Is Canada all the rage?
April 13, 2007 10:29 AM   Subscribe

[Canada filter] I was very impressed with what I heard at a lecture about immigrating to Canada. But is everything they said really true?

When having your family hostage by a teen scumbag with a gun doesn’t even make the news anymore, you have no trouble making up your mind about leaving Brazil's tropical wonders behind. So I decided to attend a lecture promoted by the Québec Government in Brazil about immigration as a skilled worker. My SO and I both score above the 67 points necessary to apply and we have the funds, so now we are seriously considering it, although probably not to Québec.

I left the lecture completely amazed.
I have no doubt that compared to Brazil (economy, employment, crime, politics, you name it - horror horror everywhere) Canada is the promised land. But now I wonder about the (not mentioned at the lecture) negative aspects.
Come on, is that all really true?

Here's what we heard, and what I wonder:
(I realize many of the answers depend on specific cities, neighborhoods and other variables, but I would like to hear it all as I have no idea yet where I want to live.)

Medical Assistance - Efficient and free.
But is there easy access to exams, specialists appointments, surgery? Waiting lists? Impossible lines at the emergency room?
I should point out, for comparison purposes, that in Brazil while the public health system is chaotic, private health insurance like the one we have guarantees virtually perfect assistance, with plenty of specialists, immediate access to surgery and emergency care, excelent hospitals.

Equality - Immigrants and native Canadians, men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals are treated equally, not only socially but when applying for jobs too. Really?

Urban life – Clean, organized cities, no traffic, no pollution, insignificant crime. Again: really?

Employment – There’s a great need for graduate, skilled professionals in all areas. Jobs abound, thus the active recruitment of immigrants worldwide.
But in reality, how likely am I to promptly find a position as an Architect, provided I complete my degree equivalence studies? Will I end up having to work as a salesperson or waitress in order to survive while I look for my skilled job?

Self employment and entrepreneurship
What if I decide to work as a self-employed architect, or start a small business, say a shop? What should I expect in terms of getting jobs and clients, taxes, general difficulties?

Degree x work experience
I know that regulated professionals like myself must get degree equivalency and possibly even go back to school in order to work legally. My SO, however, has a solid corporate career in the mobile industry, but a degree in Psychology. Will he have to get an equivalency just to be considered a university graduate, even if he plans to stick with his current unrelated-to-his-diploma field?

How expensive is it to live comfortably in the city? Do tiny apartments cost a fortune? How about suburban living? Are there nice spacious houses or will I have to settle for project-like derelict condos? How about the countryside? Is daily commuting a viable option?

What if, after all the assistance I receive from the government to become a permanent resident because of my professional skills, I decide to become a stay-at-home mom? Can the government give me any grief?

These previous posts have some information, but I would really appreciate more feedback from native Canadians and immigrants alike. What don’t you like about living in Canada? What disappointments did you have when you arrived? What should I really expect?
posted by AnyGuelmann to Society & Culture (47 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps obvious, but Canada is really cold.
posted by phrontist at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2007

(I mean, coming from Brazil)
posted by phrontist at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2007

Oh, big question. In theory everything you said is true, in that it is what Canada strives to be. In practice we often fall short.

Medical Assistance is indeed free, but long wait times are common both in emergency rooms and for surgery. It varies province by province.

Equality - I would say this is mostly true. It wasn't always true and there is some lingering discrimination in the system, morseo in rural areas I would think. But if you are in one of the large cities like Toronto or Montreal, your ethniciy won't make you an outsider: Toronto is the world's most multicultural city.

Urban Life: Depends on your perspecive. Toronto is being strangled by traffic and smog alerts in the summer are common. Gang-related violence frequently makes the news. But compared to other world cities it may not be so bad. Most of the other cities in Canada are significantly smaller and correspondingly not so affected by such big city problems (but are also less worldly and cosmopolitan).

Employment - this is the biggest question mark. Many skilled immigrants are unable to find work in Canada because their foreign qualifications are not recognized. It is a big problem that is recognized by the public and the government but it has yet to be solved. Canada is full of heartbroken immigrants who dreamed of practicing their skilled profession and wound up waiting tables full time. It's a very touchy situation. You need to do some serious research and maybe talk to an immigration lawyer in Canada to see what you need to do.

Housing: In major urban cities, housing is quite expensive, but there is usually cheaper housing in the suburbs. In most cities the suburbs are growing like mad and are filled with new, big houses. The farther away from the city the cheaper it gets. Typically any countryside within commuting distance is either already gone or in the process of being converted to suburbs. Daily commuting is usually an option by car but traffic can be very bad.

Homemaker? No idea.
Best of luck.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just a few comments.

Medical Assistance - yes, it's free, it's generally efficient, & access to everything you mentioned is available. It is by no means perfect, but many companies have extended medical benefits for employees (dentists, glasses, etc.).

Urban Life - I've lived in two major metropolitan cities in Canada and there is definitely traffic. Clean (generally), I would agree with. There is of course crime & pollution, but statistically it is less than in the U.S. so I guess it gets used as a selling point.

