Canada would seem to be an obvious potential bug-out location, particularly for people who already live reasonably close to the border.
On the face of it, Canada might be thought to have a lot going for it – apart from some parts of Quebec, English is the primary language, the people are reasonably honest and friendly and more or less like Americans, their standard of living is in line with what we’re used to, we’re familiar with their social structure, and we fit in without having a huge big ‘I’m a Wealthy Foreigner – Take Advantage of Me’ sign invisibly on our foreheads.
On the other hand, many of the issues affecting the US and which might cause a societal collapse might spill over into Canada as well. In particular, most of the suitable parts of Canada for people to consider retreating to tend to be close to the US border. If you go much further north, the weather gets increasingly extreme and life is harder and harder to sustain. So any type of regional impacts will spread across the border without being concerned about such artificial things as a change of country on the 49th parallel.
EMPs in particular are likely to impact on much of Canada – see the coverage map part-way down our article explaining what EMP is and does. And because many of our major cities are relatively close to the Canadian border, any nuclear attacks on our cities might end up impacting on Canada (although most prevailing winds are likely to take fallout east and south rather than north).
Canada also has an overstressed electricity grid, so a solar disruption that destroyed the US grid would probably cause problems to Canada’s grid too. On the other hand, Canada is fortunate to have a surplus of power (and exports electricity to the US) so the loss of generating capability might be less harmful to Canada than to the US. Canada also exports oil and natural gas to the US, so is less dependent on international energy sources – an event that ended international oil shipments wouldn’t necessarily result in Canada being without gasoline and other oil products (although having raw oil is only part of the problem – the other parts being the need for refining capacity and then the need to be able to efficiently distribute/ship the gas, diesel, etc across the country to where it is needed).
There are some other considerations too. Canada has a population of 34.5 million people. It has only one ninth as many people as the US. We’re not sure how many refugees from the US it could or would allow in before adopting a ‘managed solution’ to the problem, which would be a polite way of saying they’d close their borders and/or establish refugee camps, but not allow people to simply enter into the mainstream of their society.
On the other hand, our northern border is very porous and largely undefended by Canada – most of the border defenses are on our side, not on their side of the border. Even the defenses on our side are largely absent – a Buffalo News story from 2011 reports of a GAO finding that only 32 of the 4,000 miles of border were adequately patrolled and defended. If it seemed Canada was restricting the flow of refugees, it would be far from impossible to slip across the border at a deserted unpatrolled location and to quickly blend into their population. We’ll avoid making a snide remark about how easy it is for Mexicans to do the same thing when entering the US at present, but you can probably guess our thoughts.
Assuming you do get to Canada, and assuming you are in a moderately favorable region, you’ll probably find yourself somewhere with a low population density, plenty of water, and reasonably fertile ground. If you’re close to the ocean or a lake/river, you may also have access to fishing, and you may be close to forest lands too.
But while the land can be fertile, Canada’s big drawback is its climate, which is why we referred to ‘moderately favorable regions’ in the preceding paragraph. As long as you have access to affordable energy, allowing you the ability to heat your retreat during the sometimes harsh winters, and as long as you are in a place with a sufficiently long growing season as to allow for practical growing of crops, you should be okay, but if you lose your energy (be it electricity, natural gas, propane, gasoline or diesel) then you’re going to have potentially severe problems.
Although the climate is harsh, Canada is little affected by severe storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or earthquakes. The country also has few dangerous/poisonous animals.
Canada’s government is more ‘socialist’ and participative/interfering in its citizens lives, and – with some notable exceptions – we’ve found that Canadians tend to be more reliant on their government for many/most things than is the case on this side of the border. Life in Canada is subject to more social controls and general government regulation than is life in the more libertarian/conservative US states, and of course, how can we discuss life in Canada without pointing out the draconian restrictions on firearms ownership, which applies with even greater force to foreigners such as ourselves.
There are some positive and negative issues associated with bugging out to Canada, but more predominantly negative than positive. Its geographical proximity to the US means that many ‘natural’ type disasters are likely to spill over into Canada, although its considerably different position in the international community means that terrorist/war type actions against the US are less likely to be directed at Canada too, although the effects of EMP type attacks in particular would inevitably spill over into Canada too.
The elements of Canadian society that appealed to ‘draft dodgers’ back during the Vietnam war probably have less appeal to preppers. Overall, preppers could expect more government intervention/interference in most aspects of their lives north of the border; and in general terms, they would find themselves in a harsher climate and more dependent on energy to assist in farming and living.
If you are considering establishing a retreat in Canada, we’d suggest you think also about having your retreat slightly on the US side of the border rather than slightly on the Canadian side. We can’t see many substantial downsides to being based in the US, and neither can we see many substantial upsides to being based in Canada.
Our feeling is also that the cost of living is slightly higher in Canada than in the US – particularly at present with the Canadian dollar being worth about the same as the US dollar – that is why US border states have such excellent business these days from Canadians streaming south for shopping tours to the US.
All in all, we can’t recommend Canada as an international bug-out/retreat location.