Ohhhhh, Canada! For Americans hoping to head north

By Caitlin Kelly

Lake Massawippi, Quebec

It’s become something of a new anthem in itself…”I’m moving to Canada!” if Trump (or whichever Presidential candidate most terrifies/disgusts/depresses you) wins the nomination, or Presidency.


Not so fast!


I left Canada, where I was born (in Vancouver) and raised (in Toronto and Montreal) in 1988 to take a temporary editing job in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Why there? I was madly in love with an American, a physician doing his medical residency at Dartmouth College after studying at McGill; we met when he was in Montreal. We later married — and divorced.

I came to the U.S. on an H1-B, a visa that’s difficult to get — the employer must advertise the position and be demonstrably unable to fill it with a qualified American. I initially came for three months, but had long wanted to come permanently, able to do so thanks to my mother’s American citizenship, which allowed me to obtain a “green card”, and become (o’ infelicitous phrase!) a “resident alien.”

I’ve lived in New York, in a suburban town near Manhattan, since 1989. It stuns me sometimes to realize it’s been so long, but I’m still here.

Like many Canadians, blessed with a terrific university education, (and zero debt upon graduation, thanks to low tuition costs), I felt, and was, able to compete with sharp-elbowed Americans all grasping for the various brass rings of publishing and journalism.

Here’s my recent story for Money.com about the savings one can realize by choosing to attend college in Canada.

I craved a larger place to test out my skills. (It’s not easy!)

My maternal grandmother and her antecedents were all American, as are many cousins, some of them highly accomplished, one an ambassador, another an archaeologist. I was curious to know more about the culture that had shaped them.

Canadians are deluged by American media so it’s not as though we don’t hear about the place, all the time.

I was also tired of constantly being mistaken for an American, a very odd experience from fellow Canadians, where being openly ambitious is a no-no.

Not in New York!

New York — where I’ve lived since 1989

Canada is usually routinely invisible to American news outlets. We’re used to it.

But now that the 2016 Presidential election campaign has become a bizarre and frightening circus, many Americans are wondering if that nation to the North — the one they typically ignore in quieter times — is a better option.


Here’s my story for Salon and an excerpt:

While Canada recently welcomed 25,000 Syrian refugees, don’t be too quick to assume there’s an equal welcome for thousands of panicked Americans eager to flee a political scene they find abhorrent.

Read the Canadian government website for potential immigrants and you’ll find a list of exclusions, from health and financial problems to a DUI conviction. Yes, some of you will be able to obtain work visas, but many Canadian jobs pay less than you’re used to – and taxes are higher. You’ll also wait longer for access to some medical care.

Before assuming Canada is a default lifetsyle option, read its newspapers and listen to the CBC. Read our history and some of our authors, not just the ones you know, like Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro. Talk to people who live there. In other words, before you reassure yourself that if it comes to a Trump inauguration, you can pack your bags and head to Vancouver (maybe not Vancouver – CRAZY expensive to live there), you might want to take a minute to acquaint yourself with some specific attributes of that country to the north


I wrote the piece from a place of mixed emotions.

In some ways I miss Canada terribly — my oldest and dearest friends, my personal history, a political climate that doesn’t demonize women for wanting reproductive freedom or gays for wanting to marry.

I miss a shared culture and its references.


Not to mention Justin Trudeau, our new 44-year-old Prime Minister.

But I also left for reasons.

This is the challenge of every ex-patriate and immigrant; we leave a place we know well and possibly love, throwing our fresh hopes onto a new land and its values, political and economic.

For the first time since moving here, I’ve wondered about moving back, even for a year. My American husband loves Canada and has portable skills. We’ll see.


How about you?


Is moving to Canada an option you would ever consider?




23 thoughts on “Ohhhhh, Canada! For Americans hoping to head north

  1. Well, if Trump wins the Presidency, I definitely am considering moving abroad. And Canada is an option for me. I’ve got friends there who would be willing to help me acclimate and even find a job, and I hear despite the cold weather there’s a lot going on there that makes it very appealing.
    However, I also have contacts in Europe, and of course, as a Jew I’m guaranteed citizenship in Israel, so as long as I work on my Hebrew my chances of making a good life there are good.
    Hopefully it won’t come to that, though. I like living in the US and in Ohio.

