When Donald Trump was elected, I left my life in New York and came back to Canada
Sarah Phillips, 43
Education: MDes in Industrial Design from the University of Calgary
Moved from: New York City
Moved to: Seaton Village
I assumed I’d probably live in the States forever when I moved to Los Angeles in 2003.
I’m Canadian, but I left Vancouver, where I’d been living, for better career opportunities on the other side of the border. My husband, Dave McCaig, who is also Canadian, had landed a job working on Warner Brothers’ animated series The Batman. I’d just finished grad school in industrial design and was working my way up in the fashion design industry. My career took us to New York in 2010, and the city quickly became home.
In 2012, I took a leave of absence from my job and we temporarily moved back to Vancouver to give birth to our son, Riley. We wanted our child to be Canadian, partly because we are, but also because we didn’t want him to be faced, in the future, with conscription, or with needing to pay taxes to the U.S. even if he chooses not to live there. After he was born, though, we quickly moved back to New York. We had a dream apartment less than a block from Central Park, and we were both happy in our careers.
When Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy, I naively didn’t think people would vote for him, much less that he would actually win the election. After his first 10 days in office, like many of our friends, we were shocked and saddened by the changes he was making, and by the polarizing effect he was having on people. In particular, we were concerned about his treatment of women and minorities, and we weren’t thrilled with his no-experience cabinet, either. But we were also worried about his talk of abolishing NAFTA. We were in the U.S. on NAFTA-professional visas, which are tied to the trade agreement. If Trump did something to nullify our immigration status, there was a chance we’d find ourselves in a situation where we’d only have a few days to get out of the country. We wanted to leave on our own terms. More than that, though, we didn’t want our son to grow up in an environment of intolerance.
So we made a spur-of-the-moment, emotional decision to move back to Canada.
We didn’t own property in New York, but we had to get out of our apartment lease. My New York–based fashion accessory brand was just starting to get good traction, but I thought I could run it remotely. Dave works from home, as a comic book artist, so we figured his professional life would be mostly unaffected. Riley, for his part, was just barely school-aged, so we hoped he wouldn’t have much trouble adjusting to a change in scenery.
Before we moved to Toronto, I had only been to the city for a grand total of two days in my entire life. We chose it on the recommendation of friends, and because it was as close as we could comfortably get to New York. I was planning to commute back and forth for meetings.
We rented a house in Seaton Village, sight unseen, and we’ve been enjoying the area. I miss my friends, and I miss being able to order practically anything and have it delivered within the hour, but I really like our neighbourhood’s feel, and Toronto’s relaxed pace of life. People have been friendly, and we feel genuinely welcomed.
Since arriving in Toronto in April, I’ve outsourced sales for my accessories brand, and I’m now in the process of founding a nonprofit to help emerging artists and designers produce and sell their own work, using my experience and manufacturing connections. I’ve been blown away by all the grant possibilities in Canada. There’s so much more enthusiasm here for trying to give something back. That’s a really big and welcome difference, compared to living in New York.
Did you move to Canada recently to get away from the U.S.? We want to talk to you.