Dear Umbra,

Did you really move to Canada? Did you get resident status? How hard was it to do?

Middleburg, Va.

Dearest Valerie,

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

I haven’t actually moved to Canada. I was being dramatic (lying) and I apologize to all who were duped by my ruse. I was also deeply touched by the hearty if unnecessary welcome from all of my Canuck readers. I love you all, and I love curling — I love everything aboot Canada. Mwah.

O Canada!

I assume your interest in moving to Canada is motivated by frustration at the current environmental situation here in the U.S. I believe such flee-the-nation fantasies require some sober evaluation, but first let me answer your question. The Citizenship and Immigration Canada website is very helpful on the issue of how to immigrate to Canada, save for answering the important questions: How long does it take, when can I vote, and why can’t I speak to a live person? The live person I eventually tracked down at Immigration Canada, Marie, said that if everything goes smoothly, the average visa process takes about 10 to 12 months — but in some cases it can take up to two years. In order to vote, however, you must be a permanent resident for three years and then go through a year-long citizenship process. So, we’re looking at about six years before you can be a fully participating member of society.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Immigrating doesn’t seem overly hard, but of course each case is evaluated individually. There are innumerable forms to fill out, and you must come into the country with enough money to live for at least six months. You can’t be terribly diseased or depraved, and your car has to meet Canuck seat-belt guidelines. Potential immigrants are divided into several categories, ranging from “skilled workers” to “refugees.” There is a test with which you can gauge whether or not you belong in the former category. I passed by lying about my French proficiency. Vraiment, je peux parle le Francais comme je peux jouer petanque.

Now, for the sober evaluation. First, if your fantasy is motivated by Canada’s pristine environment, think again. It’s true that there is no shortage of natural beauty there, but there is also no shortage of resource extraction. Canada is the world’s third-largest natural-gas producer and has steadily increased its oil extraction, by about 60 percent in the past 20 years. As of 2001 (the last year for which I could turn up data), per capita energy consumption was actually higher than in the United States, although the per capita carbon emissions were lower.

And there’s more mediocre news from up north. I made contact with Matt (so friendly, the Canadians), the founder of Conservation Voters of British Columbia, and he said that Canada has very few environmental protections compared to the U.S. and mainly relies on voluntary “guidelines” for industry. That does not sound refreshing to me. Also, there is increasing concern about clean air, and no Clean Air Act. That sounds worse. I’ll just quote Matt directly: “We just haven’t got around to screwing things up as badly as the U.S. has, since there’s so many fewer Canadians right now doing the damage.”

Although I did not pay Matt to make that comment, it supports my long-held stance that we need to stay where we are. Canada doesn’t need any more Canadians. Canada needs what the U.S. needs, and what, in fact, the world needs: more environmentalists in the U.S.