The long peaceful border between the U.S. and Canada provides for more than just easy passage (in non-COVID times) between countries. It allows for shared experiences and stories that cross freely through radio and TV broadcasts.
The two countries are separate entities, however, and in the 1960s, many fled the draft during the Vietnam War to find shelter from the conflict in Canada.
In the lead-up to the November election, Dave Bidini and his West End Phoenix newspaper in Toronto wanted to use the time to talk with some American ex-pats living in Toronto about what it was like to observe that chaos from afar and how their life in Canada was different from what they left behind.
It was an ambitious project — while the broadsheet paper usually publishes once a month or about every five weeks, this was the paper’s second issue in October — and contains 25 personal narratives about what it’s like to be an American living in Canada.
“One of the things I wanted to check at the door was the self-aggrandizement that happens when Canadians write about the States,” says Bidini, one of the paper’s creators and a founder of the band the Rheostatics. “We’re pretty good at positioning ourselves as superior. We overlook our own issues when talking about ourselves in the context of the States. … Often when you find, when there’s the perspective from Canada about other places, it’s always gun laws and health care, but there’s a lot of ways we fall short.”
In the issue, simply called The Americans, Bidini says he was heartened to see stories of longing.
“Lot of people said it’s great being in Toronto but I miss my home and I miss my family and I miss this about living in the U.S.,” he says. “One woman talks about having a beautiful home in Detroit with a big yard and what it cost her for living in that city. I was pleasantly surprised people were able to talk about their yearning for a place they left.”
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell is rejoined by Dave Bidini, co-founder of The Rheostatics and the West End Phoenix, a Toronto-based broadsheet newspaper. They discuss The Americans, a special edition published just before the November election in which ex-pats living in Toronto write about what it’s like to observe the U.S. from across the shared border during a difficult time.