So You Want to Move to Canada: A Field Guide for American Catholics

So You Want to Move to Canada: A Field Guide for American Catholics November 9, 2016

Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis.
Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis.

Hello, America.

So, for whatever reason you’ve suddenly got your heart set on making the move to Canada.

Your northern neighbour.

The one you didn’t even really notice was there until you suddenly needed somewhere to flee for your life.

Ah, it’s OK. One of the many things you’ll learn about Canada—and Canadians—is just how gosh darn forgiving and tolerant we are, as a rule.

But, hang on, before you stuff your ever-depreciating American dollars into a nondescript duffel bag and hightail it to the border there are a few things you need to know about your Canadian Catholic compatriots.

Don’t worry, we don’t bite.


 1. You Can’t Bring Your Guns

First of all, y’all need to know that you can’t pack your firearms.

Nope, you can’t. Forget about it. All the signs at our borders—where signs exist—say so.

Surprisingly, Canada has very sensible laws which place heavy restrictions on any sort of gun ownership in the Great White North. Such restrictions logically result in far fewer gun-related deaths in Canada—according to some studies Americans are seven times more likely to be killed by a gun than Canadians.

Afraid that without your guns your property might be seized and your family dragged to their deaths in the middle of the night? Don’t be. It won’t happen.

This is Canada.

Leave your guns at home.


2. Abortion is Legal

The hot button issue for American Catholics this election has been the candidates’ stance on abortion.

One candidate has been squarely in favour of maintaining and strengthening a woman’s right to abort her unborn baby. This is unfortunate—to say the least—and in the eye’s of the Catholic Church, completely reprehensible.

The other candidate used to support abortion rights but clumsily changed his mind when the winds of opportunity blew his way.

In either case, American Catholics making the move should know that in Canada abortion is legal.

Has been for a long time, in fact.

And, disappointing for Canadian Catholics, not even our so-called Conservative Party opposes its practice having removed their official pro-life position from their party platform prior to the last election.

In fact, none of our three major political parties oppose abortion and none have the appetite to make it into any kind of serious issue; so what do Canadian Catholics do?

We pray. We seek out and support vulnerable pregnant women and offer them support through well-funded crisis centres. We counsel and comfort. We publicly and passionately share our beliefs in spite of it.

And are we making a difference?

God only knows but it’s how things are in Canada.

Just so you know.


3. So Is Same-Sex Marriage

American Catholics concerned about societal denigration as a result of same-sex marriage should be aware, too, that this sort of thing has been legal in Canada for ages.

And, like abortion, while it might be the de facto norm in Canada with no political will to make a change that doesn’t mean that Canadian Catholics have to simply go with the flow.

Hardly the case.

While respecting the rights and beliefs of others, we Canadian Catholics remain morally opposed to marriage outside of the original intent of our Creator. And, so, we Catholics carry on.

We respect the rights of those outside the Church and cling to our own definition of what marriage means to us, Catholics. And as many of our well-conceived and traditional views come under fire we continue to hold fast, to pray for our leaders, and to work to try and make ourselves understood—politely, of course, we’re Canadian after all.

And, really, society isn’t falling apart it’s just changing—after all, Jesus warned us to expect this, right?

We Canadian Catholics are simply less of the world when the world doesn’t reflect our beliefs.


4. We’re Legalizing Marijuana Too

Like many states, the current Canadian government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making sweeping changes to Canadian law in order to legalize the use of marijuana effectively turning our entire country into one great big Amsterdam.

And I’ve been to Amsterdam.

But OK, so it’s not that bad it’s being legalized nonetheless.

What’s important for American Catholics moving up north to know is that our bishops, priests, and ordinary Catholic folk are vocally and vehemently opposing morally dicey moves like this despite their inevitability.

We do what we can by writing letters, speaking out, foisting the remarkably clear scientific data into the hands of our elected officials.

Oh, and we pray.

And while the legalization of marijuana seems like a done deal maybe it’s not, and if it is we carry on. We don’t, as Catholics, have any obligation to use marijuana and neither do you although we can all continue to vocally oppose it.


5. Oh, and Euthanasia is Also Allowed

Which brings me to my next point: it’s also legal to kill yourself in Canada.

