President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh

Move to Canada? A pipe dream for some Americans is a parachute for Canadian expats

‘If Trump wins again, I’m moving to B.C.’

When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream.

Ask some of the roughly 800,000 Canadians who live in the U.S., though, and it becomes one of three things: a parachute, a very real possibility or an honest-to-God plan of action.

“If Trump wins again, I’m moving to B.C.,” says Anastasia Synn, a performance artist from Shelburne, Ont., who has been living in Las Vegas for the last 10 years.

Synn is married to Johnathan Szeles, a hard-living magician whose shock-jock mash-ups of comedy, fake gore and sleight-of-hand made him a household name on the Vegas strip a decade ago.

These days, between her husband’s lifestyle and failing health, she lives in a trailer in the driveway, waiting for the right excuse to drag it back to the country of her birth.

To hell with the pre-nup, she insists: she’ll even bring her husband with her.

“I told him, ‘Even if you don’t want to come up with me right away, I’ll do you a favour and stay married to you, even though there’s no benefit to me,’” Synn says.

“But I’m not staying here for this. You could not pay me to stay.”

Synn is not eligible to vote, so she does the next best thing: encouraging everyone she meets to vote Democrat. She’s even convinced the self-destructive Szeles — “The Amazing Johnathan” before he was sidelined by a heart condition — to cast a ballot.

“He’s never voted. The fact that he’s voting is a big, big deal.”

Her activism, however, has come at a steep personal price in the U.S., a country so deeply riven between its political and societal poles that wearing a face mask to limit the spread of COVID-19 has become a partisan issue.

For Synn, 10 years of being south of the border has led her to a single, inescapable conclusion: certain basic human values like empathy and compassion are in short supply where she lives.

“People have actually decided they’re not going to be my friend any more,” she said.

“It’s quite disturbing how many people I’ve lost in the entertainment field as friends. People I used to sit down and have Christmas dinner with every year, you know, they’re gone.”

For others, moving north is more parachute than Plan A. But it’s comforting either way, said Tristan Wallis, who lives with his wife in an affluent suburb of Boston and originally hails from Sherbrooke, Que.

“We periodically — and more so lately — talk about, depending on what happens in November, do we move back to Canada?” said Wallis, 39.

“It gives you the confidence to sort of sit and wait and see what happens, knowing that … if things get really, really, really bad, you don’t have to start freaking out and planning for it.”

Life in the United States these days isn’t all bad, Wallis was quick to add.

“The job prospects down here, frankly, are better in a lot of ways, the salaries are better in a lot of ways, especially in this area,” he said.

“There’s a reason we’re here. And it would have to get bad enough here for us to want to leave and go back to Canada, where maybe we would be giving up some of the benefits of being down here.”

There’s little love lost among Canadians for Trump, polls suggest.

A recent Pew Research survey found only 20 per cent of respondents expressed confidence in the president, the lowest level reported in nearly 20 years of polling north of the border.

And a survey released last week by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found 73 per cent of respondents expect a Joe Biden election victory after Nov. 3, compared with 54 per cent of Americans surveyed.

That could be a reflection of the shellshock that still lingers in the U.S. after 2016, when polls were consistently giving the edge to Hillary Clinton right up until election night.

Rachel Sunshine Bernatt, a caregiver from Toronto who lives in the Georgia community of Acworth, north of Atlanta, said she thinks a lot about returning — especially when the spectre of outright racism finds its way past her front door.

And she knows that a Biden presidency won’t make it all magically disappear.

“I’ve had people in my house, I’ve had to kick them out for using the N-word — they thought, since I’m white, it’s OK with me,” Bernatt said.

“I don’t want to try and have a conversation with them at that point. There’s really no fixing stupid, and, you know, that way of thinking, I don’t know if he can fix it.”

Mark LaPointe, who grew up in Windsor but now makes his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he’s been living in the U.S. too long to consider moving back to Canada now, even if his American friends covet the option.

LaPointe, 40, often ventures out on weekends to watch dozens of Trump supporters who gather on a street corner every Saturday, brandishing placards and Trump flags and encouraging passersby to honk their support.

Given their backgrounds in places like Cuba and Venezuela, he said, members of the region’s large Latino population embrace the Republican message decrying communism and socialism, even if what they’ve experienced bears little resemblance to what progressive Democrats espouse.

His anti-Trump friends and colleagues shake their heads as much as he does.

“This is a very shameful time for them,” said LaPointe, who specializes in internet security.

“A lot of my American friends here can totally acknowledge that. Some of them are, like, ‘Mark, why the hell are you still here?’”

Some of them, men and women alike, have even proposed marriage.

“I have a friend in Michigan who wants to marry me, just so she can get Canadian citizenship,” LaPointe chuckled.

“I’ve actually had a bunch of men propose to me, half-assed serious. And I’m just, like, ‘You’re not pretty enough. Sorry.’”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta had 1,571 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta’s central zone now has 1,101 active COVID-19 cases

Provincial death toll has risen by nine

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Moderna chairman says Canada near head of line for 20 million vaccine doses

Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 in Ottawa. Poilievre says building up the Canadian economy post-pandemic can't be achieved without a massive overhaul of the tax system and regulatory regime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservatives attack Trudeau’s ‘reset’ but they have ideas for their own

‘We don’t need subsidized corporate welfare schemes that rely on endless bailouts from the taxpayer’

There were 47 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta Tuesday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Spread of COVID-19 in Brampton, Ont., linked to systemic factors, experts say

‘We’re tired. We’re numb. We’re overworked. We’re frustrated, because it’s not our rules’

A couple embrace during a ceremony to mark the end of a makeshift memorial for victims of the Toronto van attack, at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. in Toronto on Sunday, June 3, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
‘I’ve been spared a lot,’ van attack survivor says as she watches trial alone

Court has set up a private room for victims and families of those killed in the Toronto van attack

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

Most Read