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Love in the time of Trump: Why Canadian-American couples are contemplating moving north of the border

Canadian ex-pats consider moving back if Trump wins

In the event of an undesired election result, many people who made the move south would head north again

Some Canadians living in the United States are considering moving back home if Donald Trump is elected president. (Trump photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters, suitcases by iStockphoto, photo illustration by Ming Wong)

Mary McAndrew and Julie Siri have grown uncomfortable in their own town.

When a vigil was held for the Orlando, Fla., shooting victims near their home last week, the two women, who are normally very active in their area’s gay community, chose not to attend. Their fear played a role in that decision, according to McAndrew, a 59-year-old semi-retired resident of Rancho Mirage, Calif., who is originally from Toronto. McAndrew says the political climate in the United States has become “uncomfortable and frightening” with Donald Trump potentially at the helm.

And the domestic partners of five years are seriously considering a move to Canada.

“Hate is out of the closet,” said Siri, a 66-year-old semi-retired grief therapist and clinical social worker. “Hate’s always been there, but if people didn’t agree, they kept it to themselves. But now people are verbal about their prejudices, their bigotry, their feelings. That’s the tipping point for me, the level of permission that has occurred.”

The couple have already booked a trip to Toronto in August, found accommodations and rented a car. They will spend their 11-day trip exploring the city’s neighbourhoods and figuring out if Julie, who has lived in the United States her entire life, could see herself moving to the city.

While the election is months away, some households across the United States have already been having the “what do we do if Donald Trump wins this election” discussion. Many of them have turned their eyes toward Canada.

After Trump’s wins in seven states on Super Tuesday, Google Trends tweeted out that searches for “move to Canada” were the highest they had ever been in the site’s history.

Mary McAndrew and Julie Siri have lived together in California for five years. They say Trump has promoted a culture of intolerance.

Now, numerous dating websites have popped up, offering to pair desperate Americans with single Canadians. Two of these websites, Canadian Girlfriend and Maple Match, claim to provide a backup plan for those committed to relocating.

“Maple Match makes it easy for Americans to find the ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency,” the company’s website reads.

But neither dating site has paired any couples yet.

Maple Match has been bombarded with requests, receiving more than 40,000 sign-ups, according to its founder, Joe Goldman. But the service is still sorting through the matches, trying to find the best pairings possible.

Canadian Girlfriend founder Sofi Papamarko says she cannot start pairing people until she reaches a larger sample size. So far, she has had registrants from across Canada and the United States, but “generally the Democratic states.”

“I think people are concerned that I am rooting for Donald to win, because then my business will take off,” Papamarko says. “That is not the case at all. I’m one of the few business owners that really hopes their business fails for the greater good. If Trump wins, I might make some money, but the world is not going to be a better place.”

The election of a president or the passing of a polarizing bill is often an occasion for Americans to threaten to flee. But some can make the move more easily than others: the rare few who are already dating or married to Canadians.

Cedric Maximilian Shen, a U.S. immigration lawyer and a regulated Canadian immigration consultant, said he has seen an increase in inquiries from people looking to immigrate to Canada over the past few months.

According to Shen, Canadian citizens may sponsor a legal spouse, a conjugal partner or a common-law partner for permanent residency. He says American citizens already in relationships with Canadians “certainly have the ground work to qualify for Canadian residency,” but there are admissibility issues to consider, such as criminal records or medical problems.

A move to Canada comes with both benefits and drawbacks, says Terry Ritchie, director of cross-border wealth services for Cardinal Point Capital Management Inc., based in Calgary. It could have monetary advantages because of the exchange rate, but Americans would be exposing themselves to higher taxes in Canada.

Doug Brod and Rachel Boyle say they 'would seriously consider leaving' New York if Trump were elected, but are worried about how they would find new jobs. (Doug Brod)

One couple considering their options, Doug Brod, 52, an editor for Condé Nast, and Rachel Boyle, 44, a director at Pace Gallery, have said they “would seriously consider leaving” if Trump were elected.