  2. I don’t envy Americans the position they’re in. Nevertheless, we Canadians will quite happily have you here. 🙂

    Liked your Salon article. The only thing I’d add is that Minnesota and North Dakota aren’t known for their balmy winters, either. 😉

  3. You are certainly welcome in Canada especially if you bring a business with you. Our unemployment is becoming scary. We just lost 48,000 full time jobs only to be replaced with 45,600 part time jobs. So they claim the loss of only 2,400 jobs. Justin inherited am real mess.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed that Salon article, and Canada sounds wonderful (plus points for the new PM, who sounds like a breath of fresh air!), except for those frightening winters. I visited a friend in Montreal for a week in 2013, and did a week’s road trip with another friend, Erin Wilson, around some of Ontario.

    That bit about modest self regard always makes me think Erin. She works for the Preemptive Love Coalition, and has been living in Kurdish Iraq for some years now. She is intelligent, brave, capable as hell, has gone/goes through incredible hardship in the service of others, but might be the most self-effacing person I’ve heard of. The St Catharine’s Standard ran a wonderful profile about her – here, if you’d like to have a read: http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2016/01/07/niagara-woman-focused-on-hearts-in-the-middle-east – and when I messaged her about it on Facebook, I could almost hear her blushing down the lines, deflecting the attention by saying that the writer made her sound better than she really was.

    Also, hooray for affordable education in Canada!

    1. Glad that you know such a terrific Canadian….and, yes, true…I had to teach myself not to self-deprecate all the time when I moved to NY. People found it charming but confusing. Why would you do that?!

      1. Hehehehehehe. It must have been extremely confronting to arrive in the USA. I never realized it until I spent more time in the US, but people really do pitch themselves all the time… and this on the West Coast. I can’t imagine what it’s like in New York.

      2. HAHA! I remember those interview body language primers when I started to job hunt in another place. That really brings the differences home.

  5. first of all, i love the new pm, he seems to have a grip on what it is to be kind and human. i dated a canadian for 2 years, way back when, but it could have happened and never did. i did find the country to be very clean, kind and peaceful, and it was tempting. as for now, i’m a pretty deeply-rooted american, though i do love to visit beautiful canada.

    1. Glad you know something of it! 🙂

      I really hope Trudeau is able to get some good policies made and continued — Canadians were so weary of Harper and his behavior. I do wish American politics were less ugly at the moment. I will miss the Obamas.

  6. I like what you wrote about McGill – I’ve thought about applying to one of their French language programs, but I have never been to Canada at all! Maybe a trip is in order first…

  7. While I’m still an active member of the labor force, I will choose to continue working (and living) in France for the simple reason that the benefits here are quite excellent. In 2011, during a gap in my employment, I did return to Toronto for one month and, out of curiosity, applied for a few jobs and went on a few interviews. Only 2 weeks paid vacation a year (here I have six weeks + 8 civic holidays per year), no lunch vouchers or subsidized cantines, no monthly transportation pass paid 50% by your employer, no health plan covering all dental, eyeware, prescription drugs, etc. all reimbursed (in France I pay around 40 euros a month deducted from my paycheck for my health insurance).

    I found the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) really expensive compared to its Parisian counterpart and actually found the cost of living in general more expensive than in Paris.

    So I returned to France and have a really good job. HOWEVER, when I retire I’d love to return to Canada to live. I miss it. I miss the people and especially the camaraderie between women (no solidarity between French women AT ALL.) I miss the four distinct seasons (yes, I miss snow!) and I miss the general positivity that exists there.


    1. Thanks….I think for us Canadian ex-pats it’s tempting. Toronto real estate is terribly expensive and poor quality. That’s a concern. We’re considering somewhere within striking distance of the city (1-2 hrs) but more affordable. We’ll see.

      My friend are there, so BC and NS are not really an option, although gorgeous. 🙂

  8. Fatima

    May I recommend Winnipeg to incoming Americans? Our winters do bite, but you can live within affordable means. We also have an arts community, the Winnipeg Jets, summer festivals you can call like clockwork, and more restaurants than your stomach can handle.

    No, I do not work for the tourist industry. This is the list I keep in mind whenever I yearn to move to New York.

    1. Love this! I have only been to Winnipeg twice, and both times for work — once with my father making a film and then for a story for Chatelaine.

      Thanks for sharing the details. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Ohhhhh, Canada! For Americans hoping to head north — Broadside | Meltonmoving blog

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