By Pradip Rodrigues
Canadian Snow Birds spend part of their golden years absorbing sun rays in Florida, but hundreds of thousands of Canadians have chosen to re-locate to the US permanently, some who had enviable jobs here others who didn’t stand a chance at landing a decent job in the Canadian workplace.
According to U.S. Census estimates the number of Americans of Canadian ancestry was around 640,000 in 2000. That number has surely swelled since and could currently be well be way over a million.
In 2000, I read a fascinating book by the well-known commentator and journalist Jeffrey Simpson called Star Spangled Canadians. It was startling to note the percentage of Canadians and new immigrants who have been moving south of the 49th parallel. By some estimates, had it not been for Canada’s constant hemorrhaging of its population, our population in 2017 would have stood at about 100 million Canadians not 36.27 million.
Historically significant numbers of Canada-bound immigrants from Europe came here, the large number of those who only struggled to eke a living off the land or in a city were eventually lured by better opportunities, weather conditions and endless possibilities that existed in America, naturally then they had little to lose by packing up and moving on.
In those days if you were white, healthy, young and willing to work hard, America welcomed you without visas. And one suspects that if such was the situation today (all races are now welcome- legally ofcourse, in some sanctuary cities, illegally as well) a significant number of new Canadians would end up moving to the USA and joining South Asian comedian Russell Peters and the million-plus Canadians who are mostly thriving in America, the land of opportunity.
In the mid-90s, Canadians fretted about Canadian brain drain. Too many highly-skilled and talented Canadians were being lured south and that was rankling to many Canadians well-aware of living under the shadow of their big, powerful and colorful neighbor. Ofcourse few fretted about the immigrant with brains who suffered professional setbacks.
A 2008 Statistics Canada study indicated that one-third of male immigrants (aged 25 to 45 at the time of landing) left Canada within 20 years after arrival. More than half of those who left did so within the first year of arrival. It showed that a staggering 40 per cent of immigrants who entered Canada in the skilled worker or business class left Canada within their first 10 years.
Thousands of Canadians who chose to pursue their careers or crafts in the US have gone on to become world famous in their respective fields, notable among them are many Hollywood personalities like Jim Carrey, Seth Rogen, world famous architects like Frank Gehry and many more. Many Canadian immigrants who would otherwise be condemned to mediocrity here have gone on to achieve notable success in the US.
It is commonly acknowledged that Americans make no bones about the notion that money equates to success. Americans reward skill and ability with recognition and tons of money which is why it is such a magnet for anyone with ambition.
Mississauga’s councillor Carolyn Parrish was outraged when Russel Peters said he felt like an immigrant in Canada but felt more assimilated in America. She was quoted as saying: “We helped him become successful by being open with his brand of humour. I was angry that he was so dismissive of the country who got him where he is.”
I don’t know if Russel Peters who’s parents immigrated here from India has to feel more grateful to Canada than say actor Jim Carrey or Justin Bieber but it can be safely said that if all these celebrities decided not to move to the US, it is unlikely they’d be well-known outside of Canada, they wouldn’t be globally recognized and not to add fabulously rich. And if Canadians like Carolyn Parrish would like Canada to be given credit for success achieved outside Canada, that’s fair enough, I would only add a minor suggestion, Canada should also take responsibility for letting too many skilled and talented immigrants languish in dead end jobs! Perhaps a note on that subject could be included in the new Citizenship guide next to the one about respecting native treaties. There could a whole chapter devoted to Canada’s immigrant expectations.
Why just look at the super talented Canadian immigrants who end up becoming reasonable successful or very satisfied with their careers in the US, there are so many South Asian parents now sending their children to study at medical schools in places like the Caribbean, Europe and elsewhere, their chances of being able to return and practice here in Canada are slim, but that isn’t deterring them because they are all eying working in the US where they are in all probability going to have the opportunity to pursue great careers with packages professionals could only dream off here. Moreover, their dream of being a doctor can only be realized outside of Canada.
I know qualified teachers from India who tried for years to re-qualify and start teaching in Canada, most of them having families settled for whatever was available and abandoned their dreams. I have heard of new immigrants with teaching backgrounds apply and be accepted for teacher’s jobs in the US. No one asked them for Canadian experience, they simply had to show up, prove themselves and the job was theirs. It is the same thing with nurses and many other regulated professions in Canada where many new Canadian immigrants find themselves shut out. And even then when they are not, opportunities are scarce. Such barriers do not exist in the US where workers are valued for their grit, determination and willingness to work hard.
If ever Canada and the US were to create something like the EU where citizens of either country could live and work anywhere, I suspect many professionals who currently face work visa restrictions would consider shifting to the US and settling wherever opportunities in their field exist in America. I know several South Asian immigrants who spent years struggling to find a job that utilized their training and experience in Canada only to be rejected. These Canadian ‘rejects’ have gone on to earn six-figure salaries in the US!
Many new immigrants will reluctantly admit that if they had a choice between immigrating to Canada or the USA, they’d choose the US. It is an uncomfortable truth that Canadians like Carolyn Parrish would be not like to hear. So many South Asians once hoped to become American green card holders but on realizing it was taking way too long ended up being snapped up as immigrants to Canada.
Ask any of the hundreds of ‘refugees’ streaming into Canada from the US the same question. Okay, the answer is mostly quite obvious, they wouldn’t be crossing into Canada if they could continue living in the US without the fear of deportation. In a way Canada has mostly been a second choice destination for many immigrants throughout its history and it is now seen increasingly as a refuge for all those who America or President Trump doesn’t want or rejects.
So Canadians could feel smug about our inclusiveness and multiculturalism, but I doubt Mr. Kumar in India if would choose Canada if the option to get an American green card was available to him. I can’t imagine him saying: “ I have the option of Canada and America. Hmm, I choose Canada because it is multicultural, diverse and the first post-national country in the world!
Despite President Donald Trump in the White House, there are no indications that American residents of Canadian origin are putting their homes up for sale, neither has it stopped America from being the number one destination for wannabe immigrants across the world. If at all Canada features as a choice immigration destination it is simply a result of it being one of the easiest western countries to immigrate to as an immigrant, foreign student or refugee. If America adopted Canada’s immigration and refugee policy, it would be interesting to see how many immigrants and refugees from around the world would apply to come to Canada.