Welcome to the official page for American Democrats living in Canada!
Democrats Abroad Canada is the official country committee of the DPCA for U.S. Democrats living in Canada. We are a 100% volunteer self-funded organization helping American citizens vote in U.S. elections through voter registration and keeping Americans informed on key issues. DemsAbroad Canada engages with members of Congress on issues affecting Americans living abroad, and strives to make information available to our members on topics such as Canada/US tax filing requirements, Estate Planning, and Operating a Corporation in Canada as an American Abroad. We also provide many opportunities to volunteer with our Get Out the Vote efforts!
Our chapters across Canada offer a peer-group resource for U.S. citizens looking for assistance with voting, taxes, and passports plus social gatherings. Past chapter events include Women's Marches, Tax Seminars, Fourth of July parties, Thanksgiving dinners, Election and Debate Watch parties, Movie Nights, Trivia Quizzes, voter registration events and Pints & Politics pub meet-ups.
Hundreds of American citizen volunteers across Canada are working to educate all eligible U.S. voters on their right to vote and how to get their ballots to vote in every election. That includes Canadians who were born in the U.S. and those born in Canada to an American parent(s), who therefore have the right to vote.
Volunteers are always needed to help get out the vote, grow our base, and reach out to find new friends. In 2020 it's critical we collectively do all possible to encourage the estimated 650k - 1m Americans in Canada to vote! To volunteer contact your local chapter or email our Volunteer Manager, Jamey Shick.
We also post voter and event information as well as current political news on multiple social media channels. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter - and please share the information! Be sure to check our Events page and News page for additional updates on what we're up to.
For more information, email Steve Nardi, Country Chair or call our information line toll-free at 1-877-336-2008. In Toronto/GTA, call 416-916-2022.
DemsAbroad Canada groups [Click for email]
Many members have reached out asking about the CARES Act impact for Americans living abroad. Fortunately the Democrats Abroad Taxation Task Force has prepared a report to share.
Congress has passed the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the president has signed it into law. Americans abroad will be interested in understanding the law's aid provisions and how they can access them. This is a summary of key aid provisions that are or may be relevant to Americans abroad –
- Americans abroad who meet the income eligibility criteria (adjusted gross income under $99,000) are entitled to the Recovery Rebate (up to $1,200 payment plus $500 per child)
- Taxpayers who have provided bank account details with their tax filing will likely be receiving payments by direct deposit in the next 2-3 weeks, with others likely receiving checks or debit cards through the post
- Treasury has been provided with flexibility in the language of the bill for providing the cash aid to citizens who have not filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019. We will follow this closely.
- Individuals with federal student loans automatically have their interest rate set to 0% for 60 days and can request forbearance (a suspension of payments) for 60 days.
- Small businesses have been provided with range of supports to enable them to retain their employees and keep paying their salaries and benefits, via an existing SBA loan product whose eligibility criteria have been greatly relaxed. This MAY enable Americans abroad with small businesses to qualify for the support.
A great many questions remain about how these and the myriad other relief mechanisms in the historic $2 trillion dollar package are to be implemented. Treasury and the IRS have a lot of work ahead of them.
The Board of Democrats Abroad Canada invites you to attend your
Annual General Meeting
To report to the membership the accomplishments and financial status of the Canada country committee during 2019.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
Via WebEx and possibly in-person at some chapters. Watch for announcements from your chapter or contact your local chapter chair.
All Members of Democrats Abroad Canada
Via WebEx online or through the iOS or Android WebEx app. Access instructions will be emailed to registered attendees the week prior.
Chair, Democrats Abroad Canada
“The majority of us aren’t making millions or trying to hide our money in secret Swiss bank accounts. We just want to live simple, ordinary lives. The amount of stress that comes along with the U.S. tax system is overwhelming. It is extremely complicated and expensive to navigate. We live with a real burden that Americans living in the U.S. simply don’t understand.” – Michigan voter living in the UK
Seven members of the Hamilton/Burlington/Niagara and Toronto chapters drove to Buffalo in late January to meet with the staff of U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, 26th District of New York. (Close to 200 DA members in Ontario vote in his district.) The subject: taxes, taxes. At a round table with Bonnie Kane Lockwood, Higgins’ director of special projects, and Chris Fahey, the congressman’s deputy chief of staff for special projects, DA members presented their case. Weighing in via teleconferencing from Australia was Carmelan Polce, chair of DA’s Taxation Task Force.
Ken Sherman, past chair of the Hamilton/Burlington chapter and member of the Democratic National Committee, explained that Americans living abroad must file taxes both in the U.S. and in Canada. “There are over 6.5 million Americans like us who are suffering serious personal and financial harm because we are subjected to taxation both in the United States – even if we have no U.S.-sourced income – and in Canada were we live. Most of us are filing zero-dollar tax returns in the U.S.”
