Over the last two decades, Canada has presented itself to be open in its immigration policies. As a result, the period between the 1980s and 2020 was a time of high immigration rates. Not only were the annual numbers of immigrants high, but they continued to rise with almost every succeeding year.
Due to Canada’s immigration policy, thousands upon thousands of immigrants made Canada their new home. The benefits of such “unrestrictive policies” have also reached the ears of refugees and asylum seekers. For this reason, refugees and asylum seekers abound at the country’s borders.
Directly or indirectly admitted by the Liberal government’s policies, refugee claimants become lumped together with PR applicants. In the eyes of the current Trudeau administration, these people are new immigrants. Many of them experience a better life after their arrival. For others, this is not the case.
The problems new immigrants face do exist. Though Canada is a marked improvement for most, this is not the case for other newcomers. At all stages of their stay in Canada, there are problems with language, employment, health care, and integration.
This article will be about the problems immigrants face in Canada.
Since 2011, Canadian immigration has been premised on the idea of human capital. In other words, the government of Canada sees immigration as a means to address deficits in its population and manpower. This outlook on immigration has continued to be the prevailing one. Undeniably so, immigration has been an indispensable source of workers for the past decades. The immigration programs in the Express Entry stream attests to this fact.
On the ground, however, businesses and institutions seem to have been “kept in the dark”. While Canada sells itself as a land of opportunity, Canadian businesses and companies are rejecting the applicants of migrant workers left and right. In short, getting one’s desired job in Canada is an uphill battle. Even in immigration hotspots like Toronto and British Columbia, finding oneself in his or her ideal line of work could take years.
For many, the problem is Canadian work experience. Unless an immigrant has a job offer before arrival, he or she will be asked for this. This is a dilemma because newcomers will likely lack Canadian work experience. In this situation, many immigrants have had to resort to one of two actions:
Either they take entry-level or “survival” jobs, or painstakingly prove their qualifications.
English and French are the two official languages of Canada. If immigrants wish to communicate in the country, proficiency in these languages will prove essential. Unfortunately, this is an area where many immigrants experience difficulty.
Language barriers are a real obstacle for any immigrant. This is especially true for asylum seekers and those with refugee status. This is in part due to the conditions of the home countries. Many asylum seekers and refugees often come from countries where English and French are not spoken. Even if one were to claim refugee status, his or her usage and comprehension of Canada’s main languages would be basic at best. In most cases, these languages are unfamiliar.
This causes several problems. Language barriers render individuals and families unable to participate in many activities. These activities include going to school, finding work, and accessing services. Hence, language barriers lead to other problems with Canadian immigration.
For this reason, many visa applicants need to meet certain language benchmarks before arriving in Canada. Luckily, the Canadian immigration system has programs for language training. Refugees could avail of language training subsidized by the government.
One of the problems associated with language barriers is accessing services. Without the ability to comprehend and communicate in English or French, immigrants experience may not benefit from healthcare or social services. For many immigrants, these alongside legal and other government services are beyond reach. The inability to use English or French makes simple acts challenging.
At times, the problem involving service access is not due to language. For some, it is difficult to avail of healthcare services due to a lack of information. Health coverage is a service given to all in Canada, including refugees. In Canada, health care coverage is dependent on some factors. These include the province and how long an immigrant has stayed. Some immigrants just lack information, so many end up confused.
It is, therefore, a good thing that social services are always willing to help in Canada. Social services offices are available to help and guide newcomers with services in Canada.
Housing Or Accommodation
Housing is important for any immigrant. So much so that in 2019, the Canadian government allocated at least 70% of the federal budget on the migrant settlement. Nonetheless, finding ideal housing remains a problem for many immigrants.
Many newcomers to Canada have not yet secured their Social Identification Numbers (SIN). Also, many will have yet to arrange their bank accounts. For these reasons, a new immigrant cannot rent an apartment right away. This is because most Canadian landlords will look for the SIN or bank details. Newcomers in places like Toronto and British Columbia have addressed this issue temporarily by settling in Air BnBs. Often, new immigrants arrange temporary lodging from a week to a month.
Even with the SIN and bank account issues aside, there is the issue of price. For instance, it is expensive to rent an apartment in the Greater Toronto Area. Despite slight drops in housing prices, owning a home in Canada still costs a lot of money.
Any immigrant in Canada who has just arrived wants to integrate into its society. Hence, culture remains to be a major consideration for many immigrants. Although Canadian society is multicultural, many immigrants still find themselves disoriented amidst all the diversity.
With the differences of ethnic groups present in Canada, confusion about the country’s norms and practices is bound to happen. Not only are there differences in ethnicities, but also Canada’s cities. For instance, cities like Toronto have British influences. For places like Montreal and other parts of Quebec, there is a strong French influence seen in the architecture and people. Vancouver is mostly Western but has incorporated Asian influences.
The diversity in and of itself is enough to “shock” several immigrants. This is especially true of refugees who come from theocratic countries. In these countries, many restrictive customs are just not present in Canada. Though this may sound like a good thing, this change is something many refugees need to adjust to.
The cultural diversity similar to that of the United States is inviting for some. For other immigrants, it is confusing.
Canada is the second-largest country in the world by area. In third place is the United States. In other words, Canada is big, and with any big country, transportation is vital.
