Meet Americans fleeing Trump — by moving to New Brunswick
Forget Cape Breton - New Brunswick is getting some of the region's first Trump émigrés
Lots of Americans — including Barbra Streisand, Samuel L. Jackson and Bryan Cranston — said they'd move to Canada if Donald Trump became president. Few have actually made good on those pronouncements.
But Paul Rubinstein, 29, and Alicen Grant, 28, are an exception.
The couple, who both work as veterinarians, live in Prattville, Ala., a bedroom community of ranch-style houses, not far from largely-Republican Montgomery.
But not for much longer.
In spring 2017, they and their family of pets plan to flee Trump's America for the stately elms and riverfront vistas of Fredericton.
"My wife and I had kind of joked to all our friends and family, and my boss if Trump won, we were leaving," Rubinstein said.
"Then he did. And we were like, 'I guess, we have to.'"
'Not what America should stand for'
It started as a joke and — as with many other Americans — Googling "immigration to Canada" on election night.
But as Rubinstein and Grant watched the chaos unfolding around Trump's Jan. 29 travel ban, the discussion turned serious.
Rubinstein, whose paternal grandfather survived the Holocaust and whose mother's family immigrated from Italy in the 1920s, comes from a "family of immigrants," he said.
"My family history is of people who were trying to come to this country to get a better life, and were vilified. Now that discrimination between certain groups is being repeated, and I don't feel like that's really what America should stand for."
Not only that, but "Trump's rhetoric is sexist," Grant said, "and the southeast United States is sexist. I think it's gotten worse through this election cycle."
Their research eventually pointed them toward New Brunswick. It would be relatively simple, they found, to become licensed to practice as vets in Canada given their American credentials. New Brunswick, they noted, was also close to Rubinstein's family in upstate New York.
"The more we looked into it, the more it looked like a place that would really suit us long-term," said Grant.
Her husband agreed.
"It was question of where this country is going — in a direction that I don't feel comfortable with."
'Well, let's make this happen'
In December, the couple flew to Fredericton for the first time for a bit of reconnaissance.
Their first impression of the capital was that it was "absolutely beautiful," said Grant.
"The river was frozen when we were flying in, and it was gorgeous. All of the downtown has the older buildings, and it was so friendly."
"We said, 'well, let's make this happen,'" Rubinstein said.
The couple landed jobs interviews at Islandview Veterinary Clinic, which has locations in Silverwood and New Maryland. They even found a rental property in Fredericton that will accommodate them and their four dogs — two cavalier King Charles spaniels named Dash and Disraeli, a mutt named Z, and their eight-month-old English Setter, Thatcher.
"While we're working, we're going to try to become permanent residents through the provincial nominee program, and eventually get citizenship," Rubinstein said.
"We hope to be making the move by the end of March or May."
A tradition of welcoming Americans
Rubinstein and Grant are far from the first Americans to seek refuge in the cold arms of Canada's east coast.
During the Revolutionary War, New Brunswick welcomed some 14,000 refugees loyal to the Crown.
Rubinstein, a self-described history buff, said he and his wife thought it was "cute and apropos," given the province's Loyalist history, that they, too, hope to settle in New Brunswick.
In addition to the Loyalists, before the United States abolished slavery in 1865, as many as 30,000 black Americans headed north to Canada on the Underground Railroad.
And between 1966 and 1975, between 50,000 and 240,000 draft-dodgers are estimated to have fled to Canada, many of whom ended up in the Atlantic provinces.
In 2005, according to Al Jazeera, former U.S. president George W. Bush's re-election brought an influx of Americans, with some 9,612 permanent residents from the U.S. admitted in 2006.
Now, Rubinstein said, there's Trump — a president whose ideology stands in such stark opposition to peaceful, rural East Coast ways that his candidacy spurred a whole Cape Breton tourism marketing strategy based on courting politically disenfranchised Americans.
Excited about lobster, snow
Despite the surprise expressed by some of their loved ones, Grant said, "we definitely had some friends that were on the same page. I don't kn ow if they're going to actually follow us up but we'll see."
Grant is looking forward to skiing and ice skating — and introducing their dogs to Canadian winter.
"We've ordered their little boots and their jackets," she joked.
Rubinstein is pumped for "the lobster, of course," he said.
"That, and Canadians are, like, the nicest people I have ever met in my life. Like, ever."
But leaving, while exciting, is bittersweet.
"In a lot of ways, I still am proud to be an American," said Rubinstein, adding he hopes to cast a write-in ballot in the 2020 election.
But moving to New Brunswick, he said, is a political statement.
"More than our vote or anything else, to just say goodbye and move our tax money elsewhere — that is the most powerful statement we can make."