These Americans moved to Canada for political reasons. They don’t regret it
Starting over in a new country is never easy, but for these Americans it was the only choice that made sense – and they haven’t looked back since
By Kristin Schwab
Apr 19 2017
It was late into the night of the 2016 presidential election. Or was it technically the early hours of the morning after? Mark Nykanen was up watching what had not yet been made official, but was certain: Donald Trump would become the 45th president of the United States.
The next morning, he and his wife Lucinda Taylor woke up and knew it was time. Within a couple of hours, they made the decision. Within a couple of weeks, their house in The Dalles, Oregon, an hour and a half east of Portland, was on the market.
“I just made up my mind,” said Taylor, 56. “And as soon as I made the decision I felt safer.”
The couple is heading to Canada for political reasons – and not for the first time. In 2003, appalled by George W Bush’s order to invade Iraq, they abandoned their lives in the US for a new start in Nelson, British Columbia.
“I felt very strongly that the US had turned a corner from which it would never turn back,” said Nykanen, 65, recalling the earlier relocation. “We made that move not because we feared terrorists, but what the country was becoming.”
The idea of moving to Canada is regularly tossed around as a joke of an American exit strategy. Declarations leading up to Trump’s presidency became fodder for late night television hosts. Spotify created a “Moving up to Canada” playlist, featuring Justin Bieber, Mumford & Sons and Carly Rae Jepsen. Maple Match emerged in the online dating world, connecting Americans and Canadians. Its motto: “Make dating great again.”
According to records from Canadian Immigration and Citizenship, applications from Americans to acquire Canadian citizenship have more than tripled in the last 20 years. But no one can definitively say why, because the Canadian and US governments don’t track motives for immigration and emigration.
Michael Niren, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, doesn’t attribute the trend to political action. But a graph of citizenship application numbers would show definite spikes in some politically significant years: 2001, when Bush was elected president; 2003, when the US invaded Iraq; and 2007, during the US housing market crash and recession. Perhaps Trump’s tenure will cause another spike in 2017.
Regardless, many Americans are scared of losing their rights. Minority groups worried about their safety are seeking refugee status in Canada. Refugees who had made their way to the US are taking harrowing journeys north, with migration expected to rise with warmer weather.
But Canada as a symbol of social and political freedom isn’t new, and has a history that dates back to the founding of the country. Loyalists left during the revolutionary war in support of the British empire, African Americans fled slavery on the underground railroad and pioneers ventured north in search of soil-rich land. In more recent history, Canada became a place of refuge for Vietnam draft evaders, Iraq war resisters and those with left-leaning ideologies concerning gay rights, education, gun control and healthcare.
Nykanen and Taylor had flirted with the idea of moving to Canada since they began dating almost 30 years ago. They disagreed with the amount of money the US was spending on the military and felt that Christianity was too ingrained in politics.
Now married, both have resumes with political and social bullet points. He was an investigative reporter for NBC, and was California governor Jerry Brown’s press secretary during his 1992 run for the democratic nomination for president. Taylor was a counselor focusing on children and families, and assisted HIV support groups.