How to Move to Canada:
A Primer for Americans

Whatever your reasons for thinking of moving to Canada, if you’re an American citizen, this book is for you.

U.S. citizens have some advantages over citizens of many other countries who contemplate this move. For one thing, most of Canada is English-speaking (though if you also know French, you will find an even warmer welcome north of the U.S. border). For another, the border between the United States and Canada has historically been very open, with people going back and forth either temporarily or permanently.

Talk to a Canadian and you will often hear of U.S. ancestry. Many Americans also have Canadians in their background. Carol Bennett, co-author of this book, is one of them. Her father, born in Manitoba, grew up and went to college in Vancouver, but emigrated to the United States where he settled in New Orleans. Carol, born and raised in New Orleans, got her B.A. at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and her B.L.S. from McGill University in Montreal. Although she married an American and lives in Maryland, she has numerous friends and relatives in Canada.

For me, as for many Americans, Canada despite its proximity was more of a mystery. More than 40 years ago, I went to Quebec City and the Gaspé peninsula on my honeymoon. After that, I returned once for a brief visit to Montreal. I didn’t realize, until I started working on this book how close Canada is to much of the United States--how easy it is to get to, and how interesting it is. It is enough like what I know to be comfortably familiar, and enough different to be an adventure.

But if you’re contemplating a move, you don’t necessarily want adventure. You want to know what this place is really like, whether you’ll be welcome and fit into a new community, whether you’ll be able to make a living or to live adequately on what you already have, and if you decide that Canada is for you, how you go about applying to be a permanent resident and possibly, at some time thereafter, a citizen.

This book will get you started on answering those questions. It will also direct you to further information.

Very little about Canada gets reported in the U.S. media. Nevertheless, you probably do know a thing or two about Canada. It's cold, there, right. Or is it? We saw flowers blooming in Victoria on Vancouver Island in February, and in Edmonton, Alberta (admittedly in the throes of an uncharacteristic warm spell), people were wearing shorts in early March.

But if you think Canada can be very cold, you’re mostly correct, which is why 70 percent of the population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border where it’s maybe a tad warmer than it is in the tundra-covered north. If contemplating a move, climate is certainly one thing to consider.

You probably also have the impression that Canada is generally more liberal than the United States in its social policies. While it has its flaws, Canada’s universal health care system is one of the things its population holds most dear. In other areas of social policy, Canadian law permits and acknowledges same-sex marriage, treats abortion as a medical procedure, prohibits the death penalty and has stricter gun controls than the United States.

If these values and concerns are yours, you may well feel that Canada is a place you could happily call home. We can’t tell you everything you would need to know to get there and put down roots, but we’ve tried to give you a good start.
--Terese Loeb Kreuzer

In researching this book, Terese and I visited Canada, read widely and interviewed a random sample of U.S.-born Canadian immigrants about their experiences. We also talked to immigration lawyers, tax accountants and other experts. We researched the larger cities in Canada, where most immigrants go and where most of the jobs are. We have not written, though, about some of my favorite places in Canada: the Gulf Islands, Chilliwack and Cultus Lake, the Okanagan Valley, and Kaslo on Kootenay Lake, all in British Columbia.

Souris, Manitoba, is Canada's Lake Woebegone for me, with its swinging bridge, warm community spirit, and "children who are all above average." And there's Belmont, Manitoba, where my grandfather farmed, with its blue and yellow flowers in a patchwork quilt on the fields that stretch as far as the eye can see, a quilt covered with sheets of snow in winter.

Peterborough and the Rice Lake area of Ontario, Cobourg, with its historic beach on Lake Ontario, across from Rochester, N.Y., are all very special to me, not just for their beauty, but for the people I've found there. For anyone who wants to get away from big city life, these, and many other places are waiting to be discovered. If that sounds like a travel invitation, it is. Visiting Canada is something I hope to do for the rest of my life. Moving to another country, though, even if one can have dual citizenship, is a serious business.

Canada has a reputation as a peaceful and well-run country. Commenting on the differences between Canada and the United States, Arnold Bennett, an enthusiastic U.S. emigrant to Newfoundland said, "It's the difference between a system that is rooted in a belief in Peace, Order and Good Government (called the POG's in Canadian parliamentary debate) instead of 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness' as in the U.S."

Today's Canada is truly a multi-cultural, sophisticated nation, a haven for refugees from less ordered places in the world. But Canada has its problems, too. The price of gasoline and the long stretches of road to be driven are not a good match. Postal strikes have threatened communication in recent years. Taxi drivers were on strike in Ottawa when we were there and farmers were demonstrating in downtown Toronto as we left. We saw homeless people in the streets of Vancouver, Victoria and Montreal in winter. Bureaucracy can impede rather than serve the public.

But there seems to be a conscious commitment on the part of most people to make things work. Canada's citizenship book, A Look at Canada, to be studied by immigrants, stresses the responsibilities as well as the rights of citizens in defining Canadian values. It says these include: "Freedom, respect for cultural differences and a commitment to social justice. We are proud of the fact that we are a peaceful nation."

The border between the United States and Canada has been likened to a one-way mirror, with Canadians keeping a wary eye on the United States--“sleeping next to an elephant,” as former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau put it. We have peered through the looking glass.
--Carol Bennett