OTTAWA — When Donald Trump won the presidential election in November 2016, many Americans threw up their hands and threatened to flee north of the border to live out the rest of their days in chillier climes.
And according to new figures from the government, some of them may have actually followed through on that threat.
Canada saw an uptick in Americans trying to move to Canada following Trump’s win, according to the new figures from Immigration Canada.
In 2015, a little over 6,800 Americans tried to apply for permanent residency in Canada, followed by just over 7,700 in 2016.
But in 2017, the year of Trump’s inauguration, that figure jumped to over 9,000.
The number has yet to dip below 8,700 in the years since, although 2020 is on track to fall far below the years previous — likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen borders shutter and travel restricted.
Immigration Canada cautioned that the numbers are “preliminary” and “subject to change.”
Chantal Desloges, a Canadian immigration lawyer, says the modest increase “doesn’t surprise” her — though she said it’s not an “extreme” trend.
“We get a lot of applications from expats in the U.S. who’ve been working there or studying there, and now find that the immigration policies in the U.S. are so restrictive that Canada is a much more attractive destination,” Desloges told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.
Desloges said that after Trump was elected, she got a number of inquiries at her firm from Americans considering taking the jump.
“This happened at our firm when Trump was elected as well — you get a lot of consultations, right? People say they’re just kind of putting out some feelers to see if they’re qualified,” she said.
“I had for example a Muslim man, you know, highly educated professional, little bit older with a family, well established in the U.S., [who] said, ‘you know what? I’m not comfortable living here anymore as a Muslim.'”
Andrew Carvajal, an immigration lawyer who works at the same firm as Desloges, said he received similar calls — and a lot more of them, compared to the pre-Trump days.
He said he received roughly “four times” as many calls from U.S. residents considering a move to Canada once Trump was elected
“They would basically make comments, ‘I’m really concerned about what’s going to happen now,’ and a lot of the people just, it was just obvious from that, what they were saying,” Carvajal said.
He said that, for example, some members of the LGBTQ+ community who were exploring a move to Canada said during their consultation that they “don’t know what’s going to happen” with the “federal government” in the United States.
Carvajal said he also recently got a call from an American pastor who had been living in Canada for two years.
“During the consultation, he really said, ‘as a Black person in the U.S., I just don’t want to go back.’ This was within the context of everything that’s happening right now, he’s just like ‘I really want to stay in Canada, I want my children to stay in Canada,'” Carvajal said.
Desloges noted, however, that for someone to pull the trigger and actually pack up to move to Canada, there usually have be other factors at play.
“We haven’t found a great deal of just random Americans saying I’m getting out of here, I want to go somewhere else. It’s been more of, people who have a historical connection to Canada who are now saying okay, you know, I’ve had enough of this,” she said.
“It’s an emotional reaction at the beginning, but then once reality sinks in, you know, people usually decide to stay where they are.”
The month that Trump won the election also saw a little bump in applications from Americans looking to start fresh north or the border.
While a month-by-month breakdown of 2015 and 2016 permanent residency applications from Americans to Canada saw an absolute high of 694 applications, that changed in November 2016 — a day when American politics also experienced a shockwave.
In the month of Trump’s election, Canada received 829 applications from U.S. citizens trying to move to Canada. The next month, December 2016, also experienced the second highest number of applications in two years: 743.
Desloges explained that any reading of these monthly figures should be tempered by the fact that Canada has a system where it controls the flow of economic immigration applications by telling prospective applicants when they can apply — not the other way around.
“People don’t decide on their own when their application goes in. They have to get an invitation from the government, and when the government sends that invitation, the person has only 90 days to perfect it or else they lose their chance,” Desloges said.
“As soon as they have capacity to take a thousand more applications, they send out a thousand more invitations.”
Still, Desloges says her firm has felt an increase in inquiries from Americans toying with taking the big jump across the Canada-U.S. border — more so than they’ve felt in the wake of previous elections.
“People have kind of a visceral response to him, right? He sort of provokes that exaggerated reaction from people,” Desloges said.
But, she said, many of these inquiries remain just that, with very few pulling the trigger.
“You do get a lot of people who gripe about the general situation in the U.S. with Trump, like they’ll complain about that, but I mean that is a big step, to actually leave a country and go to another country over a guy that might not even be there next year,” Desloges said.
Still, according to the figures from Immigration Canada, enough Americans felt that push to establish a trend of increased applications. Meanwhile for Desloges, the calls keep coming from people living in the Unites States who think it’s time to make the move.
“Even this morning, I got a call from somebody,” she said.