Despite a widespread outcry from Canadian Catholics—including yours truly—our new liberal government has already passed legislation which legalizes the so-called right to die in Canada.

At this point the right is reserved for Canadians near the end of their lives and suffering significant pain but lawmakers suggest it could be—and will be—expanded by the courts once these restrictions are challenged. Many suggest the right to death may even be opened up to youths and folks who aren’t even sick but simply done living.

It’s disappointing, frustrating, and moves like these serve to shift our country further and further from our founding principles but what can we, Canadian Catholics, do?

Well, we’re doing it.

We’re praying for those thinking about ending their lives and seeking ways to counsel them. We’re building and staffing hospice centres—alternative places where Canadians can die with dignity, naturally. We’re speaking out, reaching out, and establishing norms for how we respond with kindness, compassion, and Christian love and many of our bishops conferences have written beautifully and poignantly on how to assist those looking to die as a Catholic.

We’re acting like Jesus by demonstrating love without shying away from honest and authoritative teaching.


6. We Just Let In Tons of Terrorists

Important to note, as well, is Canada’s strong stance on immigration and multiculturalism.

As you flee to Canada it’s important to note that you aren’t the only one we’re letting into our fine country, and you won’t be the last.

In fact, as a certain Republican presidential candidate was advocating for the erection of an immigrant-repelling wall and a complete ban on Muslim immigration our Prime Minister was making our borders more porous.

To date, Canada has welcomed 33,723 Syrian refugees with another 25,000 on their way.

Remarkably, the Canadian government has struggled to keep up with the demand for Syrian refugee families. Many groups, predominantly Christian churches, are clamouring for refugees to fill the beds in houses they’ve bought, apartments they’ve rented, and bedrooms they’ve made available for those looking for a safe place to live.

Afraid of terrorism?

All of the refugees fleeing incredible danger and violence in their homeland have been thoroughly screened and vetted by Canadian officials. For the most part they themselves are the ones fleeing from terrorists. And, in fact, they’re all really nice too.

Some live just down the street from us in a couple of houses sponsored by a local church.

American Catholics immigrating to Canada may cast a bit of a wary eye at such an influx of refugees flooding across our borders and wonder how safe it is to live amongst these newcomers but, be warned, these newcomers might feel the same way about you, too.

And let’s be real, Americans, who’s more dangerous?


7. We Have Pretty High Taxes

Many Americans fleeing to Canada may be surprised to learn that Canada has quite a high tax rate. This is sensibly maintained in order to afford us some of the best-rated health care and education rates in the world.

In fact, we’re amongst the most well-educated and healthy on the planet—and our roads are pretty good, too.

And despite what you may have heard about the Canadian healthcare system it’s actually quite remarkable.

I can visit a doctor anywhere in the country, for any particular reason, for absolutely no fee at all.

One time I had to have nasal surgery related to allergies; I didn’t pay a sent and was sent home with some pretty fine drugs, too.

And maybe I’d have to wait a bit longer in Canada for an entirely elective surgery like getting the size of my nose reduced this is a fair and fine trade off, in my opinion, for such a robust and responsive system.

And did I mention it’s free?


8. Our Church is Thriving

So, in a country where many of the laws of the land don’t reflect our Catholic values, why would an American Catholic choose to flee north?

Well, we’re still kinda nice people.

And you can buy milk in a bag up here.

And, really, the Catholic Church is thriving.

In this strange land where Catholics have found some way to continue to practice their faith in spite of political obstacles we’re actually all pretty great.

There are loads of vibrant parishes and Christian communities and don’t forget that Matt Maher was born here.

Canada might not exactly be the kind of refuge you’re looking for: our laws are everything that many American Catholics are opposed to, and they’re getting worse; we just let in a complete smoozle of what many of y’all would possibly consider to be super dangerous terrorists; and we give away free health care.

But we’re not all that bad.

Canada is a great place and there are many incredible Catholics up here, too.

Do you guys know Sister Helena Burns?

And, at any rate, you don’t have to stay forever. We’re a welcoming bunch. Fair, polite, and tolerant.

And faithful.

We’d be happy to have you even in the short term, say, for four years or so? And, who knows, maybe you’ll even want to stay longer.


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