On Moving to Canada

My Canadian passport feels like a golden ticket right now. And there’s a decent chance I’ll use it, but there was a decent chance I’d use it before this election, too. I’ve been wanting to move home if a good opportunity presented itself for my family and me.

But I’ve been thinking about a few things that some fellow expats said recently.

One is one of my dearest friends. We went to undergrad together in Ontario, and then ended up at separate American schools for our doctorates and stayed in the country afterward, me because I had lifelong dual citizenship and a girlfriend-turned-wife I wanted to stay with, she because of a job offer and a boyfriend-turned-husband with whom she now has a great life in New York City. She happened to be in Europe on election day.

We texted after the results came in. She said that, yeah, the outcome made her not want to come back to the country–but were she to decide to leave, it would do nothing to benefit the vulnerable people she would be leaving behind.

She teaches at a women’s college. It’s a powerful position from which to grow resistance (and resistants).

The other was from someone I barely know. We were casual friends as kids–like, pre-teens and younger, back in the suburbs of Montreal. She was a year or two older (and infinitely cooler) at an age where a year or two was a gargantuan age difference, so we weren’t terribly close, though we got along well when we had reason to hang out at Girl Guides or in our rec field hockey league. She moved to the US for awhile–college and graduate school, I think–and now lives in Europe.

But thanks to the general WTF of facebook’s algorithm, something she said popped up on my newsfeed, and I think it’s the most important point I’ve read from a Canadian on this issue:

This movement to the far right is not happening in isolation. There was Brexit, yes, but there have been rising far-right politicians in Western Europe for years, from the Front National in France to the BNP and similar parties in England to the rise of the far-right in Germany  and Sweden and Austria.

The far-right is on the rise in Canada, too.

Trump is the crashing, bubbling orange froth on a tidal wave that threatens… well. I was going to say ‘the west,’ as problematic a term as that is. But let’s just call it what it is: mostly-white countries.

But Canada has Trudeau! you say. Who doesn’t love Trudeau? 

Yes, Trudeau’s pretty great. I have some misgivings about the guy when it comes down to brass domestic political tacks, but I’m insufficiently well-informed to give voice to them without doing a little more research. And yes, his decision to greet Syrian refugees at the airport while the American Vice President-Elect was trying to block them from his home state was an incredibly important symbolic gesture. Trudeau’s like Obama in a lot of ways, insofar as he’s a young progressive who revitalized a new generation of Canadians following a period of infinitely shitty Bush II-style Conservative leadership.

But Trump is following Obama, y’all.

There was a point a few years ago when I said to a (white, Canadian) friend that the USA wouldn’t elect this kind of right-wing, unapologetically racist leader. It’s not that the country isn’t racist, I said. It’s insanely racist. But it’s invested to the point of obsession in the illusion that it’s not. The illusion of equality is too deeply-entrenched in American white people’s self-importance to permit a large-scale political decision that outright rejects it.

And now here I am, eating that toxic crow, and acknowledging that saying that–and even thinking it–made me part of the problem.

We need to be better listeners, white people. That includes those of us in Canada.

It’s worth stressing that a significant majority of American voters chose Clinton. But in a country like Canada, with a parliamentary system, 4 major political parties, and a history of avoiding coalition governments, a minority of the country could put a right-wing nut into power as well.

I might still move to Canada. Like I said: I wanted to before this happened; this has really just been an extra push. But to my Canadian friends and family, let’s not do the thing we so love to do where we point fingers south and revel over how much better we’ve got it. And to anyone else thinking to emigrate north–let’s not think of that as a way to flee the problem. There’s enormous work to be done in the US to mitigate and avert the damage that’s about to happen. But there’s enormous work to be done in Canada–and elsewhere–to ensure that this doesn’t just repeat itself there.


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