To immigrants, one area of difficulty is getting a driver’s license. Getting one in Canada is unlike doing so in other parts of the world. In many countries, one progresses from a student permit to a driver’s license. This progression takes about a year in many places like the Philippines and Singapore. In Canada, there are numerous factors to consider.
First of all, each province has its policies on driving and the issuance of licenses. This is in a way similar to the system of the United States. Also, getting a regular driver’s license in Canada could take about two years. This is a very long time to get a driver’s license.
In some provinces, immigrants can drive with the licenses they got from their home countries. However, an immigrant needs to have an International Driver’s License (IDL).
Immigrants also encounter problems with public transportation. Many have expressed difficulty with walking a long distance to the nearest bus or train station. Timetables are also confusing to some immigrants, even in cities like Toronto.
It should not be a shock for this to be on the list. This is not a problem unique to Canadian immigration. Homesickness is possible for any immigrant settling in any foreign country.
The conditions within immigration increase the likelihood of this. Feelings of isolation could occur as a result of being away from friends, family, and loved ones. Also, many economic immigrants left jobs or workplaces to come to Canada. People also develop an emotional attachment to their last job.
Leaving one’s country for a long time leads to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Luckily, Canadians are quite welcoming of foreigners. Also, with the presence of other ethnicities, immigrants often find one with which to associate themselves.
As of 2019, ten countries were the sources of immigrants in Canada. Of these countries, seven of them have either tropical or arid climates. This means that a vast overwhelming majority of immigrants in Canada come from warm countries.
This is often a problem as Canada can be extremely cold. During the winter months, temperatures can drop to as low as -25 degrees Celsius. The temperature can be much lower for a longer time in places like Nunavut. In Yukon, it could be as cold as -40 degrees Celsius.
Other parts of Canada have a temperate climate. These are the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. for many Canadians, the temperatures in these provinces are mild. However, for an immigrant from India, the Philippines, or Pakistan, even a -5-degree winter is still something to be accustomed to.
These are just examples of winters in Canada, and the country is diverse in more ways than one. Besides people, it is also diverse as regards the weather. As mentioned earlier, winters can be very frigid. On the other hand, summers could be scorching in the country as well.
Many are taken aback when they hear about the South Okanagan area. This is a part of British Columbia where temperatures could be as high as 34 degrees Celsius. Most warm of Canada’s warmest cities are in this province and Ontario.
Thus, what newcomers really need to prepare for are the extremes in weather. Canada’s weather could either be frigid or scorching.
There are some ways to eliminate or minimize the effects of the problems enumerated. Some of the solutions in this section can address more than one problem.
Before applying for a Canadian visa, it is best to research on Canada. Everything must be looked up- from the desired province to the cost of living. This way, nothing will come as a shock. Also, it will be more manageable to plan for things like the post-arrival budget, accommodation, and restrictions.
Doing homework on Canada’s immigration system, services, and banking will do wonders in making the adjustment curve less steep.
Brush Up On English (Or French)
As mentioned earlier, English and French are the official languages of Canada. For most immigrants, improving English skills is more accessible in their home countries. Very often, people are unsure about the level to which they should improve. Language skills in Canada are based on the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB). The benchmark assigns numbers for each level. CLB 1 is the lowest, and CLB 12 is the highest.
To be able to communicate day-to-day, a person must meet at least CLB 5. This is the intermediate level. At this level, a person would be able to do the following in English or French:
- Give and understand simple instructions
- Understand short written or spoken sentences
- Read and understand an outline
- Use a website to seek information
- Fill out an application form
- Write a short coherent paragraph on one topic
These are paraphrased from the original CLB descriptors. To see the descriptors for CLB 5, they are on the CLB site.
Being able to communicate in Canada removes eliminates many problems. First, socialization becomes possible, so homesickness is less likely. Also, with the ability to use English and French, there will be no confusion about getting services.
Language barriers are often a sticking point for many job seekers in Canada. Fluency in English or French can also help with employment. Employers are more likely to hire a foreign national with English or French skills since communication is essential in the workplace.
Get Credentials Assessed And Accredited
One of the issues professional immigrants face is the non-equivalence of their credentials. In other words, many Canadian employers will not accept credentials earned outside the country. The reason for this is that these are not considered equivalent to Canadian standards. At least, not on their own.
There is a way to minimize the chance of this. Early on in their visa applications, people could ask for an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). The result of the ECA is a record that says the Canadian equivalent of an applicant’s credentials.
With this report, people new to Canada could work jobs related to their fields of study. This document can also help in securing professional licensure in Canada.
However, the ECA report only increases the chances of employment or licensure. It does not guarantee it. Still, it is a viable option for those who desire to work professional jobs.
The procedure is on the website of the Canadian government.
Everything comes with its set of problems. Canadian immigration is no exception to this fact. Although it is a land of prosperity and acceptance, immigration is still fraught with inconveniences.
The purpose of this article was never to discourage immigration to Canada. Instead, it aims to give you, the reader, a look into what could go wrong during Canadian immigration.
Nevertheless, here is something to consider. For the past two decades, immigration levels have rivalled that of the United States. Even during this period, the problems in this article existed. Despite this, people continued to make Canada their home.
Hopefully, that has encouraged you further to consider Canada as your destination.