American couple says pandemic, politics pushed them north to Canada

An American couple living in Gatineau, Que., Say the volatile political climate and the nonchalant attitude to the current public health crisis in the United States motivated them to immigrate, and they believe others will follow suit.

“We’ve just had enough of it,” said attorney Dan White, formerly of Nashville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Susan Schott, sold the property and moved north in December.

Gathered against the Canadian cold, the couple talked about the political schism in the south that has worsened during the pandemic.

“The restaurants are just full of people who may or may not be vaccinated, may or may not have COVID, and who do not seem to care,” White said.

The couple was particularly concerned about Scott’s health because she worked as a massage therapist and feared being exposed to the virus by a client.

“We’ve just had enough of it,” Dan White said of the decision to leave America. (Stu Mills / CBC)

COVID-19, politics go ‘hand in hand’

Schott said she first threatened to pack up and travel to Canada when former President Donald Trump was elected in 2016. She said many Tennessee people responded to pandemic warnings with skepticism, and even government officials took a relaxed stance on masking, crowds and vaccination.

While the Canadian winter takes some time to get used to, the couple said general compliance with public health rules has been a comfort.

“We are here more politically than for COVID, but COVID seems to go hand in hand with the political madness,” White said.

The annual number of Americans moving to Canada has been relatively constant over the past 20 years, according to Patti Tamara Lenard, a professor at the University of Ottawa who studies ethical issues around migration.

According to Lenard, while there are occasional “blips” in immigration trends, this is true even during tumultuous changes in political leadership.

“[Americans] is largely united in spite of it all [and believe] that it’s the best country to live in, “Lenard said.

Because the immigration process is expensive and can take years, Lenard said she is skeptical that the trend will change even if Trump or one of his allies returns to the White House in 2024.

Professor Irene Bloemraad said that Americans who have emigrated to Canada have historically had an “oversized impact” on their new country, but the number has not been high in volume. (Stu Mills / CBC)

Historical examples

Prof. Irene Bloemraad, who teaches Canadian studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said she “absolutely could see” more Americans packing up and moving north if the upcoming midterm elections show their own country is heading back toward Republican control.

Bloemraad cited historical examples such as African Americans escaping slavery by fleeing to Nova Scotia, same-sex couples seeking equality between marriages, and dodgers during the Vietnam War.

For White and Schott, the Trump years and the resulting response to the COVID-19 pandemic were enough to convince them to wave goodbye to America.

“[Trump] can be re-elected in two years, and if not, they could burn the whole of Washington, DC down in the process, “he said.

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