By Bamidele Salako
The takeoff point of your desire to immigrate to Canada must be the clarification of your “why”!
Ah, this one cannot be overstated. I hope you’re not just planning to move because that’s what’s in vogue.
Except you have a job waiting, or your employer is moving you to their Canadian operation, please sit yourself down first and ask yourself why ooo eh ehn! Before you find yourself on Facebook or Twitter sharing stories that touch. You know, nobody has put a gun to your head and asked you to do this thing under duress.
But seriously, why do you want to leave the relative comforts of your home country – the financial stability of a well-paying job (if you have one – and yes, most who can afford to make this expensive move, do), a solid career track record with immense local relevance, the leverage provided by a well-established network of family, friends, mentors and colleagues, and the social comforts of a familiar cultural setting – to possibly start from scratch elsewhere?
You must begin the journey of your Canadian dream with why. And it cannot be frivolous. You know, “I hate Buhari” and that sort of thing.
Do you have a justifiable reason for wanting to trade “certainty” for uncertainty, a celebrated history of laudable career accomplishments for a place where you will have to prove yourself to employers (your impressive resume regardless), a place where you probably have never interviewed for jobs because you’re so good and always get headhunted, for another place where you can apply to a hundred jobs and not receive a single callback for a job interview. Fact.
The reason this reflective exercise of clarifying your why is needful is that your why, if it is compelling enough, may/will be the one thing that sustains you and keeps you going during your first few months (sometimes, a year or more) in Canada if/when the going gets tough and your Canadian reality does not match the lofty expectations you had before leaving your home country.
And Canada, like any other country in the world, has the incredible ability to throw you some major curve-balls that will make you ask why on earth you made the decision to relocate. A relocation to another country other than yours without a job offer, is never a cakewalk! It can make you travel the full spectrum of negative human emotions – frustration, anger and regret! No kidding!
Reality dawns on many when they land in Canada and realize that job opportunities abound in their occupation – I mean you can actually see the job ads online – yet Canadian employers are not enthusiastic to hire you and are not rolling out a red carpet to welcome you into their companies even though you possess extensive international experience that make you a perfect match for the job and hold countless academic qualifications and relevant professional designations that should make hiring you a no-brainer. Your Master’s and PhD – even from Harvard – won’t get you in the door. Humility 101.
Or that even though the Government of Canada officially pursues a policy of multiculturalism, many Canadian employers are still slow in catching on to a disposition that favours the recruitment of newcomer professionals in spite of their commendable industry experience from abroad.
Or that word on the street in the circle of immigrant doctors from Nigeria and elsewhere who are yet to secure a residency, even after many years of writing and passing their qualifying exams, is that the system, naturally, and you can argue rightly so, favours the hiring of home-trained physicians over and above foreign-trained doctors so as to, amongst other significant reasons, enable their own medical graduates pay off their student loans once employed.
Or that even though you were a rising star with over ten years of industry experience from back home, you may need to begin your Canadian career with an entry-level position in the same field that, depending on your pay grade in your home country, will probably pay you much less than you previously earned. And I mean less, not necessarily, in terms of amount, but in terms of value – your living expenses considered. There are contexts in which the value of CAD 1,000 in Nigeria is higher than the value of the same amount in Canada. That sum will hire you a driver, a maid and a guard in Nigeria. In Canada, a friend had to pay CAD 500 to his landlord for the replacement of a doorknob that his kid damaged. In Nigeria, CAD 500 will probably buy you two new doors and cover the cost of workmanship; I hope you get my point. It would take maybe just five thousand bucks to fix that doorknob.
Or that, after searching for a certain level of jobs commensurate with your foreign experience and education for months with no success, you may need to work transitional jobs – or what we colloquially refer to as survival jobs – for a period pending your securing of more desirable employment that matches your expertise.
Why would you have to do a survival job? Because the bills won’t exactly be understanding of your situation and there’s no, “Oga Landlord, abeg give me till next month. I never see work,” in Canada. You signed a lease agreement, and even though there are tenant protection laws, you’re obligated by the terms of the agreement you penned to pay your rent as at when due. With possible ejection staring you in the face, you will require little prodding to hit the streets and find that Walmart cashier job or that warehouse job or recruit your vehicle for Skip the Dishes food delivery runs or have your automobile “Uber-fied.”
Now these are things that can mess with your mind. It can start to feel like A Fall From Grace (apologies, Tyler Perry).
Or that even upon newly arriving in Canada, you’ve booked an AirBnB for say, two weeks, hoping to find more permanent accommodation in that time. And then you start your search for accommodation after arrival and you find that many landlords and building managers are reluctant to rent out apartments to newcomers. And even though it’s pretty clear that you’ve only just arrived, they’re asking you for proof of employment and referrals from other Canadian landlords before they can rent an apartment out to you. And your AirBnB expiry date is closing in.
Or is it the dynamics of moving to Canada with a child, or children as the case may be, and the appurtenant fact that depending on your destination province, the cost of childcare for a year can be as high as four years of university tuition?! And so when you move with two kids to a city like Toronto where the cost of daycare can be as high as CAD1,685 a month per child, one partner will have to stay back at home to care for the kids while the other job hunts. Otherwise, goodbye savings! Especially if you didn’t come to Canada with some substantial amount! That’s even if you find a daycare program able to accept your child because of lengthy waiting lists! Reality.
According to CTV News, “A typical dual-income family with young children in Canada spends about one-third of their net income on childcare fees – and that’s if they can even get their child into a childcare program.”
Look, I am not trying to paint a picture of gloom and doom. I am just providing a reality check so you know what to expect such that if and when you do decide to move to Canada, you can come hoping for the best, but also armed with tempered expectations to help you weather any initial unfavourable outcomes you may experience.
See, stay with me. This is a journey of discovery. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a big fan of people who want to, and can afford to, leaving Nigeria to move abroad, whether to Canada or elsewhere, even if only for a season, and even if only for their children!
So, I am not trying to deter anyone from coming to Canada. I am a big fan of Canada – a great country that has offered, and is still offering, myriad economic opportunities to people from all over the world. In my short time in Canada, I have enjoyed things that my own country never offered in over three decades living there. And we will be talking about these awesome Canadian privileges as we go on in this series.
I am only setting the stage for future conversations and helping you see that even though Canada is the land of opportunity, there’s a considerable number of challenges that most newcomers can/will face in the process of settling and integrating.
The good news? There’s no First World country that offers the range of settlement, integration and employment support that Canada offers to newcomers to help navigate the obstacles and challenges that await them upon arrival.
You see, Canada is a nation that puts its money where its mouth is. They need immigrants for population growth and economic competitiveness, and they open the doors for you to come, but they don’t stop there. They also provide you with the requisite resources for success. And we will be discussing these resources in future articles as well as featuring interviews with, and stories of immigrants who have utilized these resources on their way to success in Canada – including yours truly.
Look, there are many successful immigrants in Canada – MANY. But this thing is a process – a journey. There are or there may be challenges that precede the rewards you seek from a move to Canada. And my job, through this series, will be to provide you an unbiased balcony view of life in Canada for immigrants.
The most likely reality is that you will not enter Canada today and start picking dollars on the street tomorrow. There are few people that this is true of – who straightaway landed and were making big bucks – but this is not the reality for the majority. You may find yourself starting from the “gutter” as many have and yet end up in the palace – because Canada is a country that rewards your resourcefulness.
However, let’s start with why.
Why do you want to leave Nigeria for Canada?
The next article will explore with stats and facts, the challenges that most newcomers face in Canada. This was introductory. Like I promised – raw and unedited to help you make informed decisions.