Of particular concern is the Repatriation Tax Law which has had unintended consequences for Americans living abroad. As well, Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 – which gave corporations a wonderful advantage, not so for small businesses – “has thrown people’s lives into an uproar. None of us saw this coming, but it has been terribly destabilizing,” said Sherman. The much-heralded bill is forcing many American small business owners abroad to close their companies. Another challenge faces those whom Steve Nardi, chair for DA Canada, calls Accidental Americans. These are people born in the United States to foreign parents, but who moved away as infants or young children, and those born outside the U.S. to at least one American parent. “According to numbers from the U.S. Consulate, there are between 1-2 million Accidental Americans living in Canada,” said Nardi. With no legal or cultural connection to the U.S., these people still bear U.S. tax-compliance obligations.
Other points of contention discussed at the meeting was the imposition of a new minimum tax on Global Intangible Low-taxed Income (or GILTI), further fall-out from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Again, this has had a negative impact on overseas Americans, explained Ron Barrett, member-at-large for DA’s Hamilton chapter. Barrett and his wife, Susan Hill, the chapter’s membership secretary, came to Canada twelve years ago as part of a NAFTA initiative and bought a Canadian company. Their U.S. tax return numbered 70 pages last year with $40,000 in what are called “transition taxes” owed to the U.S. government.
These iniquities make a compelling case for what Democrats Abroad has been lobbying hard for in recent years: Residency-Based Taxation (RBT). The U.S. and Eritrea are the only two countries in the world which employ Citizenship-Based Taxation (CBT). “We would still be required to report U.S.-sourced income if we had any, but not the income we make and pay taxes on as residents of Canada,” Sherman explained to Rep. Higgins’ staff.
Two bills are currently in development in Washington that would greatly support Americans’ tax rights. The first, which argues for RBT to replace CBT, is now before the Ways and Means Committee. The second (HR 4362), the Overseas Americans Financial Access Act would exempt Americans living abroad from disclosures of their financial accounts in their countries of residence. Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (12th District of NY) and Rep. Don Beyer (8th District of Virginia), the hope is that Rep. Higgins will join them as a co-sponsor of the bill.Both pieces of legislation promise greater tax justice for expats. While the reception with Rep. Higgins’ staff was supportive and encouraging, Polce urges Democrats Abroad everywhere to talk to their respective members of Congress. “There’s push and there’s pull. We pull. We need everyone else to push!”
Since Kimberly Johnson took over as chapter chair of DA’s Edmonton chapter last March, it’s been one surprise after another. First, that students at the city’s post-secondary schools – Edmonton boasts two main universities, plus tech and community colleges – would become the chapter’s base. “We have a fair chunk of international staff and students,” explains Kimberly, who teaches a unique combination of art, science and medical history at the University of Alberta. “We basically do voter registration all year long on campus.” Also surprising, she says, has been “finding out how many Canadian-born kids with American parents we now have as members who didn’t even realize they were able to vote. The worse things get, the more excited people are to discover this!”
Realizing after the 2016 election that “there were no sidelines left to sit on any more,” Kimberly stepped up as chapter chair after serving as head of communications. “I’m still running our Instagram account. With only three of us in leadership, we run Edmonton with a skeleton crew.” Even so, the chapter hosts an ambitious roster of events from regular debate watches to postcard-writing sessions to Thanksgiving dinners. “We also do what we call Sanity Sessions,” Kimberly explains. “We had one right after the Kavanaugh nomination.” Held in a campus pub, these are a “big source of relief and comradeship. People just want to talk to somebody, for someone to say, ‘No, this is not normal. We’re all worried.’”
That camaraderie has been another pleasant surprise for the chapter, with many American students coming by every week to say hello to volunteers at the voter reg table. “Some show up out of homesickness,” guesses Kimberly. “But we’re building a community and that’s rewarding.” The community has spread beyond Americans. “We have such luck finding Canadian volunteers. They push their American friends over to our table, take flyers to people they know are American. If you’re having a horrible day because of too many Trump tweets, one of these folks will thank you for what you’re doing. They restore our faith in common purpose.”
The rewards come with challenges, of course. With the chapter’s leadership in their thirties, Kimberly sometimes longs for members with a longer perspective and experience. And then there’s the challenge of the province itself. “Alberta is so conservative, with big oil interests here. There’s direct Trump support. We’ve had difficulty finding friendly venues,” she admits, adding that a campus bar, one she hung out in as an undergrad, has opened its doors. “It’s vital to have safe, welcoming spaces for our members.”But it would take more than this to derail DA Edmonton. There’s the upcoming GPP to prepare for and debate watches to organize, not to mention balloons to blow up. “Everywhere we go, we carry red, white and blue balloons. If you have a balloon, you don’t look like a dangerous liberal!” Kimberly laughs.
