Canada welcomes a small group of refugees but its telegenic new PM puts on a big show.
Right after Donald Trump’s Super Tuesday series of primary electoral wins this month, Australian comic Adam Hills beseeched viewers of his UK talk show The Last Leg to give Canadians a leg up through his “Brickstarter” campaign.
“If I was Canada I’d be worried,” he joked. “They’re going to face an influx of refugees – and they are harder to look after than any other refugees because they need way more food. Plus Americans don’t speak basic English, they carry more guns and they refuse to assimilate with other cultures. That’s why we here at ‘The Last Leg’ have decided to help Canada build a wall. We would like everyone in the world to pledge a brick to help keep Americans in America. And to do it, we’ve set up a website“.
From there, viewers were directed to click on a brick, which set off a braying moose.
At the time of this writing, 27,118,282 of the estimated 1.545 billion bricks required to protect Canada from the American hordes have been virtually laid.
Meanwhile, just about every network and newspaper, including such venerable organs as The New York Times and The Washington Post, have done stories on how Google “move to Canada” searches have hit record high spikes of more than 1,000 percent in the United States.
Some news organisations are offering guides to obtaining residency status. Immigration lawyers have been interviewed. CNN sent a crew to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia where, half in jest, a local radio announcer set up an If Donald Trump Wins website inviting Americans to come on up to its craggy Atlantic coast.
Canadian crews covered CNN’s coverage. And there is considerable speculation that all the interest has caused problems for Citizen and Immigration Canada‘s internet servers – although this “internal technical issue” persists well after the Google searches have subsided.
It's not as if we're waiting around with outstretched parka-covered arms, ready to pour maple syrup-laced hot drinks and hand out free health cards when Americans pull up in their pick-up trucks.
At the same time, and thanks to fawning coverage including, a CBS 60 Minutes profile of charismatic Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who is on an official visit to Washington this week – the move to Canada momentum has not slowed.
It’s one thing for late night comics, social media and infotainment websites to make much of the “move to Canada” theme. But, when supposedly sobre news sources treat it seriously, then it points to the utter bankruptcy in the US corporate media’s coverage of the Republican frontrunner who, at least from his boldest critics in the alternate media, is drawing comparisons to Hitler for his race-baiting, and Fascist-style saluting.
When a presidential candidate boasts about the size of his genitals during a televised debate, you know that the US political process is in the toilet.
There’s nobody to blame but the US corporate media. They helped to create the Trump brand in the greed-is-good, go-go 1980s, dutifully promoted all his failed enterprises through the 1990s, rewarded him with a primetime reality show in the 2000s that made him out to be a successful business mogul and, then, when he jumped into the presidential ring last year, allowed him free reign simply because the guy gets good ratings.
As CBS chairman and chief executive Les Moonves told The Hollywood Reporter last month, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us,” he continued, adding that the “money’s rolling in. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”
No wonder that distinguished media critic and author Neal Gabler wrote for the progressive CommonDreams.org last week: “The media should be pounding Trump not for his bloviation or his braggadocio or his bad manners or even his implied racism and explicit nativism. They should be pounding him for what he purports he will do as president. But they don’t, and Trump knows they won’t. He knows he can easily bulldoze the press because it is too cowardly to take him on face to face …”
And so, it’s easier, safer, to rely on celebrities like pop diva Cher or actor Sam Jackson threatening to leave the country or even the planet if Trump puts his name in neon lights on the White House. Media get two-for-one: Celebrity trash with risk-free, at least for journalists, Trump criticism.
Of course, Americans fleeing over the world’s longest undefended border for political reasons is nothing new. In the aftermath of the American Revolution, some 100,000 British loyalists rejected the ideas and ideologies of Age of Enlightenment philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau for king and plots of farmland in the Canadian countryside.
During the Vietnam War, Canada profited from the talents of tens of thousands of draft dodgers or resisters who remained in the Great Pink North. As for more recent years, there were vows to quit the US in 2004 when George W Bush was up for re-election, and then again in 2012 when it seemed like US President Barack Obama might win back the White House.
Since then, the exchange of citizens each way has been steady, if not overwhelming. Right now, about 10,000 Americans seek residency here annually while about 13,000 head south.
The thing is, it’s not easy to move to Canada. It’s not as if we’re waiting around with outstretched parka-covered arms, ready to pour maple syrup-laced hot drinks and hand out free health cards when Americans pull up in their pick-up trucks.
Immigration here can cost thousands of dollars, require reams of form-filling and take years. And, after Stephen Harper’s Conservative government tightened up rules three years ago, only the educated, elite and privileged are truly welcomed – despite our much-publicised acceptance of Syrian refugees.
Just as well. The “move to Canada” tide is turning on social media with many progressive American Tweeters urging their fellow citizens who claim that they will abandon ship if Trump triumphs to instead stand and fight for good government and a better political system.
Which is why, four years ago during the last US presidential election, American stand-up Hari Kondabolu called it in an expletitive-filled routine: “You’re not moving to Canada! No one’s moving to Canada. I hate to break this to you, but Canada doesn’t have a special visa for American liberal cowards.”
Antonia Zerbisias is an award-winning Canadian journalist. She has been a reporter and TV host for the Toronto Star, the CBC, as well as the Montreal correspondent for Variety trade paper.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.