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