To be born and brought up in one country, to look out of your window and greet people, to walk amongst familiar faces and landmarks, all this creates a sense of familiarity found only in one’s home country. And, human beings are essentially creatures of comfort. Why then are such a mammoth number of them agreeable to breaking away and rebuilding a whole new life across continents? India in particular has been recognized by the World Migration Report of 2020 as the leading country of origin for international migrants with approximately 17.5 million brethren living abroad.
According to available data, Canada is home to the world’s eighth-largest Indian diaspora and Approximately 1.3 million Indo-Canadian ( Canadians of Indian origin) live in Canada. It’s a fair assumption that this figure would be closer to 1.5 million by the end of the year 2020. According to Byevisa.com, a premier Global Travel e-Visas Service, Canada is increasingly a popular destination for Indian citizens who arrive here as tourists or to visit their family and friends. As one of the 7 wonders of the world, Niagara Falls which is about an hour and a half drive away from Toronto remains a perennial favourite but increasingly the absolutely stunning natural beauty of Canada’s Banff National Park located in the province of Alberta has started attracting the more adventurous tourists from India. Toronto’s Lester Pearson International Airport retains its position as newly arrived Indian immigrants, students and tourists’ gateway into Canada.
In fact, so great and consistent has been the demand that India’s national carrier Air India recently restarted their direct flight to New Delhi while Canada’s national carrier, Air Canada already operates direct flights to both New Delhi as well as Mumbai. The people from the Indian state of Punjab which sends the highest number of passengers to Canada have been demanding for a while now that there should be a direct flight between Toronto and the city of Amritsar.
Indo-Canadians are one of the fastest-growing communities in Canada, making up the second-largest non-European group after Chinese Canadians. The largest group of Indian Canadians are of Punjabi origin, followed by those of Gujarati origin and others.
While these numbers may surprise those unfamiliar with the unique relationship between India and Canada, the fact is that practically every Indian family living in the Indian state of Punjab and Gujarat will have some family member who is a ‘Canadian’.There is nothing new in this and Indians have been arriving to work, study and settle in Canada for decades now. In the early 1970’s the then Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau’s liberalization of immigration policies saw a great surge in the migration of Indians to Canada, a trend which continues to date.
Within Canada, the largest population of Indian immigrants is concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area( GTA) with approximately 900,000 Indo-Canadians scattered across GTA which includes cities like Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear Punjabi or other languages from India while shopping or walking the streets of Brampton, Mississauga or Toronto.
Major Indian festivals like Diwali and Baisakhi are celebrated with a fervour that equals Christmas celebrations. After GTA, Greater Vancouver is home to the second-highest concentration of Indo-Canadians with people of Punjabi origin forming a bulk of these numbers. In the Metro Vancouver area, Indo-Canadians are sprinkled in the cities of Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Abbotsford and Delta. Amongst these, Surrey is home to the highest percentage of Indo-Canadians.
Low long-term unemployment and an inclusive society are the two main reasons why immigrants are drawn to the country. The country lays emphasis on accepting people of different backgrounds and there is a significant “anti-racism strategy” in place.
However, for a new immigrant getting that first job in Canada can be challenging as his/her work experience and sometimes even qualifications too are not recognized and the one line reply after the interview is,’ We like you and you did well in the interview but unfortunately you do not have the requisite ‘Canadian Experience’.Although this is quite frustrating, the easiest way to overcome this challenge is to enrol for a ‘bridging course’ compatible with your existing qualification or experience and then begin the job search utilizing the services of a number of institutions set up by the Govt. to help the new immigrants settle down.
Another way to acquire the Canadian experience is to look for Volunteering opportunities in the numerous Community serving organizations like YMCA or even the local food banks. Once your resume has that elusive Canadian experience, the job search is comparatively easy.
As GTA has a sizable Indian origin population there are also quite a few Indian run businesses and they provide that ‘first break to the new immigrants. Also, with the constant influx of new immigrants, the real estate market is quite robust and many new immigrants have found their second calling by becoming successful real estate agents or auto & home insurance advisors.
Typically, for a new immigrant, the first year in Canada can be quite challenging especially for those still looking for a job while negotiating the cold Canadian winter. However, typically, by the end of the first year, one starts to get a hang of the place and is also adjusted to the weather. The kids have started going to the school and made new friends at the school and teachers and other parents are way more friendly than anything experienced ‘back home’. A family typically begins to build a support system in their local community and the country now looks ‘very livable’.
Over the past few years, Canada has also become the preferred destination of Indian students seeking ‘Higher Education. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, the number of Indian international students studying at Canadian universities rose from 76,075 in 2016 to 172,625 in 2018, an increase of 127%. These high numbers are generally attributed to the availability of good jobs and a great work environment.
Also, the Canadian system makes it easy for an international student to work after graduation and create a path to permanent residence. In 2018, international students contributed an estimated $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supported almost 170,000 jobs for Canada’s middle class. Small wonder then that Canada actively woos international students to enrol in its various Educational Institutions.
Years pass and pretty soon, a typical international student has transitioned from a student’s visa to a work permit and onwards to a Permanent Residency eventually culminating into a passport signifying that he/she is now a Canadian, arguably the ‘Nicest People on the Planet’!
How do I know this? Well, I came here as a student as well and now here I am….A CANADIAN !