“We do love our life here, but who knows what’s going to happen to this country if he does become elected,” Boyle says from her New York office. “I would feel much more secure and safe in Canada, especially with the current administration.”

The couple met at a party in New York during the summer of 2003. Boyle had moved down to New York from Toronto three years earlier. Brod, a native New Yorker, has spent his entire life in the city, and attended New York University. Boyle believes a move up north would be a “hard transition” for her husband because he has never lived anywhere else.

“I’ve never felt like this in my entire life, where I’ve felt like a political situation, the election of a president, pushes me into wanting or even considering moving elsewhere,” Brod says.

Brod and Boyle have also considered what a move up north would mean for their financial future. They are not overly concerned with their social lives, as they have both friends and family in Canada, but their jobs present a potential concern.

“The jobs that we have here, I can’t think of anything that’s comparable in Toronto,” Boyle says. “So I think we’d maybe have to reinvent ourselves a little bit, which could be exciting, but also could be terrifying.”

But Boyle believes the United States would be “much more vulnerable with Trump as president” as he might destabilize the U.S. economy and make the country more susceptible to terrorist attacks. Brod believes that, with Trump in power, society would be “cruder and more vulgar and less tolerant and more hateful.”

Their nine-year-old daughter Sasha is a large part of why they are considering a move at all, according to Brod.

“We wouldn’t want her to live in the kind of society that he would foster. That’s really the biggest question for us, the biggest responsibility for us,” Brod says. “It’s just a scary time in our country’s history and we don’t want to be around if it turns out to be terrible.”

James and Sarah Riswick say they refuse to give up on the American people and have faith the U.S. won’t elect Trump. (James Riswick)

McAndrew and Siri have also taken their 26-year-old daughter, Kate, into consideration. Kate, who moved to California when she was 11, works as an accountant. Despite Siri believing that a move to Canada would not be as “fluid” for Kate as it would be for them, they have still had serious discussions with her about it.

“She has a great career in accounting and loves Southern California, but she, too, is considering her options,” McAndrew says. “She’s started to look at career opportunities in Toronto.”

Nadia Ahern, 44, an actress originally from Windsor, Ont., and her husband Jeff Ahern, a 44-year-old comedian from Fairfield, Conn., have also discussed a move from Los Angeles to Vancouver if Trump is elected.

And while Jeff says his wife is “more serious” about a potential move than he is, the two agreed that filing for Canadian citizenship for their five-year-old son is a good idea, just in case. Nadia drove their son to have photos taken last week, to start the Canadian citizenship application process.

“I’m totally in favour of that because if things wind up disintegrating or deteriorating here, it’s nice to know that even if I’m stuck here, at least he has the option to get out, so to speak,” Jeff says.

With no children to consider, James Riswick, 32, an automotive writer, and Sarah Riswick, also 32, a copywriter, say they are still in the “semi-joking what-if stage” of discussions, but it’s “comforting to know we have Canada as a back up option.”

James, who is a dual citizen and grew up in Mississauga, says he doesn’t believe a Trump presidency will happen, claiming he has “more faith in the American people than that.” And Sarah has donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign on various occasions (even remarking, “I refuse to give up on my country just yet”).

The pair, who met at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., are not worried about what a potential move would mean for their social lives and jobs. James’s family still lives in Toronto and Mississauga and their jobs are fairly “flexible,” according to Sarah.

But neither can imagine getting behind a Trump presidency. Sarah, who is part Mexican, says Trump pushed her to the point of having these discussions when he began making derogatory comments about Mexicans and talking about his plans for a wall between the two countries.

James says he was never on board with Trump running for office.

“He’s the host of The Apprentice and he’s going to be president? I’m not voting for Jeff Probst because he was on Survivor. That’s ridiculous,” he says. “But if it happens, I guess we can always go home.”

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