American Immigrants Move Up North

American Immigrants Decide to Move Up North

Four years ago, when I was going to school in Washington DC, a classmate of mine from Boston exclaimed in frustration: "If the republicans end up back in the White House, I'm just going to have to move to Canada." Sure enough, George W. Bush & Co. were elected to another term the following year, and six months after that, Toronto had a new resident, formerly of Boston, Massachusetts.

He's not the only American that has made the jump — and not always for political reasons — across the 49th parallel to come join us here in the great unknown land up north. The National Post reported yesterday that Canada admitted almost 11,000 American immigrants into our country last year, the highest number in over thirty years. And while only 20% of American immigrants in 2001 may have decided to call Toronto home, over half of last year's batch are said to have settled in our city and other parts of Ontario.

While we hear of great Canadian minds going south of the border for better-paying jobs all the time, the reverse trend is not new; the intensity of the northbound immigration may have increased, but people have been leaving the US for Canada for several years. I'm one of them (as many of you may have surmised from my constant American spelling): my parents left New York City for Toronto in the late 1980's to start a 'better family life' knowing my brother was on the way.

In light of the media coverage surrounding this surge of Americans crossing the border, I decided to ask a few of my American friends here in Toronto about the reasons for their move to Canada:

Not everyone has been happy with the Bush administration's decisions over the past seven years, and this discontent has made some Americans just want to up and leave. Melissa, who moved here from Fairfax, Virginia two years ago, told me that she doesn't "feel comfortable living in a country where the elected officials do not reflect who I am." (She's pretty left-leaning, so don't tell her the Conservatives are in charge just yet. We don't want to chase her away from Canada too.)

It may shock some of you to know that hockey is marginal sport at best in most of the United States — whereas here, I think sports networks are saturated with nothing but hockey news even when there's nothing to report in the off-season much to the detriment of other sports, but that's a discussion for another time — and is only accessible on specialty cable or satellite television channels in much of the country. Brian, a hockey fan and player who had the misfortune of being born in ice-absent San Antonio, had enough of driving to Dallas to enjoy his favorite sport, and especially had enough of all the flack he had to take for being a hockey fan: "I came to Toronto seven years ago and it felt like I wasn't strange for being a fan of the Maple Leafs. Now they just have to start winning a bit."

Jay, who moved here from Los Angeles a mere three months ago, calls Toronto "a breath of fresh air." While we complain about the smog that hangs over the city in the summer, Jay reminds me that some of the air where he used to live is thick enough to see and that there are a multitude of parks and green areas within an hour's drive from Toronto that provide an escape when needed.

It cost Tanya $25,000 in tuition to do her first year of her undergrad degree last year in Texas, but it only cost $5,000 to get an equally good education here this year at York University. Even south of the border, people acknowledge that when it comes to a good bachelors degree, Canada is on par, if not better, than many US schools: "I'm learning more and paying less than I ever did in Houston, and I quite like the people here too."

My friend Jenn from New York City moved to Toronto (well, Markham really) three years ago to follow a Canadian boy whom she had met while at school at McGill. The boy left for Vancouver to follow another girl a year later, but since then Jenn has not only moved on, but fallen in love with Toronto for all the great things she could do here. New York City may be one of the world's most famous cities, but Jenn says that "Toronto has everything New York has, but packages it in a much less pretentious, much more accessible way."

Are you a blogTO reader from the US of A that has recently moved here or are still down south and looking to make the move? What other reasons might be driving almost 11,000 Americans across the border and into the great white north?

(Photo: Flags by Travis Church.)

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