The Smith family, from left, Alan, Madeleine, Jessica and Malory, will be saying goodbye to the United States and moving to Canada in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory. Photo courtesy of Alan Smith

Why I’m leaving Trump’s America

By  Alan Smith, Catholic Register Special
  • November 23, 2016

Minneapolis, MN – To our soon-to-be-compatriots: thank you for making Canada a destination of hope.

My wife, our youngest daughter and I are leaving our beloved home in Minnesota and moving to Canada. The decision came swiftly as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the American presidential election, but it was not easy since it entails significant loss of friends and financial risk.

Nor was it unexpected: my wife and I have been talking about Canada ever since we married. Now, it is becoming a reality. We plan to settle in London, Ont., in the spring, or at the very latest the end of the school year, and have begun all the paperwork to make it happen.

Some background: I am a Canadian citizen born in New Brunswick who has lived my entire adult life in the United States. My wife, a native New Yorker and former ballet dancer, transferred during her school days from Columbia University to the University of Toronto.

She cherished her experiences there, including learning to play hockey (they made her the goalie because she can’t skate). We have devoted ourselves to our three American-born daughters (two of whom are away at university), had successful careers, and thrived in Minnesota, a state where people are always polite, winters are extreme, hockey is a cult religion and government does a decent job. Sound familiar?

Despite the benefits of this ersatz-Canada, we are aware of subtle but important cultural differences. Long before Trump’s takeover of the American popular imagination and (more pertinently) government, we have felt an underlying attraction from north of the border.

This attraction is nourished by personal encounters, visits to relatives, vacations in Quebec and Nova Scotia, and fascination with Canadian news.

The latter has served as a soothing antidote — Rob Ford notwithstanding — to the shrill, mind-numbing and often tragic nature of American news. No need to rehash American stereotypes about Canadians, which paint a positive if somewhat bland picture. We know that Canada also has substantial issues of social justice, economic disparity and spiritual stagnation.

These challenges pale in comparison with the looming crises in the United States. We have witnessed a steady deterioration of public discourse and of the social fabric over the past 16 years. Political discourse in America has become so partisan and toxic that it is virtually impossible to talk rationally about differences of opinion. Institutions like higher education and the media that establish authoritative social and historical facts are discredited and replaced by Internet conspiracy theories, rumours, personal attacks and outright fabrication. The epidemic of gun violence has raised parents’ anxieties across the country.

Comparisons with Canada paint quite a different picture: not utopian, but clearly different.

Trump’s victory brings an even more disturbing element: a rhetoric of cruelty and violence. The list of individuals and groups who suffered his vicious insults and derision include women, Mexicans, Muslims, people with disabilities, African-Americans, victims of his financial dealings, climate scientists and journalists. His followers and members of his transition team seem eager to put in place policies that further disenfranchise the most vulnerable by removing safeguards.

We are experiencing the effect of this rhetoric right here in Minnesota.

We hear it in the stories of Latino schoolchildren convinced that someone will come soon to take them and their families away.

We see it in the xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic graffiti proliferating at schools and colleges since the election.

We feel it in the presence of our Muslim friends and neighbours terrified by the prospect of a national registry for Muslims. They came to America looking for tolerance, peaceful co-existence and opportunity. They made huge sacrifices because they hoped for a place where their children and grandchildren could flourish, where civil liberties are protected, the weakest are cared for and communities build across racial, ethnic, gender and political lines.

That has now become our hope as well. That is why we are moving to Canada.

(Smith is the founder of Concerto Designs (, which provides website services for small and medium-sized companies, including The Catholic Register.)

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