For disenchanted Americans, I have an escape plan that keeps with historical tradition – New Brunswick. In case of a Trump win in the US presidential race, Cape Breton has announced its willingness to provide refuge for fleeing Americans. But New Brunswick is closer, and Americans who come here might even reunite with part of their family.
In the American Revolution, many residents of the 13 Colonies thought things were going too far when violent secession from Britain became the objective. Yes, better representation and fairer taxation, greater local decision-making and less exploitation by the homeland. But severing all ties because of the erratic rule of King George III? Replacing a stable system of governance with a new one made up of businessmen and self-promoters? The possibility of “mob rule”?
Time to head out, many – white, black and First Nations – decided. Better to await the next king and stay affiliated with a nation where rights and obligations are known and had been worked out over centuries between parliament and monarch. That would be north, in Canada.
New Brunswick’s border abuts Maine. The Saint John River was the route taken into the country by the refugees. Its great valley running the length of New Brunswick provided new homes for many of them. About 33,000, the majority of those who fled to Canada, came to the territory of Nova Scotia, which at the time included New Brunswick.
In 1784 New Brunswick was established as a separate colony, with 14,000 new Loyalist residents, due to problems encountered in Nova Scotia. Many Loyalists settled at the mouth of the river in Saint John. In 1783 it was a village of 145. In 1785 it became Canada’s first incorporated city.
Britain gave the United Empire Loyalists grants of land and start-up resources, money and farming equipment and livestock. The lands granted were taken from the Acadian, Mi’kmaq and Maliseet people resident there. They were pushed to less arable lands to the north and east.
In Saint John, the Loyalist Burial Grounds provides a roll call of UEL names. In it and other old churchyards, I’ve found distant relatives. My Burwell, Lymburner and Mabee ancestors came as Loyalists to New Brunswick and moved on to southwestern Ontario.
Eighty years later, US Civil War draft dodgers settled “Skedaddle Ridge” in Carleton County on the Maine border. A century after that, New Brunswick received its share of Vietnam War resisters and disaffected Americans. So, welcome, those seeking refuge from what is likely to be a very changed America, whomever the next president. Your history, neighbours and family are already here.