(Not so) Welcome to Canada!: The challenges of Canadian newcomers
By Priscilla Wiredu
Posted on February 23, 2022
Arriving in a new country is a challenge for anyone: New environment, new cultures, new society, new laws, in essence, a new life. It presents an assortment of opportunities for an immigrant.
One would think that coming to Canada, supposedly one of the best countries in the world, would be a miracle for immigrants; away from a war-torn, “developing” country, into a new world of jobs, education, affordable healthcare, and a new sense of meaning.
However, that may not always be the case if you are a racialized immigrant.
Culture shock is a term for when tourists are shocked at the change in societal customs in another country. Well, that can be tailored to newcomers to Canada. Below are said to be the top ten barriers immigrants face when entering Canada, as well as some resources to help newcomers with a smoother transition into Canadian life.
Language is an obvious issue newcomers face when entering Canada. A lack of proper communication has major effects on one’s everyday life. In order for a society to work, you must be able to interact with your neighbors, colleagues, employees, etc. Learning a native language is essential to function in society. Canada has two official languages—English and French. It is paramount for newcomers to learn English or French to settle in Canada comfortably.
This does not mean to shed your original roots. The increasing global market always favours candidates who are multilingual!
Although being multilingual is a plus when it comes to international employment, you may face problems when it comes to having your credentials as well as relevant experience noticed. The dilemma for Canadian newcomers is their work experience may not be “Canadian enough.” It can be difficult for newcomers to find work without Canadian work experience.
Secure housing is a big priority for newcomers. A lack of knowledge about the local housing market in a new country can cause serious problems when you are trying to establish a home. It is useful to research neighborhoods and affordable housing before hand to help solve this problem. National and local government agencies can offer certain resources and advice if you seek it. Canada’s National Housing Agency has a section dedicated for immigrants to process and explore housing information.
Access to services
When it comes to services, knowing what is available is a big problem. The service type, range, and quality available can differ from your home country. Most newcomers say the issues are finding health, legal, and social services in Canada. Research in advance can help you find these services once you arrive in Canada. Social service organizations are usually the first things made available to newcomers to deal with these problems. Referencing back to language barriers, interpreters are made available via social services where you are given your legal rights as a newcomer and other entitlements.
Nowadays, transportation is important when it comes to gaining access to almost anything in Canadian society. For newcomers, your driver’s license may not be recognized in Canada. You may have to go through some processes (and pay certain fees) in order to become qualified.
Language would, again, be the barrier that makes finding suitable public transit services even harder than it usually is. Drivers licenses in Canada are issued by provincial/territorial governments, so you will need to check specific regulations for the area you reside in or intend to reside. While it is normally possible to drive using original licenses, an International Driving Permit (IDP) may be needed. Multilingual services are also available in the public transit system.
Referencing the term “culture shock,” newcomers report that on arrival, the difference in culture creates a big effect. It ranges from social customs, to gendered differences, religious diversity, ethnicity, sexuality, and other differences that are prominent in a new country. For immigrants, this perpetuates an “immigrant mentality”—it makes them feel isolated as they cannot interact with other groups since they are not used to them. It is important when coming to Canada, to be open to the different values amongst people, and see their lifestyle and choices as something no one else can control. This helps you to make connections and feel less isolated.
Prejudice and racism
Of course, this sad barrier is something that affects immigrants almost all over the world. Canada, despite its progressive laws and push for more diverse and welcoming communities, has not always been a welcoming country. Racial discrimination against immigrants has been a centuries-long issue, with covert and overt acts. Employment runs rampant with systemic racism, undermining immigrants’ credentials, skills, and experience when finding appropriate work.
Support services are offered to newcomers that protect them from discrimination or used as a safe space for those experiencing it. It includes community centres, peer groups, modern police force and authority programs that promote anti-racism policies. Local and national groups work to combat racism by outlawing it under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
No longer having the support of friends, family, or social circles as one did in their home country can take a toll on their mental health and sense of belonging. If you come from countries where communities are the strong support systems, you may feel lost and alienated when entering a country like Canada, where individualism is usually prided.
However, Canada does, in fact, have a diverse population and major cities have communities from many different countries. This makes them ideal places for those settling in Canada. Community groups can offer support and advice for those adjusting to life in a very different kind of society.
When one hears “Canada,” they may think of snow all year, with hockey, maple syrup, and celebrating every day like it’s Christmas. Although not entirely true, weather is definitely a factor that newcomers tend to overlook when moving here. Canada’s climate is as diverse as its population. In some provinces they have hot, dry prairies, while others have below 25 degrees almost all year long. It can be a drastic adjustment from your home country’s climate.
A better future
Seeking a better future is a key force for newcomers entering Canada. For newcomers, Canada is an attractive choice not only for better economic or educational opportunities, but also political stability, safety, and health protection, to name a few.
There are many resources available for newcomers to ease their way into Canadian life. Start Up Canada is a website that not only helps newcomers find work, but helps start up businesses in Canada. They offer classes, places to apply, and grants for those seeking to start a business in Canada as an immigrant.
The Canada.ca website has a special webpage specifically for newcomers. Depending on the situation (immigrant, permanent resident, etc.), they offer an array of programs for resources on how to fit in to Canadian culture, provide support workers, mental health resources, as well as a helpline and live chat in a multitude of languages for newcomers who want to do more research after settling in.
Newcomers want to enter a haven when coming to Canada. Of course, it can be a scary and exhilarating new step in their lives. The challenges they have will hopefully offer solutions in order to have a welcoming start into their Canadian neighborhood.