After moving to Halifax from Coral Springs, Florida, six months ago to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, Riley Nielson-Baker emailed Democrats Abroad, asking, “Hey, is there an active chapter here?” When told there wasn’t, Riley answered, “Well, there’s going to be.” Since the reactivated chapter hosted its first debate watch last August, it’s been all systems go. “There was no shortage of pubs to choose from for a debate watch,” laughs Riley. “Halifax boasts the largest number of pubs per capita in North America!”
Six months in, DA’s Maritimes chapter now numbers 620 members in all four Atlantic provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland. “We’re all one chapter,” Riley explains, “though most of us are in and around Halifax. We’re working on adding representatives from the other regions.” It’s adding up in terms of participation, too, with high attendance at meetings and new volunteers stepping up in new positions. Riley’s especially encouraged by the “big spike in our chapter’s membership, beginning on New Year’s Day,” and with the response to a panel the chapter held in December at Dalhousie University on political culture under Trump.
For sure, there are hurdles, especially getting on the radar of local media, “getting our voice heard.” Personally, there’s the work/life balance challenge since Riley is not only chapter chair during an election year, but also a full-time grad student and a volunteer for both the national and provincial chapters of the NDP in Halifax. “It’s hard to not do everything.”
What propels Riley is a passion for politics that started as an undergrad studying biochemistry at the University of Florida. But what became more compelling, more inspiring, than this field of study were the people Riley saw being elected to public office. Then came the Parkland shooting. Riley’s younger brother was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the same school Riley had graduated from in 2015. “My former marching band lost two people, my ROTC team lost three. I knew some of the teachers who were killed.” Riley spent the months following the shootings working as a volunteer with band members and ROTC students.
Two years later, Riley’s pouring that formidable energy into Democrats Abroad. “What keeps me going is feeling we don’t do quite enough to find expats. There are so many Americans here. People just don’t know we exist.” Riley and the new Maritimes chapter are turning this around.
Members of Democrats Abroad were invited to join a call last month with Stacey Abrams from Fair Fight. Abrams fought to become the first Black female governor in the U.S., running against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in 2018. Kemp also just happened to be in charge of the Georgia election, a state rife with instances of voter suppression. State voting roll purges, poll closures, four-hour lines at the polls, strict voter ID laws twisted the results of that extremely close election and “disproportionately prevented black and brown citizens from their constitutional right to vote,” explained Angela Fobbs, chair of DA’s Global Black Caucus.
But one needn’t live in states like Georgia to face voting obstacles. Americans living abroad may find that their vote-from-states frequently block voters from viewing their state’s election pages, which can lead to missed deadlines and misunderstood voting instructions. Some states block voters from abroad from reaching their state’s ballot download pages, “effectively blocking ballot access from all but the most determined voter,” according to Julia Bryan, Democrats Abroad Global Chair. Another obstacle could be requiring voters abroad to send their ballots back home via postal mail. Not only can this be expensive, but for Americans living in countries with limited postal service, this makes voting nearly impossible. Then there are notorious misinformation campaigns which spread incorrect information via social channels.
Democrats Abroad works with the Democratic National Committee to stay informed on state voting purges and negotiates with Secretary of State offices regarding access to ballots and election sites, explains Bryan. “And we provide a 24/7 help desk that runs 365 days a year, answering voting questions via email, chat channels and social media channels. If you try to access an election site and it doesn’t work, don’t assume it’s your connection,” Bryan advises. “Get in touch with Democrats Abroad and let us know about the problem.”(Email: email@example.com)
One last bit of advice: “If someone says you can’t vote, or that you have to provide a photo ID, or register in person, know your rights (that someone is wrong.) Point to Federal voting law and make sure others know their rights, too!”[Suppressed: The Fight to Vote tells the story of Georgia’s 2018 mid-term election. The 38-minute documentary is available for viewing from Brave New Films free of charge, according to Angela Fobbs, who encourages Democrats Abroad members to view this powerful, galvanizing film. See the trailer, then request the film: https//www.bravenewfilms.org/screensuppress]
Update: Due to the ongoing pandemic, the regional and global conventions have been moved online. We are sorry not to be able to host you in Toronto this year.
Democrats Abroad Canada will have the honour of hosting the 2020 Global Convention in Toronto from May 15-17 at the MaRS Discovery District. The convention is expected to attract 300 attendees from around the world, as well as dozens more participating virtually via teleconference. Thanks to Toronto’s proximity to the U.S., it’s likely that DNC staff and possibly a candidate or two will also be attending, notes Steve Nardi, chair for Democrats Abroad Canada.
