Canada Dreamin’

I often worry that this blog is going to turn into a one-trick pony, a run-of-the-mill anti-Trump diatribe. This fear probably keeps me from working on it as much as I’d like; it’s so easy to get bogged down in the objectionable material that the current president and his staff provide on a daily basis. And that material isn’t the focus of the content I want to provide here.

So let me recount a recent incident that made me re-focus and re-think my role in this digital forum that I’m creating.

I was raised in an all-white, lower-middle-class suburb located about three miles outside of Detroit. To this day, that background – including the religious upbringing (Roman Catholic) I absorbed – colours my thinking. I both react to and reflect that time, that place, and those values.

Though I carry that place around in my head, I rarely go there; most of my family has died or dispersed to other parts of the state, and I rarely see those who still live in metro Detroit.

My mother lives in rural Michigan, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Motown, and that is where I spend most of my US-based time now. During last fall’s election there were no Hillary Clinton signs here at all (actually there weren’t that many Trump signs either, but the only political signs I saw were for Trump). People love their bibles and guns here, and I’d never start a discussion focused on politics with anyone I might casually meet.

A few days ago, I was shopping at one of the little towns that dot the landscape, one of those places whose wide, Midwestern streets suddenly emerge from the winter-sleeping corn and wheat and bean fields.

The sales clerk, a pleasant young woman who looked to be in her mid-30s or so, noticed my Canadian credit card. “Oh, you live in Canada … what’s that like? My husband and I have always wanted to move there … we’ve been talking about it for 25 years!” (I guess she wasn’t quite as young as I thought.)

We had a brief but rather intense conversation. I was amazed that someone in this very conservative part of the US was open to the idea of emigrating. “Oh, it’s not so much political,” she explained. “We believe that both parties don’t think much about the people here. But I think that in Canada, it’s different. It’s much more human. There’s so much more land and I think the people care for each other more. It’s not just the government that’s different; it’s the place itself.”

She’s right, I thought later. The Canadian landscape exists on a giant scale, most of it cold and forbidding; yet the society planted on it – for whatever historic or geographic or cultural reasons – is generally more humane.

The only point in our conversation that verged on politics was when she mentioned guns. “I don’t believe people need assault weapons,” she said. She thought that hunters had a legitimate reason to own firearms, and I noted that this is true in Canada as well. It’s handguns and military-style weapons that are restricted, and she approved.

Otherwise, our conversation was devoid of politics. The word “Trump” was never spoken.

This woman said that family concerns keep her and her husband in the US; they don’t want to remove their children from close contact with grandparents and other relatives. Perhaps when the children are older they will try to leave, she said.

I told her about my experience. I moved from Michigan to Canada in my mid-20s. I was single and childless then; I didn’t think much about how my parents would be affected – how they might need or miss me when they were old. But despite difficulties in later years, juggling family responsibilities between countries, I’ve never regretted the decision.

I wonder if she and her husband will fulfill their Canadian dream. The longer they wait, the more difficult it will probably become, so it’s hard to say. But I’m glad I spoke to and encouraged her while focusing once more, myself, on the bigger picture.

It wasn’t specific laws or political structures or even my opposition to the Vietnam War that brought me to Canada 45 years ago. It obviously wasn’t Donald Trump, a young playboy-about-town whom I’d never heard of, avoiding the draft back in 1972; nor was it Richard Nixon (POTUS at the time).

The attractions that motivated me were, and still are, Canada’s imposing geography and emptiness; breathtaking scenery, literally, at my doorstep; and the “kinder, gentler” atmosphere in the pockets of the country where people actually live.

I gave the friendly young woman my contact information in case I could ever answer questions about immigrating to Canada or assist her in any way. “Don’t give up your dreams,” I said to her as I left the shop.

But The Difference Doesn’t Always Ensure a Refuge …

… from violence and hatred. Even here!

Six people worshipping at a mosque near Quebec City were killed last night, and several others were injured; five are hospitalized.

We don’t yet know about motive, weapons, or how any weapon/s were obtained. Two suspects have been arrested. [Note: As of 01-31-17, that has been reduced to one suspect. The other person turned out, instead, to be a witness to the shooting and has been released. The remaining man, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, remains in custody.]

CBC news continues with updates here.

Is It Cowardly For Americans To Move To Canada?

