The Trump Dodgers
A growing number of left-leaning Americans, outraged by the politics at home, have decamped for Canada. Meet eight new Toronto arrivals
Democrats always threaten to move to Canada when a Republican wins the presidency. This time they seem to mean it. The night Trump won, traffic to Canada’s immigration website quintupled, crashing the site. Applications to U of T from American students nearly doubled. And in the months since the election, a cottage industry of real estate agents with expertise in cross-border transactions, immigration lawyers and talent-hungry recruiters quickly cropped up. Many of the early-bird defectors have already arrived. Others, who were here but planning to head back to the States, have opted to stick around instead. And there are plenty more on the way. Toronto has long been tortured by news of our best and brightest leaving for the U.S. Soon, the reverse might be true.
Kaytee Trudeau, 33
Job Artist and designer
Education BA, University of Winnipeg
Moved from Richmond, Virginia, in December 2016
Moved to Bloor and Ossington
In 2013 I married an American friend, Tony, partly for love and mostly to avoid being deported back to Canada. We lived in Virginia, where I ran a business making art and selling pins and patches. Tony and I separated in March 2016, and I planned to move to Washington, D.C. The morning after Trump won, Tony texted, joking that he needed an escape route to Canada: “I don’t think I’m going to let you get that divorce anymore.” U.S. politics have always been messed up, but Trump is a catastrophe. My American friends said they’d stay and fight, and I thought about doing that, too. But they’re lefties, essentially yelling the same things at each other and expecting something to change. Being Canadian, I realized I could make an emergency exit. A few days after the election, a friend in Toronto said she had a rental coming available in January. I took it. A month and a half later, I moved. Crossing the border was nightmarish. I rented a trailer, and because the guard assumed I was moving permanently, he told me I would have to pay duties and import my car. It’s still parked at a storage facility in New York. I bawled my eyes out. It took me from noon until 9 p.m. that day to get into Canada. There are a bunch of U.S. craft shows that I need to attend this year, and I’m worried about getting back in. I’ve been hearing that border guards are reviewing social media posts, in which case I’m screwed. In February, I organized a “Fuck Trump” pin giveaway on Instagram. One was a rainbow-coloured dinosaur gnawing on a Trump tower. I keep reminding Tony that we’re still married, and that he could just file paperwork and move north. In fact, I’ve told pretty much all my American friends that I’d marry them once I’m officially divorced. I need to pay it forward.
Evan Savage, 30,
and Valkyrie Savage, 28
Jobs CTO and CEO of Savage Internet,
an educational gaming company
Education BA in math and computer science;
PhD in computer science
Moved from Oakland, California
Moved to Lansdowne and Davenport, in October 2016
Evan and I were diehard Bernie Sanders supporters, and we were livid when it became clear to us that the Democratic primaries were rigged in favour of Hillary Clinton. Around the same time, our work culture in Silicon Valley was becoming unbearable, with interminable hours and constant pressure. Evan had left a job as a software engineer at Facebook and started a remote consulting business, and I had just finished my PhD in computer science, so the timing to move was good. Evan is Canadian. He grew up in Toronto and studied math and computer science at Waterloo, so we knew we could get into the country. The tech scene in Toronto is big enough, the city is vibrant and diverse, and by leaving, we could send a small but mighty message about our displeasure with the U.S. At the end of August, we sold most of our stuff, strapped the rest to our Vespa and left for Toronto. It was a long and bumpy ride. We camped most nights and couch-surfed when we needed a break. Some of our hosts were Trump supporters, which was weird. One, in Montana, ranted about gun control; another, in South Dakota, went on about “goofballs” from California. By the time we reached the Canadian border, Trump had won the Republican nomination. We watched the election from an Annex pub, grimly preparing to toast Hillary. And then Trump won! Evan and I stayed home from work the next day. We read the news and wrote scathing Facebook posts. That afternoon, I filed to become a permanent resident. We love Toronto. Parties in San Francisco are like networking events—everyone wants to tell you about their breathtaking new idea. Here, it’s different, in a good way. Torontonians work hard but not to the point of obsession. When we arrived, the plan was to live here for a while and then move back to the U.S. Now we plan to just stay.
Walter Levitt, 50
Job Former CMO, Comedy Central
Education BA, Concordia University
Moved from New York City, in February 2017
Moved to The Beaches
In 2011, I was living in Toronto and took a job as chief marketing officer with Comedy Central in New York. I never thought I’d work in the U.S., but it was a dream gig: I launched Key & Peele and led the marketing of the Daily Show when Trevor Noah took over. My wife is a busy physician in Toronto who loves her job, and my kids didn’t want to uproot, so every Monday morning, I flew to New York: Uber at 7 a.m., flight at 7:55 a.m., land by 9:15 a.m., office by 10 a.m. On Thursday or Friday, I’d fly back to Toronto and spend the weekend with my family. On election night, I was in a hotel in Austin, Texas, watching CNN, swirling a glass of cheap Merlot. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The next day, in a cab on my way to the airport, I listened to Hillary’s concession speech and started crying. When I got back to New York, the city was eerily quiet. Everybody told me it was the same after 9/11. While all this was going on, Comedy Central’s parent company, Viacom, was going through a struggle: we were on our third CEO in as many months, and many of my longtime colleagues had left. My wife and I started talking about the possibility of me moving back to Toronto. It was really the perfect storm: six years of commuting, a toxic political landscape, a challenging corporate environment. By January, I had made up my mind. I told my team I was leaving. Some of them seemed shocked. Others said, “Do you have an extra bedroom for us?” They were joking, but not entirely. I’m home now and settling back in. I’m spending time with family, travelling and enjoying not working for a little while. I hope that President Trump is not as bad as I think he’s going to be, but the early signs are not promising. I’m not sad to be out of there. You really appreciate Canada when you leave.
