Immigrating from USA to Canada
December 5, 2021 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I have discussed immigrating to Canada with my teenagers recently, as I've become more and more disturbed by gun violence here in the USA. What else do I need to consider?

How do I learn more about Canada? My impression has always been that it's USA-lite but that seems silly now. I'm sure there is more to Canada than that.

I've also wondering what obligation I have to the USA, to make it better instead of just leaving. My parents are immigrants, as is my husband. Is there something wrong with thinking that if I don't like something about a place, our family should just leave?

The possible plan would just be for our kids to leave, perhaps some time in their mid to late twenties. I'm sure immigration is not easy, but I feel they could make it. Am I deluding myself?
posted by GliblyKronor to Law & Government (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One way to learn about Canada is to start consuming Canadian news media. For example, you could read the CBC news. Over time, this will start to give you a deeper sense of what the issues of public concern are in Canada, and how Canada perceives the issues of the rest of the world.

There are ways to immigrate to Canada. Canadian permanent residency operates on a points system, based on skills and things like that. Your children may also be interested in going to university in Canada, which may be a good opportunity for them to immerse themselves in Canadian culture for a few years on a "trial basis". Almost all of Canada's universities are public institutions and the tuition for non-Canadians is quite reasonable compared to domestic tuition at US universities, especially after considering the exchange rate.

I'm sure immigration is not easy, but I feel they could make it. Am I deluding myself?

I immigrated from the USA to Canada about 15 years ago (for work, aged 30) and am now a naturalized Canadian citizen. I love Canada. In my own personal experience, living in Canada has not been a substantially greater culture-shock than living in a different region of the US from the one I grew up in. (This will of course depend on your own personality and culture.) I think the most challenging aspect has been living far from relatives.
posted by heatherlogan at 9:03 AM on December 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

I reverse immigrated, and when I go home to Canada to visit, here are some things I see differently than I used to (after having lived in the states for almost 30 years):

--Canadians have a more collectivist culture, a little less me and more we. Yes, children there still dream of being fantastically famous and wealthy, but, it is mostly just that, a dream. By and large Canadians are happy to get a good government, union job and live the dream of extra-curricular winter recreational activities and family life. (If your kids are inclined to languages, they absolutely should learn French, it is a major plus for government work no matter where in Canada you live).

--Healthcare. There is nothing that can prepare anyone for what it is like to show up at a doctor's office or hospital, and just get the care you need, free of charge. Nothing can explain how that affects your entire life, from cradle to grave. How healthcare is not tied to your job or your bank account.

--Canada is not a melting pot. Immigrants can and do retain their cultural identity, and then simply overlay the Canadian part. For example, every summer in the city I grew up in there is something called Folklorama, kind of like a mini-expo where people set up pavilions around the city celebrating food, dance and music of their country. It is a very popular event and pavilions spend the entire year rehearsing for it.

--Canada is much more secular, and there is a general agreement that in public life that is expected and non-negotiable.

-- Racism. There is no getting around it. There is a reckoning happening now in Canada regarding Aboriginal genocide and oppression, and it is not pretty. It has never been pretty. I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I go home to visit and see the tragedy and wreckage that continues, and the disregard of most Canadians to the suffering in their midst.

I could go on and on, but that is off the top of my head.
posted by nanook at 9:48 AM on December 5, 2021 [19 favorites]

Best answer: My wife immigrated from the USA about fifteen years ago, under the spousal category, and is now a dual citizen.

In no particular order, here are some of her reflections on Canadian culture vs the USA:

-since you mentioned it first, gun violence is much rarer (but not unknown) and access to guns is more restricted; we do not know anyone that owns a gun (or at least is open about it) and gun culture does not really exist here the way it does in the US. It's worth noting that in the North, use of rifles and shotguns for hunting /protection is very common.

-Socialized health care is as comforting as noted above BUT BUT BUT it does not cover dental, prescription or vision care for adults between 16 and 65 who are not on welfare; most people have private plans from their employers to cover those costs. It can be challenging sometimes to see specialists or access elective / non-urgent surgeries; you'll eventually get them, but it may take a while.

