When Amira Hassan first arrived in Canada with her husband and two children, she was shocked to see a throng of citizens gathered to welcome them and their fellow refugees.
“I had never really heard of Canada,” she says. “I’m embarrassed to say it, but we didn’t get much education about the world outside our borders.”
Amira and her family are among the untold scores of refugees who have sought asylum in Canada, escaping a destabilized country on the brink of disaster.
“Canada is beautiful, and so welcoming,” she says. “It’s like a dream. I keep worrying that I’ll suddenly wake up back in Minnesota.”
As the American presidential election nears, Google is reporting that searches for the phrase “moving to Canada” have increased by 1,000 per cent – a statistic that only scratches the surface of a mass emigration already underway.
Cheat Sheet: The United States of America is a federal republic composed of 50 states, plus several bonus territories, mostly located between Canada and Mexico.
With its head of state set to step down in 2017, a billionaire jester and former television personality, known for his distinctive orange headdress and immunity to shame, has declared his intention to thwart the supposedly rightful ascension of a political dynasty currently in exile.
The polarized political landscape has already crippled regional governance of this once-great nation, the birthplace of jazz, the automobile and comedian Kathy Griffin.
Like so many American refugees, uncertainty swirled around Amira and her family when they decided to leave their home in Duluth, setting out on an ancient and untended interstate, their journey involving weeks of detours with the aim of avoiding methane fires and roving presidential pollsters, all in the hope of starting a new life north of the border.
And they’re not alone. Bill and Nancy Taylor have been living in their car for three weeks, waiting at the border crossing in Niagara Falls, N.Y., sleeping in their car and rationing the last few gallons of their Big Gulp to survive.
Bill says there’s no looking back.
“We have no home to go back to. The soil in our town was fracked to a pulp. Our town hall has been at the bottom of a sinkhole since 2011. Our city council meets in a Walmart break room, but half the town can’t get there because the bridge collapsed. Canada is our only hope.”
The Canadian response has been mixed: despite the government’s commitment and hundreds of communities that have come together to sponsor American families, the waiting list stands at more than 100,000 names and threatens to overwhelm Canadian resources.
The absorption process alone is complex: new immigrants must spend six weeks learning about their new country – units include contrition, apologizing, avoiding confrontation and Tim Hortons.
For many refugees, options are limited. Countries around the world have closed their borders, citing “cultural differences” that would make mass immigration
“When America sends its people, they’re not sending the best,” one foreign minister told The CJN. “They’re sending people with lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them.
They’re bringing guns. They’re bringing OxyContin. They’re bringing Type 2 diabetes. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Some refugees, impatient with Canada’s “women and children first” policy, have turned to a budding network of Canadian “coyotes” – or “moose-herders,” as they’re known here – to smuggle them across the world’s longest unprotected border.
Steven G. arrived in Canada illegally and says the journey still haunts him.
“I’ll never forget that field we had to walk through,” he says, calling it “the longest six minutes of my life.”
“But it was worth it, no question,” he’s quick to add. “Back where I’m from, the mayor got high on bath salts and decided to replace our city’s water supply with Mountain Dew Kickstart. I’m just excited to be living in a country where nothing happens.”
Wry Bread is a satire column from A. David Levine. Follow him on Twitter here.