The promises arrived, as they tend to, in the weeks and months leading up to the presidential election.
In coffee shops, yoga classes, and social media feeds, countless Americans gamely insisted that if this candidate, or that one, took the White House, they would be packing up and moving to Canada. Their promises, buoyed by similar, mostly breezy assertions by a host of celebrities, seemed to foretell at least a ripple of relocation, no matter how things played out.
Four months after a remarkably contentious election, however, few Bostonians, at least, appear to be making a mad dash for the northern border.
Realtors around the city chuckled when asked whether they’d been inundated with calls from clients looking to sell their homes and move to Canada.
“None of my clients have told me that,” offered Todd Denman, listing and investment specialist on the Santana Properties Team with Keller Williams.
“No one,” said Janet Lamb, vice president at Ford Realty in Beacon Hill.
“Zero,” added Tim Deihl, a real estate broker working in Boston and the surrounding area.
Post-election Canadian immigration figures won’t be available for a few weeks, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Currently, the agency’s statistics regarding the number of Americans who have applied for temporary or permanent residence in Canada date back to September. From January-September. 2016, 5,435 applications for permanent residence had come from the United States, a slight bump from the same time period a year before.
The numbers that have been confirmed regard asylum seekers. According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, at least 450 asylum seekers have crossed illegally into Canada from the US in just the past two months.
But weeks into a presidency that has offered plenty of controversy — divisive policy agendas, droopy approval ratings, reports of behind-the-scenes chaos — few American citizens seem in any hurry to depart.
“Look, there are those who do that,” says Michael Niren, an immigration lawyer and CEO of VisaPlace, which has offices in Toronto and Boca Raton, Fla. “(But) they’re in the minority. They’re really specifically insignificant.”
It has become, in recent years, a sort of tongue-in-cheek rallying cry — a typically empty promise uttered by voters in the run-up to a presidential election: If (fill in the blank candidate) wins, I’m moving to Canada.
But this election season, with its polarizing candidates and uncomfortably intense rhetoric, it seemed to take on an added seriousness.
During Super Tuesday last March, for instance, Google searches for “Move to Canada” spiked to the highest levels in Google history, according to trending data released by the company, with Massachusetts ranking second in searches by state.
There was another surge in such Google searches on Election Night, around the same time the Canadian immigration website reportedly crashed.
So prominent were the moving-to-Canada rumblings that some local real estate firms got in on the action, creating ads aimed at potential departures.
“Leaving the country if Trump or Hillary are elected?” read one online pitch from the Santana Properties Team. “Give us a call — let’s get your house sold.”
For all the bluster, however, the reality so far has been far less eventful.
For one thing: It isn’t easy to pack up and head to Trudeau Country.
Though she did initially field some calls from US citizens inquiring about a potential move north, Julie Taub, a Ottawa-based immigration and refugee lawyer, said the interest fizzled when it became clear what kinds of logistical issues a move to Canada would present.
“The major issue, I think, was finding equivalent employment in Canada,” says Taub. “Obviously, a practicing lawyer in the United States is not allowed to practice law in Ottawa or (elsewhere in Canada). So it didn’t take very long for them to realize that it wasn’t that easy.”
What’s more, getting Canadian citizenship is no foregone conclusion.
Ronalee Carey, a Canadian immigration attorney, says individuals contacting her office are often surprised to learn that being American — or having lived, worked, or studied in the US — doesn’t result in any preferred status when applying for Canadian residency. What’s more, says Niren, the process, even if it is ultimately successful, can take a matter of months or years.
“If you have a job offer in Canada, especially in a highly skilled position, yeah, we can typically get you through,” he says. “But the average Joe on the street? If they’re not married to a Canadian, it’s going to be a tough road.”
“Your dislike for the president,” he adds, “is not grounds for approval.”
There have been some exceptions, of course.
The Seattle Times reported recently that Vancouver has seen an influx of highly educated, foreign-born US tech industry workers since the election. In the past year, there has also been an increase in the number of people crossing the border from the US into Canada illegally and seeking asylum. According to figures from the Canada Border Services Agency, reported by Public Radio International, more than 1,200 people illegally entered Quebec in 2016, nearly five times more than the previous year.
Of course, there is always a chance that any Canadian-bound Americans might be simply biding their time, and that a slightly larger migration might be possible yet.
As realtor Mary Lindsay of Ottawa’s John Lindsay Group points out, “It’s (still) winter time. Canada isn’t really attractive in the winter.”Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.