By André Voshart
George W. Bush was sworn in for a second term Thursday, extending his reign as the 43rd President of the United States of America by four years.
Protesters (as inescapable as death and taxes at any Bush function) clamoured at Capitol Hill to oppose the $40-million spectacle.
The news machine leading up to the November election preached over a bitterly divided country.From online blogs to daily newspapers, liberals were claiming they would be out if Bush got in. After the 2004 election, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website witnessed a surge in hits. But now the hits are back to normal, according to spokesperson Maria Iadinardi.So was it just a lot of talk and hype? Are liberals still packing up and heading to America Jr.?
“There is actually movement of American professionals moving northwards,” says Ryerson history professor Arne Kislenko, a former senior immigration officer. “There are historical precedents; there is anecdotal evidence.I think they see their country going through a huge ideological divide.”
Kislenko tells of Julian Madison, a professor and friend at Southern Connecticut State University. Madison knows a lot about Canada and feels that the U.S. is a difficult place to live as an African-American. “Nobody looks at you in Toronto,” Kislenko says, explaining that Canada has not adopted the melting pot mentality of its neighbour to the south. “When the Bush admi-nistration came into power [Madison] feared some of the rhetoric.”
Kislenko explains that Bush sees a version of the world that is black and white, while men like Madison have spent their lives studying the complexity of race relations in the U.S. Kislenko is convinced that it’s only a matter of time before American academics start moving north. He says he is not surprised the “blue” states (those that voted for Democratic candidate John Kerry) have the highest concentration of universities compared the “red” Republican states.
Brian Christinakis, 28, a journalist in Springfield, Va., is seriously considering leaving the country he’s called home all his life. “The reason I would consider–and have already–leaving the U.S. stems from the increasing right-leaning tendency of the nation at large,” he says. “A nation that has been scared out of its senses by its fearless leader’ is now willing to follow anyone and do anything he says.” Before the 2004 election, the mock dating service website MarryAnAmerican.ca was created. Christinakis posted his bio on the page. He says he isn’t joking around, though he understands the website is satirical.
“I was surprised to find out that some of the persons participating on the site were actually serious in their wish to marry a Canadian,” he says. “This . . . led me to post an ad myself.”
Ryerson history professor David MacKenzie says “it’s not uncommon in wartime” for Americans to find themselves out of step with the direction their country is taking.
Between 1970 and 1976, when the U.S. was rife with opposition to the draft and the Vietnam War, between 16,000 and 25,000 Americans moved to Canada each year.In times of peace, the average is between 5,000 and 6,000. To Christinakis, the siren call of the North came in the form of liberal policies on gun control, universal health care, gay marriage and marijuana. He also cites the higher standard of living.
“In general, Canada is a more tolerant society than the U.S.,” he says. Kimberly Miller, 20, a broadcast journalist in Asheville, N.C., agrees. “Our media is a circus these days. I’d rather be in a country where I could report the truth.
Plus, I dig cold weather and Canadian guys are especially adorable.” A true test of liberal loyalty would be to see whether Cana-dians would nup’ up to help them.Meaghan Derynck, 21, a third-year Radio and Television Arts student, says she would.
“I have no problem marrying someone with full knowledge that it will end in divorce if both parties knew that and the marriage was happening in order to gain something,” Derynck says.
Kristen MacGregor, Derynck’s roommate and a third-year Radio and Television Arts student, sees the issue differently than Derynck. To her, marriage is about love. “If there was another way I could help them I would,” she says. “But I think marrying them to do that is just dumb.” The Canadian immigration system is set up to prevent such abuse.As a rule, you must marry for “genuine reasons and not primarily for the purpose of obtaining permanent residence in Canada.
“Additionally, your spouse must have lived with you “for at least one year in a conjugal relationship.”
Marriages of convenience happen all the time, but paperwork and a vigorous interview process must be completed before a foreigner can gain permanent residence, Kislenko says.
However, he finds the marriage idea a good sign for Canada. “I think it is good fun,” he says.”There is nothing wrong with Canadians standing up and defining themselves.”
MacGregor, too, sees the positive in the whole situation.”I guess it is the ultimate compliment to Canada and Canadians if Americans are willing to marry us to gain citizenship.”
Vancouver immigration lawyer Rudi Kischer says his law firm has been approached by dozens of Americans unhappy with Bush’s win.
He has received so many inquiries that Kischer is planning “how to come to Canada” seminars for people in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Now “Bush refugees” (as Kischer calls them) like Christinakis have another way to gain entry to Canada. “Somewhere along the way, something got in the way and we lost track of where we were headed,” says Christinakis. “Having been born and raised [in America], one definitely feels certain sympathies for this country, though it is my opinion that this is not the great country it once was.” Kislenko sympathizes with wounded liberal Americans. “It is painful,” he says. “Especially if they love their country.”
The right-wing policies and military pomp of America is “a bit freaky” and this moment in history is a “unique moment” in Canada, when Canadians are beginning to clearly define themselves, Kislenko says.
“I’m convinced all countries go through a sexy’ phase,” he says. Now it’s Canada’s turn.
So Canada’s sexy, eh?