Every four years around now, we hear this from left-leaning Americans who believe they live in a fascist state.
Their Presidents are nearly always Republicans, and generally, no one actually does leave after the vote is counted on November 3rd. Because pulling up all your roots is hard for even the most determined, and besides, America has always been so diverting that it’s easy to forget just how horrid George Bush really was. No surprise, then, that the only time Americans fled their homeland to live in Canada in the past century was during the Vietnam War when 20,000 to 30,000 draft dodgers immigrated here.
But this time is different.
Not so much for Americans who want to live in the nice apartment above the meth lab. They have to get in line just like immigrants from everywhere else. This is easier for many well-educated Americans because they already speak one of our two official languages; they’re familiar with our ways; and they’re often job-ready, especially for above-the-neck jobs in AI and healthcare where we are world leaders and need all the brains we can get to stay there.
No, I’m talking about that much bigger group of incomers, the one million-plus Canadians who are living in America.
They’re not the 1%. They’re much luckier than that; they’re the 0.03% of America’s 330 million people who are free to leave the country and ‘immigrate’ to another one that must accept them. How rare is that in our COVID world? But as Robert Frost said: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” For most of us, it’s not about ‘have to’ take in returning citizens, it’s about ‘want to’, especially if you’re a real estate agent, a moving van company or a tax accountant.
The luckiest people of all, of course, are the 40,000 dual citizens of America and Canada who are living in the US. They can still hedge their bets. Maybe Donald Trump really is their Glorious Leader. Maybe America’s best days lie ahead. Maybe sheep will pilot the Concorde.
What I do know is that the four Canadian couples we know well who are living in America are all seriously thinking of coming home if Donald Trump gets his four more years. While they all have platinum-plated healthcare plans, even those seem not to cover what our healthcare system does for every one of us. But the bigger draw is not to have their lives defined by their politics.
Identity politics has a hard time getting traction here, while in America, it’s driving the bus off the cliff. At least the one filled with Americans who have dual citizenship. As The Guardian reported: “More than 5,800 Americans renounced their citizenship in the first six months of 2020, a 1,210% increase on the six months to December 2019.”
Meanwhile, what about the second-largest group of Canadian ex-pats, the 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong?
Until a few months ago, their choices in deciding to return to Canada were limited only by the pandemic, that is to say, if they could get on a plane here, they‘d have to quarantine for two weeks. Inconvenient, for sure, but rarely a matter of life and death.
Not any more of course. Given Mainland China’s takeover of the rule of law in Hong Kong, as well as Canada’s vanishing relations with China, the invitation in June by then Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, to… “Dear Canadians living in Hong Kong, you are very, very welcome to come home anytime,” may run up against the Chinese government not allowing them to leave.
Which shows that, when it comes to the power of your passport, it’s not just where you’re from that counts, it’s where you are. For Canadians living in America, their passport is worth its weight in gold; for Canadians living in Hong Kong, it may not be worth the paper it’s printed on.