“Now that he’s been elected, it’s time for me to seriously consider making the big move or not. Part of me wants to stay and see what I can do to help fight the good fight, the other part of me wants to get out of Dodge.” (American Kerry O’Shea, who also holds an Irish passport, quoted in Irish Central, November 12, 2016)

As the daughter of an Irish immigrant to the US, Kerry O’Shea has the option of moving to the Irish Republic. Though she has no intention of migrating to Canada, her dilemma resonates with many Americans who are considering a move to their Northern neighbour but feel uncertain, conflicted, and quite possibly guilty.

Uncertain, conflicted, and guilty … in this mental state, it’s next to impossible to actually make and execute the plans that enable a citizen of one nation to become a legal resident (and potentially a citizen) of another. It’s a complicated process, as I’ve noted in some previous posts, and you must have your wits about you.

To complicate things, pundits, commentators, and politicians typically attack or ridicule those Americans who express an interest in leaving. The left wing is as dismissive as the right – perhaps more so. Note this exchange between MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow and Senator Elizabeth Warren:


When Rachel Maddow brings up the “moving to Canada option” (within the first minute of the interview), Warren shakes her head firmly and begins to  scold: “No.”

Maddow sets her up further: “You can’t move to Canada, can’t move into your shell, you have to fight back, but how?” The disapproval of the Canadian option by these two women is palpable. A few minutes later, Warren returns to the subject: “You can lie down, you can whimper, you can pull up into a ball, you can decide to move to Canada, or you can stand your ground and you can fight back!”

Fight, fight, fight, say these famous, prosperous, middle-aged women, both with good jobs with benefits and great health care plans, with book deals and paid speeches around the corner if the good jobs turn out to be not as secure as expected.

Of course Rachel Maddow and Elizabeth Warren don’t consider leaving the good ol’ US of A! But do they have to look down on others who do, people perhaps just starting out in life? Or on others, older and more established, but who come upon the famous “Two roads diverg[ing] in a yellow wood” and consider following the one that “was grassy and wanted wear.” (A nod to Robert Frost here.)

At this point, it appears that the left has bought into American exceptionalism almost as much as has the right. If the USA is and always has been, since its inception, “The Greatest Country On Earth,” the free-est, strongest, and best-est, then how can any American justify choosing another place to live?

The prospect that a significant number of its citizens might leave – not just for a visit, not just to explore new opportunities for a time, but to put down roots – shakes the American identity to its core. So anyone even thinking about it must be cautioned, even ridiculed. (“How could you possibly think such a thing, you whimpering, shell-living, lying-down-in-a-ball coward!” say these two tough ladies of the left.)

During the campaign, the immigrant origins of most Americans were cited with admiration by anti-Trump commentators when discussing his alarming nativist values. Yet for present-day Americans to actually become immigrants is somehow a step too far.

But, to me, it appears to be an obvious lesson from history. If it was good enough for Great-Grandmaw, it was good enough for me!

And for those who DO want to fight, there’s a lot to fight for here in Canada – things like gun control, reproductive rights, gender rights, universal health care – programs and values which already exist but which must be protected, kept current, and improved upon.

There is also the fight against climate change, an issue which is far from settled here (but which is, at least, generally acknowledged to exist). Canada always needs good fighters and committed citizens.

In the US, it appears that so many things are slipping backwards. But here in Canada, a person might be successful in her or his own lifetime by fighting for these things. Hardly a place for cowards.

There is, of course, a need for Americans to work at home to change things. It’s a perfect goal for those who can’t conceive of starting new somewhere else. Home is home just where it is – and always will be.

But why discourage those open to a new start? This rapidly changing world need both kinds of people, those who stay and hold things together and those who go and discover what else is out there, who take “the road less traveled by.”

If that’s not a lesson from our common human past, we wanderers out of Africa, I don’t know what is.


The Trump Man Cometh

He’ll be inaugurated an hour after I begin this piece. I am on a Trumpian-inspired retreat, in the best suite of an off-season hotel in the resort community of Grand Bend, Ontario. There’s an indoor pool across the parking lot and a jacuzzi in the room and a complementary bottle of wine, much of which I consumed last night.

I’ve come to write, to read, to enjoy nature (weather permitting), and to NOT watch Trump’s inauguration or read or hear anything about it.

If I stayed at my mother’s house in Michigan (where I’ve been holed up much of this winter) I know the television/s would be on all day, and I would get sucked into the web that he began to spin in June of 2015 and is just about to complete.

So there!

Already, I’ve had a lapse. The wireless connection on my laptop wasn’t working for some reason, and I turned my cell phone back on and went on-line. I more or less had to check a newspaper to make sure that the connection was working and that the phone’s browser wasn’t displaying a cached website.

