Moving to Canada, Eh?
Let Slate help you decide if it's really for you.
Updated Friday, Nov. 5, 2004, at 6:37 PM
Five out of seven Fraysters surveyed agree: It's time to move to Canada. And it looks like those Fraysters may just be the thin edge of a disenfranchised wedge. The Web is buzzing as newspapers report hundreds of threats to move north, from unhappy Democrats in New York, California, Oregon, Ohio, Illinois, and, well, Massachusetts (which is really sort of Canada already). The possible Canadian monopoly on disaffected American emigrants prompted nervous Europeans to redouble their efforts to be the place disenchanted Americans go to die. The Canadian immigration Web site had 179,000 visitors Wednesday —six times its usual traffic—the vast majority of which came from the United States.
Suggestions to accommodate this mass defection northward include the Toronto Star's proposal to gerrymander the border and this newly redrawn map. A Web site belonging to this generous collective of sexy Canadians willing to marry Americans—no questions asked—has had 14,000 visitors since Monday. While some demoralized liberals attempt to muster earnest arguments for sticking around, this time it sounds like some folks really, really, really plan to go. "If the country votes for Bush, then 51 percent of the people in this country are psychos," one Colorado resident told the Denver Post before the election. He'd already opened a bank account in British Columbia. Last week's Ottawa Citizen reported that Scott Schaffer—an assistant professor of sociology at Millersville University in Pennsylvania—had already lined up an immigration lawyer and was applying for jobs in Quebec.
Not so fast, my fine Yankee friends. One of the reasons you tend to scare poor Canadians is that you know next to nothing about them. Which is why, hours after the election, Reuters was forced to disseminate this sobering story about how defection is not always just a matter of showing up at the border in a parka and being welcomed warmly by the simple northern folk amassed there to greet you. No, there are hurdles to be jumped and requirements to be met before becoming a Canadian, as Slateexplained this week. Here's the immigration test you can use to decide if you're smart enough to get a job there. And that smartness requirement won't be waived—not even for Alec Baldwin, Robert Altman, and Eddie Vedder (who all allegedly threatened to leave if Bush was elected in 2000), at least according to this article.
(One of the best things about Canada is that major national newspapers sometimes run pieces like this—with glossy photos of the famous people, in this case Robert Redford, who aren't moving to Canada and never actually planned to).
One of the great frustrations of any Canadian is that well-intentioned Americans attempting to introduce other Americans to the real Canada seem to be in command of only about 12 words. Here they are in no particular order: loonies, toonies, snow, Tim Hortons, hockey, poutine, socialized medicine, DeGrassi Junior High, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Labatt, French, and the expression "eh."
But there is so much more to Canada. Just ask any one of the many Canadians who are lurking about in your midst. (We lurk because we love.) There are great reasons, beyond frostbite and pink currency, to seriously consider relocation to the Great White. But still, Canada is still not for everyone. So here's a quiz, for those of you still considering joining the Bush-dodgers relocating to Canada. It isn't about loonies or toonies or socialized medicine. It's about the important stuff—stuff that will determine whether you really want to be a Canadian or just dress like one:
1) Do you like to shoot people? Circle one: yes / no
(If you answered "yes" you should know that there is no Second Amendment or equivalent thereof in the Canadian constitution. Perhaps as a consequence only 22 percent of Canadians own guns as opposed to 49 percent of Americans, while handguns and assault rifles are verboten.Perhaps related to that statistic, the violent crime rate in Canada is 10 times lower than in the United States. This may have no connection to guns, though, and rather a strong correlation to general mellowness of the Canadian temperament. (See Question 3, below.)
2) Have you recently shot someone? Circle one: yes / no
(If you answered yes, you may find Canada appealing. The Canadian courts abolished capital punishment in the '70s, and Canada hasn't seen an execution since 1962. Texas hasn't seen one since about 11 seconds ago.)
Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate.
Alex Lithwick is a Canadian living in Canada.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty.Photograph of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers on the Slate home page by Gunter Marx Photography/Corbis.