Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Disgruntled Democrats Can't Get Into Canada So Easily

Unhappy Democrats Need to Wait to Get Into Canada
Wed Nov 3, 2004 01:16 PM ET
By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Disgruntled Democrats seeking a safe Canadian haven
after President Bush won Tuesday's election should not pack their bags
just yet.

Canadian officials made clear on Wednesday that any U.S. citizens so fed
up with Bush that they want to make a fresh start up north would have to
stand in line like any other would-be immigrants -- a wait that can take
up to a year.

"You just can't come into Canada and say 'I'm going to stay here'. In
other words, there has to be an application. There has to be a reason why
the person is coming to Canada," said immigration ministry spokeswoman
Maria Iadinardi.

There are anywhere from 600,000 to a million Americans living in Canada, a
country that leans more to the left than the United States and has
traditionally favored the Democrats over the Republicans.

But recent statistics show a gradual decline in U.S. citizens coming to
work in Canada, which has a creaking publicly funded healthcare system and
relatively high levels of personal taxation.

Government officials, real estate brokers and Democrat activists said that
while some Americans might talk about a move to Canada rather than living
with a new Bush administration, they did not expect a mass influx.

"It's one thing to say 'I'm leaving for Canada' and quite another to
actually find a job here and wonder about where you're going to live and
where the children are going to go to school," said one government
official.

Roger King of the Toronto-based Democrats Abroad group said he had heard
nothing to back up talk of a possible exodus of party members.

"I imagine most committed Democrats will want to stay in the United States
and continue being politically active there," he told Reuters.

Americans seeking to immigrate can apply to become permanent citizens of
Canada, a process that often takes a year. Becoming a full citizen takes a
further three years.

The other main way to move north on a long-term basis is to find a job,
which in all cases requires a work permit. This takes from four to six
months to come through.

Official statistics show the number of U.S. workers entering Canada
dropped to 15,789 in 2002 from 21,627 in 2000. Early indicators on
Wednesday showed little sign of this changing.

A spokesman for Canada's foreign affairs ministry said there had been no
increase in the number of hits on the Washington embassy's immigration Web
site, while housing brokers said they doubted they would see a surge in
U.S. business.

"Canada's always open and welcoming to Americans who want to relocate
here, but we don't think it would be a trend or movement," said Gino
Romanese of Royal Lepage Residential Real Estate Services in Toronto.

Those wishing to move to Canada could always take a risk and claim refugee
status -- the path chosen earlier this year by two U.S. deserters who
opposed the war in Iraq.

"Anybody who enters Canada who claims refugee status will be provided with
a work permit ... it doesn't matter what country they're from," Iadinardi
said.

Refugee cases are handled by special boards, which can take months to
decide whether to admit applicants. The rulings can be appealed and
opposition politicians complain some people ordered deported have been in
Canada for 10 years or more.