-White Anglo Canadian culture is pretty similar to blue state UMC white culture in the USA - you have many of the same status symbols and lifestyle markers (Pelotons, NYTimes subscriptions, Teslas or Priuses in the driveways, iPhones in the hands, Hate Has No Home Here lawn signs) as you find in similar US neighborhoods. Likewise, although this is far less common than in the States, some "red state" Canadians have adopted similar American symbols (I've seen Trump and Confederate flags and bumper stickers out in the country, not two hours' drive from downtown Toronto).

-By and large Canadians watch the same shows and movies, play the same sports, and listen to the same music as Americans. Hockey culture is omnipresent, but the significant investment for equipment means that many Canadians tend not to play it outside of casual games.

-until very recently, the big sales were on Boxing Day, not Black Friday.

-The big cities are extremely diverse, on par with the major US hubs, but the rural areas seem to be
more homogenous than comparable areas in the US, outside of the First Nation (Native) reserves.

-Speaking of the First Nations, the country is undergoing a profound shift in consciousness towards them and their treatment by European and European-descended settlers and their governments. It remains to be seen how much of the reaction from white Canada is genuine commitment to reconciliation and how much of it is rhetoric.

-Although Canada is officially ruled by Queen Elizabeth as Queen of Canada, you will not often see evidence of this connection outside of certain contexts (the currency, government offices, passports etc). If you become a Canadian citizen, you will swear allegiance to the Queen (there has been some talk of changing this). This connection will probably recede further into the background after Elizabeth dies, but the consensus is that would be extremely difficult politically to remove the Crown algotether - on par with trying to get a controversial Constitutional amendment approved nowadays.

-Canadians think about the US a lot more than Americans think about Canada, which maybe isn't too surprising. Upon finding out you're American, you may get asked point blank what you think of the President, or who you voted for, in settings where you were not expecting those questions (my wife got this A LOT during the Trump years).

And two lighter ones:

-the best fast food actually owned by Canadians in Canada is A&W (Tim Hortons is now owned by international capital and the food quality has gone through the floor).

-Speaking of the British connection, Canadian lawyers don't wear wigs in court but they still wear court dress.
posted by fortitude25 at 12:06 PM on December 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

So I have a rare cancer and am on a cancer support board with patients from all over the world. This cancer is currently considered incurable and requires lifetime treatment. Patients in the US often consult with multiple specialists to try to determine the best course of treatment for their version of this cancer (my oncologist told me that one reason outcomes are so unpredictable is that it's actually several different diseases and they haven't teased out the differences yet). One thing that was a surprise for me is that patients with my cancer in Canada don't have to worry about cost as much, but they also don't have anywhere near the choices that patients in the US have for treatment. I've heard many Canadians say that they need to follow a particular protocol because they are in Canada. I also read an interview with a US doctor who said that it's frustrating for him to consult with Canadian patients because they may not have access to the drugs he thinks are best for them. These drugs can run $30,000 a month or more and if you're lucky and it keeps working, treatment will last for years, so only the very wealthiest people can pay out of pocket. (And of course access in the US can depend on how good one's health insurance is.)

The Canadians on this board seem to think that their treatment is fine and they prefer the lack of choice to having to worry about health insurance coverage the way US patients do. But I think the lack of choice would bother me a lot.

This kind of situation may never affect you, but it was a big surprise to me to discover this difference in healthcare, since I always assumed socialized medicine had to be better. And it probably is better for most people. It might be worth looking into more.
posted by FencingGal at 3:08 PM on December 5, 2021

Response by poster: Is it possible to purchase health insurance in Canada?
posted by GliblyKronor at 3:13 PM on December 5, 2021

Yes it is possible to purchase what's called "supplemental" health insurance in Canada. Through my workplace I have supplemental health insurance which covers things like dental care, prescription drugs, optometry, physiotherapy (with a referral, at like 80%), etc. The provincial health insurance system covers GP visits, hospital stuff, some vaccinations, etc. You will not be bankrupted by medical expenses in Canada unless you go abroad and pay out of pocket for some kind of treatment or drug that is not approved by Health Canada.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

It is possible to purchase it through a workplace - but, there is typically a minimum number of plan members required - I say this as an independant consultant - so my little company simply does not have enough people. Occasionally, if I am sub-contracting through a bigger agency, they offer it - and I buy-in. But, for me that is the exception, rather than the rule.

