Canada is one of the most popular destinations for people all over the world. With 300,000+ immigrants vying to enter the country every year your chances of snagging a visa have never been higher. There are a huge number of immigration programs to choose from. Depending on your circumstances you could be able to get in via half a dozen different routes.
Although immigration to Canada takes some amount of time to do long term (approximately 6 months to >1 year) the process is straightforward and very fair. If you are interested in living in a country that ticks all the boxes when it comes to safety, quality of life, and opportunity then Canada is a serious contender.
But Canada is not a perfect country. While the future direction of Canada is not clear (ask any Canadian and they will tell you things are getting worse) there are serious current economic and social issues. From house prices to racism to immigration, Canada has the same struggles as most other developed countries.
2021 is the right time to reflect on immigration to Canada as the projected population growth will likely effect all of these reasons.
At BearMoney we always strive for balance, that’s why we’ve put together a list of negatives to consider before deciding to take that immigration plunge. We wrote this article as a compliment to our Is Canada Still Worth Immigrating To In 2021? article which shows you all the great things about life here.
Your New Home is Either Too Expensive or Too Cold
Canada is a massive county. With 9.9Million km2 there is definitely a place for you here. Whether it is the bright lights of Toronto or the bare wilderness of the Yukon, there is something for everybody there. If you love the wilderness and solitude then you can have a great times in 90% of the country. If however, you want to live in an actual city or find a place to pursue your dreams, you are in for a tough ride.
Toronto and Vancouver are the two big cities in the country. A huge number of immigrants want to move there, to build a new and better life. The problem is, of course, that everybody else wants to do this too. The real estate markets in both cities are already a national emergency
Sure you can get a job more easily here than anywhere else in Canada, but you’re likely to lose over 50% of your income to rent and utilities. This means that unless you can make $100,000 off the boat you will not be middle class or higher in Canada for many years.
‘That’s fine’ you say, you’ll just move to a smaller city and live there. The issue with this is that places like Winnipeg or Saskatoon have incredibly harsh climates and Montreal might as well be another planet. You’re unlikely to find work here unless you have an in demand trade.
For small cities like Halifax or St. John’s you are unlikely to both find a job or afford a place to live. For those who want to avoid the cold altogether and move to Vancouver Island or the Okanagan, you will pay Toronto prices for Winnipeg wages.
There is no ‘plug and play’ city to settle in when you move to Canada. It takes planning and compromise. If you can’t do either then you’ll find it very difficult here.
Food Prices Are Crazy Everywhere
Eating in Canada in general is expensive, eating healthy is practically impossible. Although the quality of the food can be very good, the percentage of your income that you will have to spend on food will be very high.
Of course there are always the big options like a Walmart or a Costco. If you can afford to buy your meat in two month quantities or don’t care about quality then this can be manageable. If however, you want fresh fruit and vegetables, or organic/specialist foods you’re going to pay through your nose.
People used to stores like ALDI will be shocked to find items like bread and cheese costing 4 times as much in Canada. This prices increase doesn’t include and increase in quality either, so you pay more for worse food. It is said that Canada’s size makes cheap food difficult but much like cable/cell phone rates here, that’s a load of nonsense.
If you consider this alongside the high cost of housing you could be in a scenario where over 70% of your income is going to keep your lights on, your rent paid, and your fridge stocked. If you’re not the time of person that can budget groceries or cooking for yourself then Canada might not be for you.
Of course you could always just eat fast food and live the dream that way…
Salaries Are Much Less Than The USA
It has long been a tradition for the most versatile Canadian employees to move to the USA for work or to try to work remotely for a US company. This might sound ridiculous given the fact that healthcare in the USA is worse than in Canada and working conditions here are slight better.
The simple reason is that American employers pay a lot more, in comparative terms and real terms. Canadian labor is, for some reason, seen as cheaper/less valuable than American labor and companies here are happy to pay 30% less than people get south of the border.
The key thing to note here though is that it depends on your skill set and industry. An IT worker in Toronto on $70,000 a year will likely pull $100,000 a year in the USA. A plumber in Ontario will likely earn more than a US counterpart. As a general rule of thumb though, you will earn in CAD what you earn in USD. This means you will earn 20-30% less than in the USA.
If you are a >$100,000 employee you’ll likely also have comparable private healthcare funded by your job, so not even that is a win.
The reason for this is simple, the Canadian government is does not do a good enough job encouraging or protecting Canadian industry or wage levels.
If you want to make big bucks as soon as possible, Canada might not be for you.
Vacation and Work/Life Balance Are ‘America-lite’
Canada is in a tough spot culturally and geographically. As a Commonwealth country it has a lot of historical ties to the UK, Australia, and the wider world. As a North American country it is overshadowed and influence by its much more powerful neighbor to the south. The result is a middle way country that has aspect of both ‘European life’ and ‘American life’.
Practically this means that the ‘work until you die’ culture of American economics is felt more in Canada than say for example, Germany. Vacation entitlements are poor, with most companies acting like they are doing you a favor giving you 12 days. As a comparison the statutory minimum in Europe is 20 days with most people getting 25+. That’s 1-2 weeks extra paid vacation a year!
In addition, the culture around offices is very plastic and ‘one size fits all’. Corporate fun is something you will have to deal with in Canada a lot of the time. In most countries you might go for a beer with your team after work or organize some normal everyday event. In Canada it is things like talent contests, scavenger hunts, or ‘pizza parties’ (you get pizza for working 10 hours+ unpaid overtime). There is a fakeness to it that most people will find odd.
The ideas of ‘team player’, ‘go getter’, ‘free market’ are taken to a slightly more toxic level here than most other countries. That being said, there are plenty of Canadian companies that try to throw off the old way of doing things. The problem is that a lot of the big companies are US companies that will give you the bare minimum.
This is not an insurmountable issue however, it is just highly relevant if you consider your benefits package to be as important as your salary. They aren’t bad but the range of conditions will leave you scratching your head.
Canada Is Still Making Progress On Racism & Intolerance.
Hate crimes in Canada rose 37% in 2020. While some of this can be attributed to Covid-19 and related anti-Asian sentiment, the 2,669 incidents hint at another, often hidden, aspect of Canada, racism/intolerance.
Now, Canada is a world leader in racial and LGBT tolerance, that is clear from any study data that you look at. But Canada is not just Toronto and Vancouver, there are large swathes of the country where intolerance and racism are either deeply entrenched or tolerated.
My first month in Canada I was approached by a stranger at the gym, who upon learning I was an immigrant, proceeded to praise me for ‘being one of the good ones’. This obviously meant somebody who didn’t look different to him and took an interest in things such as hockey. What it really hinted at though, was the deep divide between the ‘native’ Canadian population and immigrants.
These people aren’t ‘native’ Canadians though, at best they can trace their family history back 6 generations. For context, I can trace my family history back 20. These people view the actual native population with scorn. The history of the residential schools in Canada is shocking and highly relevant to cultural attitudes today.
Many Canadians born here before the mid 1990s would have grown up in a very white, very homogenous society. A lot of them don’t enjoy the changes that they see in the world around them.
But this is a common feature in every rich country that has had mass immigration policies. It probably is not as bad in Canada as most of these other places, but it is still relevant today. With Trump style politics still popular in both rural and urban areas, it is a very relevant factor to consider, especially if you come from a fundamentally different or multicultural country.
Don’t Move Then?
Despite this, Canada still has a lot to offer. If you can work your way around these reasons you can build a great life here. However, if any one of these five reasons are something that you cannot cope with or overcome then your chances of succeeding here are very limited indeed.
Canada can be everything you want it to be, if you go in with your eyes open.