migration as protest

Placing American Emigration to Canada in Context

By Audrey Kobayashi, Queen's University and Brian Ray, University of Ottawa

January 1, 2005

In the twenty-four hours following George W. Bush's victory in the American presidential election on November 2, 2004, the Canadian government's Department of Citizenship and Immigration website received 115,016 "hits," six times the average daily number, and double the previous record.

There followed a flurry of media speculation over the prospect of disgruntled American voters leaving their country to settle in Canada or other destinations, including Spain, Mexico, or New Zealand.

Coverage in newspapers, magazines, and personal websites ranged from thoughtful pieces featuring interviews with individuals who have already emigrated, to editorials examining the relationship between emigration and loyalty, to spoof articles poking fun at Canada and at American "liberals." Included among the prospective emigrants in these articles were anti-war protestors, disaffected Democrats, and gays and lesbians seeking a place where same-sex marriages are recognized.

The speed with which websites mounted information—both serious and satirical — indicates that such information had been prepared in advance. At least one Canadian immigration lawyer immediately announced plans to hold seminars for potential emigrants in major American cities. And blog sites swiftly distributed cartoons, joke maps—such as one showing the "blue" states seceding to Canada — and even advertisements for bumper stickers.

The list of public policy issues cited by emigration proponents includes Canada's greater rights for same-sex partners, opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq, a universal health care system, tight gun control laws, the legal use of medical marijuana, and Canada's ratification of the international environmental agreement, the Kyoto Protocol. But the two issues that seem most likely to encourage people to leave the US are the United States' role in the Iraq War and federal and state governments' legal measures to limit marriage to heterosexual couples.


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