In-theory - you can re-claim some of your direct-paid medical expenses back off your yearly taxes - but there is a minimum amount, and I have never reached that.
posted by rozcakj at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2021

Keep in mind that as a US citizen living in Canada, you have to pay taxes to the IRS and to the Canada revenue agency.

Reddit has some good info too.
posted by foxjacket at 10:08 AM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: Most Canadians live close to the US border. We've grown up with American TV , music, sports fashion etc.
We use a strange mixture of imperial and metric units.
We buy our gas in liters , but still talk about gas mileage.
I know I'm 5 foot 11 tall, but have no idea what that is in metric. I'd have to check my driver's license.

The country is officially bilingual. But reality is there are a few areas that are truly bilingual, Many will be English or French only.

Our politics by American standards is pretty left wing.
The NDP is off the scale left by American standards . I can't think of a comparable party in the US.

But historically Canada has a conservative streak.
After all it's the Americans who were the revolutionaries.

The US has their right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness, The Canadian equivalent is more prosaic: peace ,order and good government.

One thing specifically banned in the US constitution, we retained until 1985 . That was the use of writs of assistance carried by an RCMP officer etc. In effect blank search warrants.
Gives the bearer of the writ the right to search, to enter etc.

In Canada the Crown ( prosecutor) can appeal a jury aquittal and a new trial can be ordered.
In the US that would be considered double jeopardy. Not available to the prosecutor.

We have a not withstanding clause, which if used, means this is still the law regardless of it violating the Charter of Rights

In 1970 The present Prime Minister' s father Pierre was asked how far he would go in response to FLQ activity.
His response was "Just watch me" and he declared the War Measures Act.
Which suspended habeas corpus, allowed for arrest and no bail for up to 90 days and no lawyers
Almost 500 people were arrested
Also resulted in a military presence in the streets of some cities.

Polls at the time showed 85% of the population was in favour of it.

As I said there's a conservative element in Canadian law ,history, society, not a revolutionary one.
posted by yyz at 2:51 PM on December 6, 2021

For your kids, depending on what field they want to go into, they might end up back in the US. As a Canadian expat in the US, I think about 5% of the other expats I know have moved back, though our parents are all hoping for this percentage to increase as we get older lol. Mid to late 20s is kind of an unusual time to move back to Canada - it's more likely to happen later, when you have kids. But if your kids are set on moving to Canada, they should look at the points system and pick an educational and career path that will make it easy for them.
posted by airmail at 3:01 PM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: To add to that, I went to a regular public high school in the suburbs of Toronto, and ~50% of my most talented classmates currently don't live in Canada. What I'm saying is that your immigration plans shouldn't depend on what your children do in their 20s.
posted by airmail at 3:14 PM on December 6, 2021

I am the daughter of a US immigrant to Canada, although my mom immigrated in the 70s so culturally that may be a very different experience than someone making that move today.

One thing that has been vexxing to her (and many other holders of dual citizenship) is that you still have file taxes in both countries. My mom pays a significant amount of money to file each year, despite getting no benefits and not having earned income in the US in decades. I think the process of renouncing citizen is difficult, so you may have the experience of having one foot in Canada and one foot in the US for a very long time - both legally and culturally.

Another good source to immerse yourself in some of the debates and history would be the Canadaland podcasts. The Backbench is a pretty accessable look at federal politics and Commons goes through a great deal of history on sort of niche but still pretty significant topics, like the current season on mining.

Finally, as an Albertan who has also lived in Ontario and BC, and visited Atlantic Canada, your experience if you move here will differ a lot depending on the region. Just like the climate, political and social culture, etc of say, Santa Cruz differs from Lynchberg, differs from Newark. Canada has regional subcultures influence our points of view. Most notably, Quebec, but to a certain extent in other provinces as well. You may find one area suits you more than others.
posted by Kurichina at 2:29 PM on December 10, 2021

« Older Bird ID question   |   Stories of a gentle siege Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.