I went to The Guardian and there was the Donald with his current wife (and soon-to-be First Lady) on the front page. He had his usual goofy grin and she looked actually happy for a change – not inscrutably, Slavicly distant (as though the mountains of Slovenia are permanently in her thoughts), but happy. A lot of people are, but not nearly as many as are usually happy on this date every four years.

I’m not.

I originally thought of going to Washington today and taking part in the Women’s March tomorrow. It somehow seemed right … I marched around the White House back in 1969 while Richard Nixon watched a football game and kept bombing Southeast Asia. This would be a “bookend” sort of march, proof that I still had it in me.

But when I first looked into the demonstration soon after the election in November, there weren’t many specific plans. I thought about how I’d get there, where I’d stay, and what I’d do if my injured knee flared up again (which it did). I pictured limping around a strange city in the cold with no place to stay. The picture wasn’t appealing so I came up with a new plan. This one.

In the interim, the planning for the Women’s March has proceeded and buses have been organized, along with “sister” demonstrations occurring around the country and even in Canada. But I still have a bum knee and it’s still cold(ish – hasn’t been much of a winter at all, but still nasty).

Lolling around a hotel room, swimming, soaking, and drinking wine isn’t much of a protest (actually sounds like fun!). But that is is only how I’m spending this particular weekend. I have more up my sleeve.

I’ve gotten some inspiration (as have many others) from the following article by Charles Blow in the New York Times.

I’ve also found this one in the Atlantic helpful (despite its denigration of my own “move to Canada solution”):

But you can’t just read yourself into a better political environment in North America (and the world); so, following the advice in both of these pieces, I’ve decided to find a specific cause to support in hopes it will not only survive the Trump-man but even flourish.

For me, I’ve decided it will be reproductive rights for women. It’s not (now) under serious attack in Canada; but if we aren’t vigilant, it will be. And, in any case, I don’t find what Trump and his minions have in store for American women to be just or honourable, and I want to do what I can to stop it.

Plus, another response to the Trump Man and what he stands for: I’m going to write in this blog as much as I can!


On Knowing A Thing Or Two …

When I last posted, in the early morning of November 9, I included the link to Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration website. I was soon aware that, for several hours, the government site was prone to crashing, due to the heavy traffic from the US that Donald Trump’s election generated from the moment it began to seem likely. Even the following evening I was unable to click on the link and verify that it was working.

It’s working now. And here it is once again:

There are probably lots of other useful websites for those Americans (possibly like you) who are interested in finding out more about immigrating to Canada. I will sift through many of them in the days and weeks to come and add their links to this site. But I stand by the government of Canada site as the first and most important portal for potential immigrants to explore.

There are countless immigration lawyers in Canada who, for a fee, will assist people who want to come here. But for those of you with a good command of English or French, sufficient patience, and the time required to do the necessary research, plunge ahead on your own.

If you don’t have the wherewithal to sift through the information and requirements outlined there, you probably aren’t ready or able to immigrate to Canada, at least not yet.

I see my own role in this current discussion as more philosophical, historical, and cultural. I will touch on questions like the following.

  • What are the ethical implications of emigrating from one’s home, especially from the nation constantly defined by the doctrine of American exceptionalism as “the greatest on earth”?
  • What has been the history of American immigration to Canada? Have US citizens had a important role in creating and defining the nation of Canada?
  • What are the differences, large and small, between the two northern components of North America? (It’s my opinion that sometimes the small things are more significant that the major ones.)

So who am I, anyway, some big shot “expert”? Hardly. Just a somewhat elderly woman, originally from Detroit, who has lived in this country since 1972. To quote the current Farmers Insurance ad, “I know a thing or two ’cause I’ve seen a thing or two.”

Hello Disaffected Americans!

Did you really mean it? About moving to Canada, I mean. If so, look at yesterday’s election results and really think about following through. It could well be the best decision you ever made (if was for me, back in 1972!).

But it’s not as easy to move up here as you may think; and it will take longer than you probably expect. If you’re serious, start the process right away. First thing to do is follow this link:

Think about this: it could be such a relief to live in a nation that reflects your values and is open to positive change, tolerance, peace, gender equality, a belief in science, and what the future actually holds for all of us.

Moreover, if you decide to immigrate to Canada, you will be part of a long tradition of Americans who have come here (for more than two centuries) and have made outstanding contributions to its culture and society.

Come back to this website and let’s start a conversation.


Mary Murphy

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