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Moving to Canada didn’t ease this American’s election-induced stress

Melanie Gardner moved to Canada to escape Donald Trump’s presidency, but even on the other side of the border she said the stress of the U.S. election is taking a physical toll.

“I just went to the dentist this morning. I’ve been grinding my teeth so that I’m having vicious pain in my mouth,” she said from Ottawa on Wednesday. “So I have to make a concerted effort to stop that.” 

But she can’t unclench her jaw just yet.

Despite Gardner’s Ottawa address, the as-yet-undetermined results of the election are all too real to her, affecting her daughter who remains south of the border, her siblings and cousins, and the homeland for which she still has hope. 

Gardner, a retired U.S. government librarian, was among many Americans who pondered crossing the 49th parallel after Trump was elected four years ago. Google Trends show the search “move to Canada” spiked after the 2016 election, and surged again on Tuesday night. 

But with a Canadian husband, Gardner was in a position to do it. 

“My husband is from Ottawa, and he was saying, at that point, it didn’t feel like the same country to him that it had been for over 30 years when he was working in Washington. And he didn’t any longer feel welcome. And so I said, ‘Well, you’ve got family there. Let’s just move there.'”

It took about two years, she said, but she and her husband sold their Maryland house and sought solace in Canada’s capital. 

And while she said the move felt — and continues to feel — right to her, it didn’t bring the respite she and her loved ones expected. 

“Everybody — all my friends and family — said, ‘Oh, well, you know, you’re away from all of it. So you must be calm and everything is good.’ I said, ‘It’s up here. It crosses the border. It’s in the newspapers, it’s on the news. They can’t stop watching because of how horrible it is,'” Gardner said. 

She couldn’t stop watching either, and this year began working with Democrats Abroad to ensure Americans overseas know how to vote. 

“Many of those people don’t know they actually can vote,” she said.

She’s spent hours every day answering people’s questions in an effort to get out the vote, while taking Zoom exercise classes, going for walks and working on a quilt in a bid to take care of herself. 

But even if her work pays off and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the presidency, she said she won’t be moving back to the U.S.

She’s set down roots here.

“People have asked what most surprised me about Canada and I said the fact that it seemed like home right away,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2020.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

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