Mary McAndrew, 60,
Julie Siri, 67
Jobs A supply chain manager and a retired social worker
Education Fashion diploma, Ryerson;
MA in social work, University of Southern California
Moved from Palm Springs, California, in mid-2017
Moved to Yonge and Eglinton
As a same-sex couple, Mary and I always felt safe in California. Most people are accepting there, and many of our neighbours in Palm Springs identify as LGBT. But over time, we began to notice a change in attitudes. In November 2015, a gay man was assaulted in Palm Springs in what police deemed a hate crime. A month later, two shooters killed 14 people in San Bernardino, an hour from our house. After the attack at the gay nightclub in Orlando, we stopped going out at night and avoided venturing beyond our usual hangouts. We were both Hillary supporters and believed she would win the election, but we worried that even if she did, Trump’s campaign had given people permission to act on their basest instincts. Hatred, it seemed, was coming out of the closet. We considered a move to Toronto, where Mary grew up. We visited on a scouting mission in August and loved what we saw. The atmosphere was relaxed, and free of the tension and sense of impending doom we felt in the States. In the best ways, it was like California, too: people in Toronto are cosmopolitan and generally eco-conscious. Election night was the tipping point, and we accelerated the moving process. By January, our house was on the market, though it hasn’t yet sold. In late February, we sent off my permanent residency application along with a $1,000 deposit. The process could take anywhere from three months to a year, but we’re willing to wait. In the meantime, we’ve found a great apartment at Yonge and Eglinton, which was Mary’s childhood neighbourhood. It’s a homecoming for her, and I’m ready to make it my home, too. Proof? We’ve already bought a shopping basket on wheels so we won’t incur any five-cent charges for plastic bags and the public shame that comes with it.
Fay Scott, 28
Job Client services director in the tech sector
Education BA, University of California, Santa Barbara
Moved from San Francisco, California, in November 2016
Moved to Queen and Ossington
I’m a very political person. I grew up in San Francisco, and most of my family are lefties. I was a staunch Sanders supporter during the Democratic primaries. After he conceded, I rallied behind Hillary, excited about the idea of a female president. In October, I was watching a presidential debate from a bar near my house, and a Trump supporter sat down next to me. She was in her 30s, bright and funny, and was studying to become a doctor. We had a lot in common, and I wanted to understand her viewpoint. She said she liked Trump because he would “shake things up in Washington.” I brought up the dangers he posed to minorities, and she shrugged them off. Trump, I realized, could actually win. When he did, I made up my mind to leave. I had been getting fed up with the U.S. anyway. I work in the tech industry, which is mostly male, and experienced all kinds of sexist micro-aggressions at my job. My Nob Hill neighbourhood, once diverse, had become predominantly white and prohibitively expensive. And though I had health insurance through my work, I was still paying off a surgery to remove a cancerous growth from my colon. I feared the terms of my health coverage would worsen under a Trump administration. In September, I was offered a position as a client services director at a tech firm in Liberty Village. I knew about the city’s cultural diversity and burgeoning tech scene. I’d grown bored of white dudes everywhere in San Francisco. I quickly packed up and left. I was exhilarated, if a little sad to leave my friends and family. I know it’s a cliché, but people here are really friendly. I was walking along Queen Street the other day with a huge package from the post office, and a woman stopped me to ask if she could help me carry it. That would never happen in California.
Maggie Sager, 27
Job PhD student, University of Toronto
Education Middle Eastern History,
University of California, Berkeley
Moved from Berkeley, California
Moved to Lansdowne and Bloor
I grew up in a deeply conservative, evangelical family in Orange County, California. I knew I was a lesbian at age 11. When I was 17, I worked up the courage to come out to my parents. It didn’t go well. A year later, I chose Berkeley, a progressive school that was an eight-hour drive from home. I majored in Middle Eastern History, and in my third year studied in Jordan, where I met Mira, a brilliant, beautiful Jordanian-born Canadian who was working with the World Food Program. We fell in love, and I extended my stay for eight months. The day before I left, I proposed and Mira said yes. She was planning to return to Toronto to finish her studies at York, and I intended to go to grad school. I applied to a master’s program at U of T, got in, and moved to the city in September 2015 on a student visa. I loved the city right away, though I assumed I’d return to the U.S. once my studies were finished. I watched the election at O’Grady’s on Church Street, draining one whiskey after another. As the child of right-wing parents, I knew all about Trump’s appeal. He taps into the worst elements of American society—racism, misogyny, homophobia—and I could picture some people I knew as a kid lapping up his inflammatory rhetoric. Part of me is sad not to be at home, protesting and doing my part to combat tyranny. If I weren’t married, I probably would go back, but Mira is Muslim. I’m sure that Mira will be deported if we return. And we want to have children soon. How are we supposed to keep our family safe if we’re scared ourselves? My PhD is done in three years, but I won’t be leaving. I’ll apply for jobs in Europe and Canada, but not the U.S. At least not while Trump’s in charge.
Are you an American who’s thinking about moving to Canada? If you’re planning a Trump-motivated, cross-border move, we want to hear from you.