Welcome to Canada!: Neighbors to the north say all are welcome

  • A man is pictured at Legion, a club for veterans, as a mural of the Battle of Vimy Ridge during World War I is seen in the background in Sydney, Canada on Cape Breton island in October 2016. 
  • Americans came to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada the 1970s as a part of the country culture hippie “back to the landers” movement. Pictured here is an instrument maker in October, 2016.
  • A man is pictured on Cabot Trail on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016. The Cabot Trail is a scenic drive on Cape Breton Island that includes Cape Breton Island National Park.
  • A tourist shop is seen on the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016.
  • An abandoned boarded up house is pictured on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016.
  • Attendees of Sunday service at a Ukrainian church are pictured on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016.
  • “Pray for US,” is spelt out on the side of a hill on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016. 
  • A couple dresses up as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to go trick-or-treating with their kids for Halloween in Sydney, Canada on Cape Breton island in October 2016. 

 
  • Two women are pictured at a harvest festival in Polish Club in Sydney, Canada on Cape Breton island in October 2016. 
  • A woman is pictured at a supermarket in Sydney, Canada on Cape Breton island in October 2016. 
  • Coast line of Cabot Trail is pictured on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016. 
  • An American tourist takes pictures at a local museum on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016. 
  • “Lick a Chick” fast food joint is pictured at night in Sydney, Canada on Cape Breton island in October 2016.  
  • Local kids are pictured at the movie theater on Halloween weekend on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016.  
  • Tim Hortons is pictured in Sydney, Canada on Cape Breton island in October 2016.  
  • A young couple dress up as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump while watching Saturday Night Live in Sydney, Canada on Cape Breton island in October 2016.  
  • Coast line of Cabot Trail is pictured on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016. 
  • Americans came to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada the 1970s as a part of the country culture hippie “back to the landers” movement. Pictured here is a Buddhist couple in October, 2016.
  • A family of Syrian refugees that currently live in a church house are pictured on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada. The family arrived to Canada through private sponsorship. 
  • YouTube weatherman and local celebrity, Frankie McDonald crosses the street on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016.
  • “If Trump Wins” t-shirts are on display at a store on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016.
  • A French Canadian woman works the counter at a local shop. In an effort to look for work help the shop started a Facebook campaign offering land for work and two months after it’s launch it received 100K replies. The cashier working is the first woman who was accepted under this program 
  • Radio personality Rob Calabrese, host of Giant Radio, launched the “If Trump wins…” initiative is pictured in Sydney, Canada on Cape Breton island in October 2016.  
  • Americans came to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada the 1970s as a part of the country culture hippie “back to the landers” movement. Pictured here are teachers in October, 2016.
  • Sunday service at a Ukrainian church is pictured on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016.
  • A worker at Fortress of Louisbourg is pictured on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in October 2016. 

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Updated

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – The 2016 presidential contest has been characterized by unpopular candidates, dissatisfied voters and unprecedented controversies. Whether meant in seriousness or in jest, it is not uncommon to hear some Americans quip about moving to a different country to escape the contender they consider to be the greater of two evils. For those who are looking to make a great escape, our neighbors to the north say, “you’re welcome!” 

Cape Breton, a distant portion of the Canadian maritime province of Nova Scotia, is not a new destination for the world’s migrants. The region has seen numerous waves of immigration—with relics and artifacts suggesting Nordic travelers may have come in contact with the land, or Chinese settlers as early as the fourteenth century, according to experts who spoke with Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak.

What has followed, he said, are waves of immigrants seeking refuge – from the Scottish and Irish, to American nationals following the Revolutionary War, and the freeing of slaves. But today, Dworzak said, Cape Breton is being depopulated. 

Like the problem in larger Nova Scotia, young people are moving away, businesses are closing and houses are being shuttered. Currently, the foreign-born population is directly linked to universities, and some who are concerned about what a Donald Trump presidency would look like. Mostly, he said, though no one he spoke with could be directly linked to the “Trump Bump,” the region’s newcomers were migrants from the Asian continent, the Middle East and Mexico, who had originally immigrated to the U.S. 

The so-called “Trump Bump” that has been notable in past months, however, has materialized in the form of tourism, with the industry skyrocketing, and locals welcoming the economic boost.  And with the Cape’s acclaimed seafood restaurants and kayaking adventures, there’s no question it’s a great travel destination.  

It all began earlier this year when a local DJ launched a website called “Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins,” suggesting that Americans could move to Canada if the GOP nominee prevails on Election Day. 

But what began as a joke, Dworzak said, quickly became an industry driver. In fact, Google Data Editor Simon Rogers tweeted on March 1 that the question, “how can I move to Canada?” surged in searches by 350 percent as Super Tuesday results, showing Trump scoring seven primary wins, were reported.  

Over the summer, Destination Cape Breton told CNN that bookings for the island rose between 20 and 200 percent, while searches on the Destination Cape Breton website increased by 600 percent.   

But, the Canadian getaway is not one pursued just by Trump skeptics. 

Critics of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, or those distressed by the American political system at large, are also invited to explore Cape Breton. The town’s website urges Americans to visit, “no matter who you support, be it Democrat, Republican, or Donald Trump.” 

Though they’d prefer, Dworzak said, for Trump not to win, even if it means they’ll lose out on the opportunity to kickstart their economy, the locals—comprised largely of internationals, hippies from the American 1960s and ’70s, and now, as part of the Canadian sponsorship program, Syrians—say any and all are welcome. “It’s the only place in the world where we all come together as refugees,” they said.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

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