Column: How to move to Canada: don’t

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Just over a year ago, Canadians elected a young progressive man named Justin Trudeau as our Prime Minister. His message of hope, equality and acceptance resonated with Canadians, who rejected the Islamophobic rhetoric of his challenger. Yesterday, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, and I was shocked. A one hour drive south from my home in Ottawa, Canada would take me to a country which now has a leader with values entirely opposite of the man we chose. Donald Trump rejects progress and instead wants to take us back to a time when America was “great.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when Trump says “great,” what he really means is “oppressed” or even “white.” How can two countries so close in proximity, so similar in demographic, choose a leader so vastly different?

Last night, as the results poured in, and it was realized that Trump would become the leader of the free world, the Canadian immigration site crashed, Google searches on “how to move to Canada” spiked and social media was full of young, progressives threatening to move up North. Americans weren’t alone in thinking an escape might be the only solution. As the night went on, people began to ask me if I would return home, and I strongly considered it; it would be nice to escape the message of hate spreading across the United States and find solace in my liberal bubble. Then, I received a text from a friend back in Canada, simply asking “You ok?”

While my response to the question at the time was no, that isn’t really true. I am a white, upper-middle-class woman. My whole life has been privileged because of this. Despite not being an American citizen, no one has ever told me to get out of their country, nor have I ever been asked to state my religion, or apologize for the crimes of my people. Hell, with my blonde hair and blue eyes, I could easily pass for a Fox News contributor. I’m not a target here, I’m going to be just fine.

What I worry about during this Trump presidency is not myself, but rather the groups of people whom Trump and his Republican cohorts have chosen to mark as “other.”

I fear for the trans people in this country, who already experience violence and hate crimes on a level high-surpassing any other group; who face job discrimination, police brutality and have a suicide rate more than 25 times the rate of the general population. This group of people who have fought so hard to have their voices heard now have a president who has said that states should have the right to enact anti-trans bills like North Carolina’s HB 2, which accused transgender people of being perverts playing dress up so that they can spy on people’s kids in the bathroom. I fear for the entire LGBTQ community, who has seen progress, albeit not enough, over the last few decades and who will now have a “traditionalist” president who once compared gay people to golf, citing their long putters and inability to sink three-footers. And will now have a vice-president who wanted to send money allocated to care for people with AIDS/HIV to organizations which provide conversion therapy.

I fear for the men on planes, kicked off for speaking in Arabic, or for drawing math equations because they “looked like terrorists.” I worry for refugees, who fled their country out of fear for their lives, who left their homes because they didn’t know when the next attack would come, and will now live with that same horror. These people left to escape extremism, and now find themselves trapped in the middle of it all over again in a country ruled by a man who has pledged to ban Muslims from entering the country,

I fear for black men, who are stopped and arrested at a high rate and are already dealing with implicit bias shown through a series of murders by cops on unarmed black men. I fear for black parents, who have to sit their children down and explain to them how to hold their hands when they encounter a police officer, regardless of whether they did anything wrong, who instruct them on how to move and how to speak, who teach them to ask permission before reaching for their identification, and essentially raise them to fear the police. I fear for them more knowing that our president believes in stop-and-frisk, a policy ruled unconstitutional three years ago.

I fear for every minority, every person who has ever been targeted for being different or “other.” I fear for the kids who are exposed to growing rates of bullying, a factor experts are calling the “Trump Factor.” I fear for the voiceless, the powerless and the undermined.

The people who spent election night googling “how to move to Canada” are not really the people who most desperately need saving from this president. They are mostly white and privileged, just like me. I came to the United States with the hopes of pursuing a career in human rights law, and if this election has done anything, it is to reaffirm how badly this country needs people dedicated to the fight for human rights and justice for all. This country needs people to stand up and fight, not run away.

So my plea to all Americans who are disgusted by Trump and all that he has done is this: don’t run to Canada, we don’t need you there. Instead, stay and get loud. Make it clear that your country is not one of fear and hate, and that you will not stand for the rhetoric Donald Trump has been spewing. The voice of hate must be drowned out by that of love and acceptance. If your voice is in Canada, it won’t do your country much good.

Madi Pulfer can be contacted at [email protected]

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