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  • Writer's pictureAdham ElZein

Shhhh... The 4 Cons To Living In Canada

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

"It isn’t a perfect place. There are no perfect places. But nobody cares about perfection when there are sand castles to build and kites to chase, children that are being born, old hearts that are giving in.” - Lauren DeStefano

Canada and Canadians were found to be the most welcoming country & people in the world - and far more tolerant than the United States - for immigrants, as an opinion survey released last September concluded. Canada recorded the highest score, 8.46, followed by Iceland and New Zealand.

That being said, if you are seriously thinking about moving to Canada, there still are some cons that you would want to know about. After 5 years of living in Toronto, I came to the realization that there are 4 weighty snags that not all immigrants are aware of:

1. Cost of living in the 3 biggest Canadian metropolitan cities (Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver): it certainly changed during the COVID era, but it is safe to say that the pandemic will continue to have an impact on the cost of living in Canada in the near future.

If you will be one of the lucky new residents of Canada in the coming 2 years, start by looking at housing, and you can be sure that you will end up spending most of your salary on rent or mortgage! Renting a 2 bedroom apartment in these cities would range from $1,800 to $2,800 per month; obviously, the further you get away from those cities, the cheaper the rent will be, but it is still a $1,000 for a 2 bedroom apartment in the suburbs! Private insurance (in case you are not employed) for a family would be in the range of $175 and $80 for a single person. Canada’s Food Price Report predicts that the average Canadian family will spend $1,000 on their monthly grocery bill - not including eating out. Public transportation is $165 for a bus monthly pass, and $166 for a Subway monthly pass per person. Let's NOT count the gym membership, the cost of utilities, the mobile bill and entertainment. We are talking about roughly $4000 per month per family, that's $24,000 for your first 6 months after you land. Singles would approximately need $3,000 per month. For a closer and more realistic look at cost of living by Canadian city, have a look at Numbeo website.

2. Canadian work experience: If you are granted permanent residency status as a skilled immigrant, my advice is that all your initial efforts need to be towards requesting international mobilization within a multinational company (if you are currently working with one). If this option is unattainable, the chances are that you will be starting to look for a job from scratch once you are settled. Don't get in your own head about getting your credentials unrecognized or about being stripped of your education, it will only be temporary, as "you do not have the Canadian work experience"!

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from a reputable and accredited American University, and having had 11 years of sales and marketing experience with several multinational companies outside the Canadian market, those were not enough to secure me a job at the same level as the last position I held before moving. To be fair, I got some attention from smaller startups but they always classified me as "overqualified for the job".

Moral of the story: the vast majority of immigrants will need around 2 years before they get back on track in their career path.

That being said, it is still a happy ending; put yourself in the right mindset before you move, manage your expectations, and take the first decent job you land on, so that you can build your Canadian experience and climb up the success ladder. I did it, so many others did it, and you can certainly make it happen!

Important to also know that the Canadian government provides free programs for newcomers. Those trainings can significantly improve your chances of finding work in Canada.

On the other spectrum of the business, entrepreneur-immigrants who are starting their own businesses right away will experience an easier transition, but there still is a lot to take in about the market dynamics, provincial and federal business licenses, financing, registering for GST/HST, insurance, marketing and of course the Canadian culture itself.

3. Discrimination in the Canadian hiring process: Visible minorities, or "non-white natives" in Canada are likely to face discrimination during the hiring process. There is a tendency to associate certain cultural and ethnic groups with specific professions, for instance Black Canadians are wrongly associated with low-level jobs!

My experience was no different in the healthcare industry; when I first moved to Toronto, I had a very small number of recruiters get in touch with me through Linkedin for an initial screening. I had to build my own network, I reached out directly to HR managers in multinational companies, and this is where I learned about the hidden discrimination in the hiring process. One recruiter - God bless her (seriously!) - suggested that I "westernize" my name on Linkedin, she explained that sadly, candidates are discriminated against due to association between their names and certain cultures, or their names and linguistic skills, so long and so forth... Surprise, surprise, I changed my name and that was when I really started getting noticed on Linkedin! Unfortunate, eh?

4. Racialism exists: Way less than in the US and other immigration destinations, racialism is still felt and experienced by minorities in some parts of the country. Both Black Canadians and Indigenous people suffered historically with severe racism in the country. Anti-Islamic hate killings are leaving Muslim families in turmoil. Asian people have faced growing fear, hatred and physical assault since the beginning of the pandemic. LGBTQ+ people experience stigma and discrimination across their life span, and are targets of sexual and physical assault, not to mention hate crimes!

Canada is a multi-cultural country that has often been seen as a safe haven for immigrants, especially in the metropolitan cities, but it is not exempt from racism. There are some amongst us that walk into a room everyday aware that they are thought of as “lesser”. So be conscious, treat it with an open mind, and be the change you want to see in the world!

I could mention a few more cons to Canadian living, such as the high taxes, delays in healthcare services in rural areas, difficulties finding a family doctor accepting new patients, expensive domestic air travel and real cold winters, but I am positive that you are no strangers to this information.

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