Back on the Underground again

1852, Chatham, Ontario, Canada

“Many a time I have looked out in the moonlight and seen my little children, just able to walk in the fields, carrying buckets of water.  They used to carry the buckets on their heads.  They would wear off their hair and I used to make pads to protect the sore places.  Where I was raised, my children were often whipped till the blood ran.” (Mary Younger, ex-slave)

1852, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“There is a great difference in the modes of treating slaves, according to the character of the owners….I saw a man in Savannah who had been whipped severely and thrust into a dark hole or dungeon in a cellar.  Maggots got into his flesh and he was offensive to the senses….I saw a Methodist minister who had a colored woman for a cook.  Something which her mistress told her to cook did not suit.  The mistress complained to the minister.  He shut up the cook in a stable and beat her having first tied something over her mouth.” (Patrick Snead, ex-slave)

1852, London, Ontario, Canada

“I was longer on the road than I should have been with my burden: one child was 9 months old, one 2 years old, and one 4.  The weather was cold and my feet were frostbitten as I gave my wife my socks to pull on over her shoes. With all the sufferings of the frost and the fatigues of travel, it still was not as bad as slavery.” (Henry Morehead, fugitive / ex-slave)

Ignorance is as strong a weapon as the whip in keeping slaves in bondage.  I was told before I left Virginia – heard it as common talk – that the wild geese were so numerous in Canada and so bad that they would scratch a man´s eyes out.  Corn wouldn´t grow there nor anything else but rice.  Everything else had to be imported.” (Dan Josiah Lockhart, fugitive slave)

1858, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada

Harriet Tubman moved back to Bucktown, Maryland, after an illustrious career as a “conductor” on the Underground Railway, bringing escaped slaves from the American south to Canada.

The Underground Railway was a route fugitive slaves used to flee from former masters.

The “tracks” were lined with abolutionists who sheltered slaves from the clutches of authorities trying to return them to bondage.

“I wouldn´t trust Uncle Sam with my people no longer….I brought them all clear off to Canada.” (Harriet Tubman)

By 1860 about 75,000 fugitive American slaves were living in Ontario.

Canada was Canaan the Promised Land, the northern star.

International Underground Railroad Memorial in Windsor, Ontario, Canada

During wartime Canada sheltered millions.

The American Revolution saw Loyalists come to Canada in droves.

Draft dodgers flocked to Canada refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.

“In November 2004, Pam and David Drucker heard the news that would change their lives:

George W. Bush had been re-elected as President of the United States.


A year later, they were on their way to Vancouver to start their new lives.

The Druckers were not alone.

On Election Day 2004, a record-setting 179,000 people visited Canada´s official immigration website, the majority of them Americans.

As Election Day 2016 approaches and anxiety about its outcome grows, many Americans again contemplate fleeing to Canada.

In September 2015, the digital analytics firm Luminoso found that 4% of 4.5 million Donald Trump-related tweets contained threats to leave the country if the billionaire became President.

Trump at lectern before backdrop with elements of logo "TRUMP"

Of those, 250,000 identified Canada as their intended destination.

Talking about relocating to Canada is very trendy at the moment, but actually relocating there…

Not so much.

According to the Canadian government, the number of US immigrants arriving in Canada has remained stable – 9,000 annually – from 2005 to 2014.

It might not be the northern Utopia of their dreams, but those who have made the move say they have never regretted it.

“If Americans want to live in a country where there is an investment in public education, where people aren´t afraid of going bankrupt because they get sick, and where democracry is taken seriously, they should move, because an alternative exists. (Tom Kertes, US immigrant to Canada)

“Leaving behind America´s penchant for authoritarianism, war and inequality was the right call.

I miss the scale and ambition of America´s tech industry, but I wouldn´t trade my life in Vancouver to return to it. 

We integrated easily into Canadian society. 

We learned how to be less arrogant and a bit more gentle and we have even picked up local etiquette and speech patterns. 

Canadians say “Sorry” a lot more than people in the States do. 

They thank the bus driver as they get off the bus. 

In the US if someone says “Thank you” a typical response might be “Sure”. 

That seems awfully brusque in Canada. 

A better response is “No worries”. 

There´s little things like that and if you get those things right you blend in on a day-to-day level.” (Jim DeLaHunt, US engineer / immigrant to Canada)

“When Allan and I moved to Canada from New York City in 2005, we had lost hope in an America plagued by civil liberties crackdowns and endless wars. 

Although I still have my US citizenship, I don´t vote anymore in US elections. 

And whenever I come back to Canada after visiting my family or friends in the States, I breathe a sigh of relief. 

Every time I say, I´m so glad to be out of that crazy country.”

(Laura Kaminker, US immigrant to Canada)

Photo from the TV series Due South

(The Guardian, 1 February 2016)

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 15 June 2016

Your humble blogger, a Canadian resident in Switzerland, is a child of a 4th generation Scottish Canadian and a US immigrant from Manhattan.

I have often been told that I could become an American citizen should I so choose.

And as much as I have enjoyed my travels in the US…

As much as I have met many decent Americans and count some of them as close friends…

I have no desire to immigrate to the States.

Especially now.

America is a land where “slavery” continues – many Americans struggle unsuccessfully to improve their economic conditions and remain heavily in debt.

America is a land of bondage – the US has more prisons and prisoners per capita than any other nation on Earth.

America is a land of inequality – 1% of Americans own much of US wealth while entire neighbourhoods remain blighted and whole generations of Americans are needlessly sacrificed in wars that only profit the 1%.

Most Americans are just ordinary people dealing with limited choices.

America is a land of fear – afraid of others, both domestic and foreign.

I left Canada not because I no longer believed in my home and native land.

I left for the love of a woman who has since become my wife – a choice I seldom regret.

To any Americans reading this blog, let me say I feel for you.

Though it would be painful to leave the US, to leave home…

Remember, an alternative exists.

Eastman Johnson, A Ride for Liberty, Brooklyn Museum





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s