9.06.2010

quiet? invisible? as if: american immigrants to canada get noticed

We've been discovered! Globe and Mail editorial.
The quiet Americans who are Canada’s invisible immigrants

Research into the least studied immigrant group shows that many come in pursuit of ideals

Canada takes pride in being a country of immigrants. Scholars devote much time to researching the social and economic outcomes of newcomers, most of whom hail from visible-minority communities. It is fitting, then, that someone has delved into Canada’s fourth-largest immigration source: Americans.

These invisible immigrants – there are one million, more than at any time since the Vietnam War – are a unique group. According to a leading American geographer, they come to Canada not for economic opportunities, but for the country’s set of values.

Of course, every immigrant’s motivations are intensely personal. However, extensive research by Susan Hardwick, a professor at the University of Oregon, shows that the over-arching inspiration for moving north of the border is an idealistic one.

Americans are attracted by their view of Canada’s more liberal culture. That includes support for a universal public health-care system, positive attitudes toward gays and lesbians, gun control laws and multiculturalism.

In British Columbia, for example, Prof. Hardwick found that most recent arrivals from the U.S. reported their primary reason for leaving was the idea that Canada is a safe refuge for liberal thinkers and idealists.

There are also a growing number of what she calls “midlife mavericks,” who are seeking new lives in what they see as the promised land.

The trend, it seems, is enduring. Reciprocal migration means Canadians need not worry about the brain drain south.

Prof. Hardwick attributes the spike in American immigration, in part, to dissatisfaction with the conservative policies of former president George W. Bush’s years in office.

Now that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is in the White House, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper leads a Conservative minority government, will liberal Americans sour on Canada? Early research results show that American immigrants are not inclined to move back, especially in light of Canada’s stronger economy.

As well, given Tea Party activism, anti-immigration policies in states such as Arizona, and popularity of commentators such as Glenn Beck, liberal Americans remain unsettled by U.S. political culture.

American-Canadians are enthusiastic Canadians. Even those who retain dual citizenship embrace their new identity. Two-thirds of American immigrants have a “very strong” sense of belonging to Canada, according to the Canadian Ethnic Diversity Study. For many, Canada is the “America idealized” in the post-9/11 world, says Prof. Hardwick.

American-Canadians also earn higher salaries and are more educated than other immigrant groups in Canada.

Canadians should embrace these newcomers, and be careful not to tar them as overly individualistic, flag-waving or materialistic – stereotypical traits often, wrongly, associated with Americans.

The presence of American immigrants is doing as much to shape Canada as the influence of newcomers from China, South Asia and the Philippines.

Canadians should resist the urge to repeat negative clichés about the U.S., and view Americans as among the most buoyant new Canadians.

23 comments:

West End Bob said...

Americans are attracted by their view of Canada’s more liberal culture. That includes support for a universal public health-care system, positive attitudes toward gays and lesbians, gun control laws and multiculturalism.

Rather sad that the harper government is trying it's damnedest to negate all those traditions, isn't it L-girl ? ? ? ?

Stephanie said...

Wonderful story!!

I would be curious to know where where the 1 million number comes from and the period that it reflects??

I find the advice to Canadians funny too...so much the two of you.

Canadians should embrace these newcomers, and be careful not to tar them as overly individualistic, flag-waving or materialistic – stereotypical traits often, wrongly, associated with Americans.[...]Canadians should resist the urge to repeat negative clichés about the U.S., and view Americans as among the most buoyant new Canadians.

L-girl said...

On the other hand, Bob, every one of those things will survive the Harper government.

Stephanie said...

I would also wish that every one of them became eligible to vote upon landing...

:)

redsock said...

Now that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is in the White House ... will liberal Americans sour on Canada? Early research results show that American immigrants are not inclined to move back, especially in light of Canada's stronger economy.

Plus the fact that Obama is simply the lead actor in Bush's 3rd term, at times leaning further to the far right than Bush did.

Lorraine said...

If I envy the Canadians for political reasons (or better yet, look to Canada for inspiration and leadership) it's not because of the current leadership situation here or there, but because of structural differences. I envy the citizens of parliamentary democracies in general when they are not shackled by the Two Pary System™. Canada has the virtue of being a parliamentary democracy, but is hobbled by the same 'first past the post' type election system. The so-called mixed-MPP alternative failed in Ontario a few years back. I think its proponents made a tactical mistake by going with a half-measure, that just came off as complicated and confusing.

L-girl said...

I would be curious to know where where the 1 million number comes from and the period that it reflects??

Stephanie, both you and Beth G asked the same question - Beth on Facebook - almost at the exact same time! :)

I don't know what that number reflects either. In 2006, 11,000 USians emigrated to Canada, just as an example. Is it 1 million total, living here now?

L-girl said...

I would be curious to know where where the 1 million number comes from and the period that it reflects??

Stephanie, both you and Beth G asked the same question - Beth on Facebook - almost at the exact same time! :)

I don't know what that number reflects either. In 2006, 11,000 USians emigrated to Canada, just as an example. Is it 1 million total, living here now?

L-girl said...

The so-called mixed-MPP alternative failed in Ontario a few years back. I think its proponents made a tactical mistake by going with a half-measure, that just came off as complicated and confusing.

It's not an easy concept to explain, and the cards are always stacked against those trying to change a deeply entrenched system. The media was also firmly against it, which made it a more difficult sell.

Fair Vote Canada is a very smart, very well-organized group, and they succeeded in educating a lot of people about the more democratic alternative. It will come up again.

There's a category on wmtc "proportional representation" if you want to read more about the Ontario campaign. Thanks for your thoughts.

hhw said...

