Dear Americans, don't move to Canada – my country is not your consolation prize

As much as Canadians can empathise with those who don’t want to live in a country under Donald Trump’s rule, living in Canada is a huge privilege – one that hundreds of thousands of people from around the world vie for each year 

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The Independent Online

Distraught Americans hoping to hop the border in the wake of Donald Trump’s election were scouring the web for ways to move to Canada in such high numbers the country’s immigration site crashed.

I can understand why they would want to leave; like much of the world, I too will be fearfully watching and waiting to see what a Trump presidency might actually look like. His victory alone feels like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel even Orwell wouldn't want to write. 

But for those who are suddenly looking to the Great White North (that’s Canada, by the way) as some sort of consolation prize, I hate to break it to you: living in and becoming a citizen of my home country is a privilege hundreds of thousands of people from around the world vie for each year.

Canadians can be a modest bunch, but most of us are acutely aware of the fact that we live in one of the best places in the world geographically, politically and culturally speaking. And the rest of the planet seems to agree. 

In worldwide rankings, Canada consistently comes out on top. Our country was declared the second best in the world at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, which ranks nations based on 75 factors, including sustainability, cultural influence and economic influence. The US wasn't too far behind, coming in fourth. Of course, that could be set to change in coming years.

In other rankings, the margin widens. The Economist places Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary among the top five most “liveable” cities in the world, based on stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. Not a single US city makes even the top 10. 

Canada was also named the sixth happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report, with the US lagging behind in 13th place. All this is to say that rather than looking down on Canada as a soft place to land for Americans ready to hit the ejection button, perhaps it’s worth considering the North might have a thing or two to teach its neighbours further south, if they were willing to listen.

Donald Trump has promised to restore the US to “greatness”, but every time I hear the now President-elect and his supporters call out that famous slogan “Make America great again”, I can't help but wonder what their definition of a “great” country really is. 

I'll be the first to admit Canada is not perfect – it has a long way to go on a range of domestic challenges, especially when it comes to the government’s relationship with Indigenous communities. But ultimately, what makes Canada great, besides its stunning landscapes and decent healthcare system, is that it is a country that has in large part chosen hope over fear, championing diversity as our strength, rather than striving to eradicate it, and fighting to elevate vulnerable members of society, rather than villainise them for the country’s shortcomings. 

Canada’s bid to maintain its status as a “cultural mosaic” isn’t just lip service. The country has already committed to accepting 300,000 immigrants in the coming year, with at least 120,000 expected to be refugees and those seeking family reunification.

So to those of you looking to bow out of the political storm that’s brewing and flee to Canada: please don’t – not only for the reason that club Canada is actually not as easy to get into as so many Americans seem to think (no, you can't all just show up all at once claiming political asylum.) Mainly, I’d like to see you stay away because the United States of America needs citizens who see greatness in goals like equality, human rights and sustainability. 

America’s decision in this election, as with any US election, will send ripples across the globe that will travel to its furthest reaches and shape the future of generations to come. There is no escaping the aftermath, and its impact will be felt in Canada too. So from one neighbour to another, while we appreciate your interest, it seems your country needs you – much, much more than we do.