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.


Author: Mary Murphy

A Canadian resident since 1972, Mary lives in a small town on the west coast of British Columbia but spends time in both Ontario and Michigan each year.

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