I don't know if this is the only source for the editorial, but here's a citation & abstract for a recent article by Hardwick on the topic.

Hardwick, Susan W. 2010. Fuzzy Transnationals? American Settlement, Identity, and Belonging in Canada. American Review of Canadian Studies, Vol. 40, Issue 1.

More Americans now reside in Canada than at any time since the Vietnam War. This article documents and analyzes the migration, settlement, and identity of US-born residents in three Canadian cities. My work helps fill the gap in the scholarly literature on issues related to international migration at the Canadian-US borderlands. The article's overarching goal is to illustrate that transnationality, as exhibited by US immigrants in Canada, is far more complex than prior studies of transnational identity have indicated. Findings from this study indicate that transnational linkages and identities are geographically and temporally contingent and are, as such, a reflection of both time and place. My comparison of the shifting identities of American migrants who reside in three different metropolitan areas in Canada allows a more critical analysis of the ever-shifting terrain of transnational identities as they are expressed in different contexts. Data analyzed for this study were compiled from the Canadian census for the years 1961 through 2006, survey questionnaires, unstructured and structured interviews, and on-site field work. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

L-girl said...

so much the two of you

"Bouyant new Canadians" - definitely! I'm a little miffed no one interviewed me for this story! ;)

Stephanie said...

Thanks to hhw for the abstract which answers my question about the figures used and the time period it reflects.

Is it 1 million total, living here now?

In light of this new info I would take the answer to be yes, exactly.
In any case, I am happy to know there is a *steady*...

The more the merrier. Welcome!

John F said...

I imagine that some Americans find it incomprehensible that their fellow citizens would want to leave the Greatest Nation On Earth®. To the teabaggers, it's probably reminiscent of the handful of Americans who defected to the USSR during the Cold War!

deang said...

I was about to say that it's unlikely that the "overly individualistic, flag-waving, materialistic" sorts of USians would emigrate to Canada, but then I remembered a very right-wing family from my childhood Dallas suburb who moved to the Toronto area "for business reasons" during the 80s. They only stayed a few years, though, and summed up their Canadian experience by saying, "It's too socialist up there!" This rather wealthy family also relocated to Peru briefly during the late 70s/early 80s and sympathized with Latin America's landed gentry (the kind that have their own private death squads) against the impoverished masses.

L-girl said...

I imagine that some Americans find it incomprehensible that their fellow citizens would want to leave the Greatest Nation On Earth®.

Exactly that. Incomprehensible, and incredible anger-provoking. In the early days of this blog, I was regularly and visciously attacked for making this decision. Some of those comments can be found under the category of "wingnuts" - I would trash the comment but reproduce it as a post for others to read. Every hateful comment was just further validation of our decision. And at the same time, Canadians would come by to welcome us and wish us well. It was such a telling combination!

L-girl said...

Oh btw, a FB pointed out that the story says the one million figure is since the Vietnam era.

L-girl said...

Oh sorry, hhw answered it too! Thanks. :)

L-girl said...

I was about to say that it's unlikely that the "overly individualistic, flag-waving, materialistic" sorts of USians would emigrate to Canada, but then I remembered a very right-wing family from my childhood Dallas suburb who moved to the Toronto area "for business reasons" during the 80s. They only stayed a few years, though, and summed up their Canadian experience by saying, "It's too socialist up there!"

I've heard from a smattering of well-off Americans who moved to Canada on business. Each was writing to say how much they hated it and how much better the US is, how glad they were to move back.

That is very telling - and something difficult to explain to Canadians who claim Canada has become the US.

Some Person said...

"Grrr, I hate L-girl so much moving to Canada. Why won't she stay in this country with me?"

Irony aside, I've often thought of also moving to San Francisco and starting a secessionist movement. Then I remember that I'm originally from South Carolina, and my ancestors tried that once. Ended badly.

Some Person said...

Well okay, it ended pretty well in the end for freed slaves (who were then virtually re-enslaved through sharecropping, peonage, and Jim Crow; eh, details). But yeah, I still wonder just how much history the hard-right neo-secessionists are familiar with.

nuyorktimes said...

Great story.

I'm Canadian and have lived in Canada the grand majority of my life. I briefly lived in New Jersey for school.

I'm somewhat considering moving to a very progressive part of America on the West Coast - perhaps Portland. The reasons are better weather and to be more involved in US politics. I follow US politics daily but barely follow Canadian politics at all.... It'd be good to contribute a bit to America becoming less controlled by the economic/business elites and industries and the religious right, and get more progressive on a number of fronts (e.g., healthcare, gay rights, secularism, marijuana, etc.)

Some Person said...

Really? I'm trying to get out of the U.S. because trying to influence U.S. politics from the left is a lost cause. Citizens United, general aliteracy, laughably low social solidarity, a culture of greed, and regression to fundamentalist religion all coupled together make any sort of sustained and successful progressive politics outside of a few enclaves virtually impossible.

I recommend you stay where you're at, and help me move up there. ;)

L-girl said...

Nuyorktimes, I wish you good luck, but I fear (sadly, I more than fear - I know) you are a heartbreak waiting to happen. Ordinary citizens cannot influence US politics to any degree. It has been a few decades since they could, and it's only gotten much, much worse.

Portland is a nice city, but you may be quite surprised to discover the other side of the Pacific NW - the white supremacy groups, the grinding poverty, the religious right (etc).

I left for the same reason SP wants to leave. There is no viable left in the US, nor can there be. The centre is so far to the right that warmongers like Obama and Bill Clinton are considered radicals.

Anyway, good luck, and I hope you find otherwise.