ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – An American-born biology professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland intends to officially become a Canadian citizen after living in the country for three decades, calling himself a “political refugee” of Donald Trump’s presidency.
For nearly 30 years, Steve Carr has straddled the 49th parallel as an American citizen working in Canada, but the California-native says Trump’s election pushed him to seek citizenship north of the border.
Carr, whose mother hails from Stratford, Ont., says he has applied for Canadian citizenship as “insurance” against Trump’s hardline immigration policy.
As a longtime permanent resident of Canada, the transition to dual citizenship is in some sense a formality, but has nonetheless taken a toll on Carr, who sees being American as part of his identity.
“I am a patriotic American … My way of assessing things is heavily tied up with American history,” says Carr. “I am, at this point, a refugee, and things might go quite bad very quickly.”
Carr has flirted with becoming a naturalized citizen since moving to Newfoundland for a teaching gig in 1987 but, in a streak of American independence, says he couldn’t bring himself to pledge loyalty to a British monarch in the mandatory Oath of Citizenship.
“I have nothing against the Queen … Her Majesty is a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say,” Carr says. “The image of raising my hand and swearing an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen just stuck in my throat.”
Carr says his calculus changed last November while he watched in disbelief as voting returns indicated a Republican electoral sweep.
“Donald Trump comes in, and like many other Americans, I was sick to my stomach,” he says. “I wept the morning after.”
Carr says Trump’s rhetoric divides the American public into “us” and “them” — his supporters and everyone else — and as a Buddhist scientist with liberal leanings, he falls squarely in the latter camp.
He also has concerns about being flagged by U.S. Customs for having twice visited Cuba for scientific conferences, trips that were permitted under the previous administration’s relaxed travel restrictions.
Trump has spoken about potentially reopening talks with Cuba to secure a better deal. Carr worries that under Trump’s reshaped foreign policy, his trips to Cuba may land him on a no-fly list or even in a prison cell.
A father of six-year-old daughters, Carr says he’s not going to risk travel that could “deprive them of a dad.”
Carr says he helped to set up cots and carry things when flights were diverted to Newfoundland after the 9-11 attacks.
“My country had been attacked, and I was not in my country,” Carr says, noting he felt “helpless to do anything.”
Carr says he feels that same mix of purpose and powerlessness and hopes that his compatriots will “come to their senses” when mid-term elections roll around in 2018.
If Newfoundland were a republic, Carr says would have filed for citizenship years ago, but short of that, he is getting in touch with his inner Canuck.
“It’s said in the family that I’m the first one who came to his senses,” Carr says. “They know I love Canada, but that’s one of the things about Canada: You’re not required to be that ‘hyper-patriot’ you are in the States.”