U.S. couple says pandemic, politics pushed them north to Canada

·2 min read
Dan White, left, and Susan Schott immigrated from Nashville, Tenn., to Gatineau, Que., in December 2021. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)
Dan White, left, and Susan Schott immigrated from Nashville, Tenn., to Gatineau, Que., in December 2021. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)

An American couple living in Gatineau, Que., says the volatile political climate and nonchalant attitude toward the current public health crisis in the U.S. motivated them to immigrate, and they believe others will follow.

"We've just had enough of it," said lawyer Dan White, formerly of Nashville, Tenn. He and his wife Susan Schott, sold their belongings and moved north in December.

Huddled together against the Canadian chill, the couple spoke of the political schism down south that's 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 don't seem to really care," said White.

The couple grew especially concerned about Schott's health because she worked as a massage therapist and feared being exposed to the virus by a client.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

COVID-19, politics go 'hand-in-hand'

Schott said she first threatened to pack up and leave for Canada when former president Donald Trump was elected in 2016. She said many Tennesseeans responded to pandemic warnings with skepticism, and even state officials adopted a casual attitude toward masking, crowds and vaccination.

While the Canadian winter is taking some getting used to, the couple said the general adherence to public health rules has been a comfort.

"We're here more politically than for COVID, but COVID seems to go hand-in-hand with that political madness," said White.

Permanent Resident Applications from American Citizens

The annual number of Americans moving to Canada has remained relatively consistent for the last 20 years, according to Patti Tamara Lenard, a University of Ottawa professor who studies ethical questions around migration.

According to Lenard, while there are occasionally "blips" in immigration trends, that holds true even during tumultuous changes in political leadership.

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

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

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

Historical examples

Prof. Irene Bloemraad, who teaches Canadian studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said she could "absolutely see" more Americans becoming interested in 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 who escaped slavery by fleeing to Nova Scotia, same-sex couples seeking marriage equality and draft 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] may be elected again in two years and if not, they may burn down the whole of Washington, D.C., in the process," he said.

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