What happens at a global convention? Along with determining the 2020 platform for Democrats Abroad, delegates elect members to the Democratic National Committee, as well as candidate delegates to the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this coming July. Training sessions on topics such as running effective Get Out the Vote (GOTV) initiatives and managing communications and media strategy will also be presented.
“This is an opportunity for DemsAbroad Canada to put on a great show for our global friends,” says Nardi. “But it’s going to take a lot of resources. We’ll need enthusiastic volunteers – mostly from chapters throughout Ontario and Quebec – to show off our hospitality skills.” Volunteers can pitch in with the registration team, lunch and coffee-breaks team, reception team, the Gala Dinner team (Sat. May 16) and the IT/WebEx team. Nardi adds that volunteers do not need to be members of Democrats Abroad. “Family and friends are welcome to volunteer also.”
Since Democrats Abroad is 100% volunteer-powered, and since some members will be travelling to Toronto at their own expense from a considerable distance, home-stays with DA members living in the GTA will make it more possible for these members to attend. As Nardi says, “Hosting a fellow Democrat from another country can be a fun and educational experience. If you have a spare room, please consider offering it up for a home-stay option to a convention delegate or convention volunteer.”
Please click here if you are interested in the travel details to attend, or click here to complete the Volunteer/Home-Stay Survey.
Ask an American to Vote is a lively new podcast for anyone who can vote from abroad in American elections—and for those who know someone who can. Launched by David Schellenberg and Rachel Eugster (chair and vice chair of DA Canada’s Capital Region chapter), the podcast can be heard at http://anchor.fm/demsabroadca or through Spotify or Google podcasts.
Eugster and Schellenberg hope to reach people—particularly in Canada – who have never exercised their right to vote. “Everyone in Canada knows an American,” says Schellenberg. “We want to find those people through their friends and motivate them to vote.”
“It’s a way to cut through the noise to explain issues of interest to American citizens living outside the U.S.,” says Eugster. “We’re trying to anticipate questions and demystify the process of voting from abroad.”
The first episode, posted December 11, focuses on DA’s Global Presidential Primary. “We wanted to help explain its importance, especially in anticipation of the deadline for candidates to qualify for DA’s ballot,” says Schellenberg. The second episode, posted January 23, focuses on requesting one’s ballot early and the hows and whys of doing this through Vote From Abroad. “We’re recommending that you do so annually on the ides of January,” says Eugster. “If you make your request by January 15 through votefromabroad.org, you will get ballots for all elections, primaries, special elections and recounts in that calendar year.”Schellenberg and Eugster have an easy chemistry in the studio, each bringing professional skills to the project. In his day job, Schellenberg is a host for a popular morning radio program. A theatre artist, Eugster is no stranger to voice work. The first episodes are polished, engaging, and informative. “I hope so!” laughs Eugster. “We were aiming for something a little bit wonkish and a whole lot of fun.” Schellenberg adds that the duo have a rapidly growing list of topics for future episodes, “but we’d be happy to entertain suggestions.”
The issues matter. Getting out the VOTE matters. It all matters because we can’t afford to lose. So much has already been lost, trashed and discredited. The Toronto and Canada Women’s Caucus Groups have an opportunity to have a big impact in 2020. It is also a big job. Sometimes the news and noise from across the border is deafening, but we intend to power on. Our goal is to break some records with the numbers of women registered and voting in the upcoming election.
Most important, we are going to vote our issues and those that impact every American. We know from our Women’s Marches, potluck dinners, actions like #WeBelieveWomen in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, debate-watch events, and fun nights like the Second City all-women show we attended together in Toronto that we have women voters who care. We have to continue to engage them.
These are some of the issues we are fighting for (sadly some many decades old!):
· ERA -- #ERANOW – We’re hopeful the ERA finally passes before the election. We are not yet in the U.S. Constitution and won’t rest until we are.
· ABORTION – Our support of #STOPTHEBANS – is unwavering and consistent with our goals as activists and feminists. Women’s reproductive rights impact all of us. With the wave of legislation criminalizing abortion being passed we need to keep pushing that issue:
· VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN – Earlier this month we honoured the 14 young women killed in the Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal in 1989. Those women – killed by a young man because they were women and feminists – are a stark reminder of the danger women face in our culture and in cultures around the world.
· CLIMATE CHANGE -- This is the crisis that is everyone’s issue. Many of us are participating in the #ClimateStrike events in solidarity with youth. We need to protect our children and our children’s children.
These issues and many more require that our GOTV efforts be doubled and tripled this year. The impeachment in the House will not solve it. Trump has the biggest pulpit in the world. But WE have the numbers to win. That’s our Trump card.
For more on how to join or start a Democrats Abroad Women’s Caucus in your chapter email: firstname.lastname@example.org