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Maine could secede from the US and join Canada
Itís not such a ridiculous idea; people in Vermont have been working on it for years
BY JENNIFER LUNDEN


On an average day, the Canadian immigration Web site sees 20,000 hits. The day after the November 2 election, 115,000 Americans sought it out. A new map circulated on the Internet, red states marked " Jesusland, " blue states, the " United States of Canada. " Britainís Daily Mirror printed the headline, " How Can 59,054,087 People Be So Dumb? "

Mainers had voted for Kerry. The ones I spoke to couldnít fathom how Bush could possibly have been re-elected. For a few days, it seemed like everyone was slumped and dejected. People confessed the desperate urge to flee to Canada.

Those who browsed the Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC) Web site learned that itís not so easy to just pick up stakes and move to that gentle nation. In fact, itís not easy even to figure out what the process would entail.

I canít tell you exactly what it takes to move to Canada because the instructions detailed on the CIC Web site are labyrinthine in their complexity and the 888-number listed under " CIC Call Centre Services " is only for ó believe it or not ó those calling from within Canada. A call to the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo, New York, yielded this pre-recorded message: " This is an automated system. At no time will you be given the option to speak to an attendant. " The voice added that the office has a one-year backlog of permanent residency applications. Which was not encouraging.

Hereís what I was able to decipher:

Application for " Permanent Residence " costs $500 (nonrefundable). To start, you must prove that you have enough money to support your family for six months after arrival. Then you have to earn enough points to earn a " passing grade " in " six selection factors. " These include level of education, work experience, language ability (with extra points for fluency in French; after all, Canada is a bilingual country, you know), age, Canadian family members, and pre-arranged employment.

Out of curiosity, I calculated my worth to Canada. As a nominally bilingual 37-year-old Masterís-level social worker with family in Canada and 16 years of work experience, I miss making the grade by one point.

If youíve ever been convicted of a criminal offense, even a minor offense such as shoplifting, assault, possession of illegal substances, or unauthorized possession of a firearm, you are designated a " Member of an Inadmissible Class. " (Ever wonder why Canada is so safe, so clean, so peaceable? They keep out the riffraff.) You can, however, apply for a Ministerís ( " minister " is Canadian for " senator " ) Approval of Rehabilitation. Thatíll set you back somewhere between $150 and $730.

After six months to two years waiting for a decision on your application, if youíre lucky enough to be one of the 220,000 world citizens welcomed annually into Canadaís outstretched arms, youíll be required to cough up an additional $975 landing tax.

If your application is denied, well, apparently youíre shit out of luck. According to one letter of complaint, published in the Toronto Star, " immigration officers are given carte blanche to accept or reject a candidate at will and there is no appeal process . . . "

AS A DUAL CITIZEN, Iím one of the lucky few who can stay or go as I please. Born on an army base in Texas, raised in a small city in Ontario, I moved to Portland in 1989 and have never found a place Iíd rather live. Portland is a great little city. Vibrant, progressive, culturally alive. I love the brick, the clapboard, the smell of the ocean. I love Videoport, Genoís, Acoustic Coffee, the Stillhouse, Little Ladís, Big Mamaís, Normís, Strange Maine, Material Objects, the East End Time Dollar Exchange. I love the creative vitality of this city. Nowhere have I felt at home like I do in Maine. I donít want to leave this state.

I just want to leave the States.

So for years I have nursed a radical fantasy, one that grows more realistic, more plausible, with each dayís latest political revelation:

Secession.

How about we Mainers secede from the US and join Canada?

When, over the years, I have suggested the idea to friends and acquaintances, I have most often been met with an expression of surprised hope. Itís a vision that inspires people.

Sometimes, when I tell people I moved here from Canada, their eyes open wide and they ask me why I ever left. What am I to answer? That I was 20? That I didnít know what I was leaving behind?

I learned soon enough. Shortly after moving here, I was struck with a debilitating illness and sought medical care. I knew, when I made the choice to move, that I was leaving the safety of a country with universal health care. But at 20, who expects to become sick?

Working for $7 an hour at a group home, the first time I wrote a check to my doctor I couldnít get over how strange it felt, how wrong, to have to pay for something that I had always taken for granted: my right to health care. I found it unfathomable that if I couldnít pay, simple as that, my doctor wouldnít see me.

But universal public health care isnít the only thing that Canada does better than the US. In fact, for seven years in a row the United Nations ranked Canada the best place in the world to live. It got bumped down to fourth only when UN researchers changed their assessment formula. (Norway is now #1. The US clocks in at #8.)

Citing Canadaís low crime rates, strong economy, cultural diversity, progressive social policies, and high quality of life, CanadianAlternative.com, a collaborative project led by Communicopia.Net, identifies Canada as " the perfect alternative for conscientious, forward-thinking Americans. " Canada holds a worldwide reputation as a peacekeeping nation, and has refused to send troops to Iraq. Canadians are less violent at home, too, which many attribute, at least in part, to strong gun control laws and the 1976 abolition of capital punishment. In Canada, abortion is not restricted by any law, and women do not live in fear that their hard-won right to choose may be taken away as soon as the next Supreme Court justice is sworn in. Canada has not carried a federal deficit since 1997. (The US under George Jr., on the other hand, has turned Clintonís surplus into the largest deficit in our nationís history, over $166 billion.) The Canadian government spends $46 per capita on the arts, compared to the USís measly $6. Canada has a good environmental record, and, unlike the US, it ratified the Kyoto Protocol, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Issue Date: January 7 - 13, 2005
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