July 31, 2007 — -- Blame Canada!
It may seem like a quiet country where not much happens besides ice hockey, curling and beer drinking. But our neighbor to the north is proving to be quite the draw for thousands of disgruntled Americans.
The number of U.S. citizens who moved to Canada last year hit a 30-year high, with a 20 percent increase over the previous year and almost double the number who moved in 2000.
In 2006, 10,942 Americans went to Canada, compared with 9,262 in 2005 and 5,828 in 2000, according to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies.
Of course, those numbers are still outweighed by the number of Canadians going the other way. Yet, that imbalance is shrinking. Last year, 23,913 Canadians moved to the United States, a significant decrease from 29,930 in 2005.
"There has been a definite increase in the past five years — the number hasn't exceeded 10,000 since 1977," says Jack Jedwab, the association's executive director. "During the mid-70s, Canada admitted between 22,000 and 26,000 Americans a year, most of whom were draft dodgers from the Vietnam War."
The current increase appears to be fueled largely by social and political reasons, says Jedwab, based on anecdotal evidence.
"Those who are coming have the highest level of education — these aren't people who can't get a job in the states," he says. "They're coming because many of them don't like the politics, the Iraq War and the security situation in the U.S. By comparison, Canada is a tension-free place. People feel safer."
One recent immigrant is Tom Kertes, a 34-year-old labor organizer who moved from Seattle to Toronto in April.
Kertes attributes his motivation to President Bush's opposition to gay marriage, and the tactics employed during the war on terror since 9/11.
"I wanted a country that respected my human rights and the rights of others," he says. "We joked about it after Bush won re-election, but it took us a while to go through the application."
Kertes, who moved with his partner, is happy in his new home. "Canada is a really nice country. My mother is thinking about it. My stepfather has diabetes and has health issues. So, he'd be taken care of for free if he moved up here."
Not that Kertes doesn't get homesick every once in a while. "I have no intention of giving up my citizenship. I have an American flag at home on the wall — I didn't have that in Seattle. All of a sudden, I'm a nationalist. On the Fourth of July, I really missed being home."
Jo Davenport, who wrote "The Canadian Way," moved from Atlanta to Nova Scotia in December 2001. She also cites political reasons for her move, saying that she disagreed with the Bush administration's decisions after 9/11.
"Things are totally different here because they care about their people here," she says, explaining that she's only been back home once or twice.