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

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

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.

Complicated though their marriage may be, Synn says she loves Szeles, whose career was sidelined by a heart condition. She cares for him daily and worries constantly about what a second term of Trump could mean for his health care if he remains in the U.S.

“I told him, ‘Even if you don’t want to come up with me right away … if you get sick and you need to come to Canada, you can still be my husband and you come up there and we’ll take care of you.

“But I’m not staying here for this,” she says of the president. “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 Szeles, also known as “The Amazing Johnathan,” 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 during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

After holding recent meetings socially distanced but in person at Isfeld Secondary, the board of education was back meeting via Zoom because of recent pandemic restrictions. Image, screenshot
Most parents approve of schools’ handling of pandemic, says Comox Valley superintendent

Schools forced to adapt to COVID-19, including finding alternative to regular theatre production

The Gnarly Craft Fair is going virtual this year. Photo by Kim Stallknecht
Gnarly Youth Craft goes virtual

The virtual fair will be open until Dec. 19 and features talented youth aged 9 -19 years

Lake Trail Middle School in Courtenay has closed again due to a threat Friday (Dec 4). File photo
Lake Trail Middle School closed for the second time in a week due to threat

On Nov. 26, the school was closed for a day while a similar incident occurred.

Comox Valley singer-songwriter Helen Austin, and Cincinnati’s Paul Otten are Big Little Lions. Photo via biglittlelions.com
Big Little Lions earn Canadian Folk Music Award nomination

Duo featuring Comox Valley singer-songwriter Helen Austin keeping busy during pandemic

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Beefs and Bouquets
Comox Valley Beefs & Bouquets for week of Dec. 2

Beef to deer hunters; bouquet from a store owner to shoppers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

Most Read