons says of Obama's victory, "I don't think it'll change anything. The US is still way too religious for me and still has military bases all over the world."

And my 13-year-old Texan niece said over the holidays, apropos of nothing, "I like Canada. They have a great health care system." This from a child who has been through the health care system in the most right-wing state in the US. If she ever moves to Canada, it will definitely be for political reasons. I guess the Dallasite quoted, Kastrina Brogdan, would consider my niece an extremist.

deang said...

A man of colour is against equal rights for gays and lesbians? For real?

For real. And not so uncommon. The extreme religiosity of USians infects people of color as well, particularly blacks. I've gotten in several arguments here in Texas with religious blacks who are angered by gays who say that the gay struggle is similar to that of people of color against oppression. Religion really clouds the mind.

Disillusioned right-wingers leaving the states?

I have known right-wingers who seek to leave the US to go to Canada or Europe for racist reasons: they like that there are fewer people of color there and they don't have a problem with social services as long as they're not benefiting people of color.

L-girl said...

I've gotten in several arguments here in Texas with religious blacks who are angered by gays who say that the gay struggle is similar to that of people of color against oppression.

I've heard that quite a bit, too. I've heard African Americans say, how can you compare being gay to being black, since we are born dark-skinned, but people choose to be gay. Blah blah blah...

I have known right-wingers who seek to leave the US to go to Canada or Europe for racist reasons: they like that there are fewer people of color there and they don't have a problem with social services as long as they're not benefiting people of color.

They'd better never come to Canada, or at least any of Canada's major cities, or they're in for a big shock. We are many-hued up here, colours and accents from around the globe.

Nigel Patel said...

Why on earth would you move back?
You're having a ball over there.
I mean, I've never read you before the move but you seem to be having the times of your lives.
(Probably helps that you're living near a Major League Baseball city though)

impudent strumpet said...

Obama's policies are bad for the country," said Christopher Buck, 28, a recent law school graduate from New Hampshire, who is considering a move to Montreal as a result of the election results.

I'd love to know more about this guy's story. Of all the places in the world he could possibly go, he's chosen a jurisdiction that uses the Civil Law system and where his language is the minority. (Assuming based on his name and the fact that he's USian that English is his first language, and based on New Hampshire that he was trained in Common Law in English.) People do live in English in Montreal and people do get accredited to work in the other legal system all the time, but it's like two extra layers of obstacles. I'm so curious about what led him to choose Montreal instead of, say, Edmonton.

redsock said...

(Probably helps that you're living near a Major League Baseball city though)

New York has two major league teams and two minor league teams, so that can't be it.

***

How hard would it be to track down this Mr. Buck and ask him?

L-girl said...

Why on earth would you move back?<
You're having a ball over there.
I mean, I've never read you before the move but you seem to be having the times of your lives.


We do love it here, yes. But I think the question comes from a basic misunderstanding of why we moved.

We didn't come to Canada to ride out a storm. I always say, if your only problem with the US was Democrats vs Republicans - if you would have been perfectly happy if John Kerry became President in 04 - then you weren't moving to Canada.

(And the proximity to MLB is partly why the Toronto area works so well for us.)

L-girl said...

I'd love to know more about this guy's story.

I know. My guess is he's from New Hampshire, so Montreal is the part of Canada he knows best - maybe the only part he knows at all.

People do live in English in Montreal and people do get accredited to work in the other legal system all the time, but it's like two extra layers of obstacles.

This was the biggest reason we didn't choose Montreal. We love it there, but we felt, not speaking French and moving up without jobs, why add obstacles.

How hard would it be to track down this Mr. Buck and ask him?

I have the email address of the AP writer. You could ask her to give him your email address.

If you really want to bother.

Which I hope you don't.

Alex said...

Why did I move to Canada?

Politics, no.
Religion, no.
Economics, no.
Health Care, no.

I moved here for the better quality beer.