Housing - we're probably going to need more info from you on what you consider expensive; but, yes, commuting is generally viable outside the larger cities, as long as you can handle the traffic.
posted by Laura in Canada at 10:53 AM on April 13, 2007

Healthcare - Canada's health care system is not quite the quagmire some will depict it as, though like most things it varies from province to province. It is, however, public, with no corresponding chequebook health care system. I'm far more comfortable with our waiting lists than with what I witnessed when in Brazil--my host father had a heart attack and the ER docs wouldn't even see him until my host mother showed up with the chequebook.

Equality - For the most part, yes, though the most pronounced discrimination is probably against new immigrants, so that's something to worry about. Your English skills seem very good, though, so that's a huge help.

Urban Life - We have pollution, but not like Sao Paulo has pollution. The traffic bit is laughable, though, at least for the major cities we have plenty of that. Crime and grime are both insignificant compared to most larger Brazilian cities. Curitiba and Brasilia probably excepted.

Self-Employment - not much to offer here since it's not my area of expertise. There's a lot of bureaucracy involved in most of these sorts of things, but it's pretty much a straightforward bureaucracy, you wouldn't come across a lot of corrupt officials or the like. And some of the bureaucracy is there to *help* you get loans and such.

Work - my last employer brought a lot of people from Brazil directly into their labour force into mid-level corporate jobs. Once you've had one reasonably long term job, no one cares so much about your degrees anymore, so as long as he has the professional/managerial skills to do the work, and the language skills to do it in Canada, he could probably find work without retraining.

Housing - Depends on city and your definition of tiny. A family can probably live in a reasonable apartment or condo (most of which are pretty new in most parts of Canada) on a single upper white collar or middle management salary. Two professional salaries will, obviously, get them more. Houses tend to either be monster houses in the suburbs or smaller, older houses in town, with the big, new ones being the cheaper option.

Homemaker - a question for your immigration lawyer, but if that's a concern, perhaps you should be immigrating on your husband's merits and you on the spousal visa?
posted by jacquilynne at 10:54 AM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Immigrants are not necessarily treated equally as professionals - there are a lot of stories in the papers all the time about everything from lift engineers to doctors having to retrain, and MBAs driving cabs and so forth. Google "jobs canadian experience" to find many tales of woe. You touch on this later in your question, but my step one if I were you would be to contact the governing body for architects in whatever province you fancy and clarify this - ask them if your certifications etc are transferable here. You will have some time to get that process going before moving - getting skilled worker PR took me and my husband about 13 months applying from the USA.

I am an immigrant professional who works in construction (I'm a quantity surveyor) and can confirm that the industry here in Ontario is extremely busy.

Here's a recent story about "affordability of housing" in various cities.

If you're considering Ontario, is a good resource for beginners guides to navigating healthcare, housing, etc. It has a forum which is less useful, in my exprerience, except when the moderators respond.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:06 AM on April 13, 2007

Having living in Canada, several countries in europe, and the United States, yes, Canada is the promised land, but please don't tell anyone about it.

If you do come, go west, and I'm not talking Manitoba or Saskatchewan. Alberta or British Columbia, we're nicer out here.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:10 AM on April 13, 2007

Occurs to me my first paragraph may seem overly negative. I work in an office full of skilled first gen immigrants of varying English fluency, and deal day to day with architects who came here from all over the world. But the professions have a reputation for being ruthless in dealing with those who qualified elsewhere and I see at my own place of work and elsewhere, especially for non-native English speakers, getting that first foot in the door can be tricky. My husband's decade of culturally and professionally equivalent US work experience was discounted in a number of interviews because of his place of birth. It's aggravating.

As far as your homemaker question, nobody has ever checked that I am still a "skilled worker" and I don't believe the PR card distinguishes us from other residents (although the codes may). Surely it could only come up at renewal, if at all? Sounds like a good question for a lawyer!
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:18 AM on April 13, 2007

I love it here.
posted by chunking express at 11:28 AM on April 13, 2007

Is there any way you could take a trip up to Canada to see it for yourself? You might be able to directly contact professional organizations about transferring your job skills more easily that way, and you could check out housing/quality of life stuff.

For your specific questions

Medical Assistance - I haven't had too much experience. It's pretty decent, but not perfect. You have to be your on advocate, and you'll have to wait if you come into the ER with a sore throat or something minor because they generally triage. I think waiting lists are common for non-time dependent proceedures, like hip replacements.

Equality - It's pretty good, but again, not perfect. Immigrants may have a rough time in some parts, but if you move to an area with a lot of them, like Toronto or Montreal, you should be fine.

Urban life – Haha, yes there's traffic. There's crime of course, but I wouldn't say it's overwhelming.

Employment – note which province you move too - Quebec's population is (still?) shrinking, so they need to recruit people. There's a lot of unemployment up in the Maritimes though. I'm not sure about architects.

Homemaker - I'm not sure about your specific question, but in Quebec they get something like 6 months of maternity leave, which is pretty cool.
posted by fermezporte at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2007


Parts of Canada are cold. Vancouver, Victoria, and some other places are generally very nice. Snow is rare, summers quite sunny and not overly hot, and the landscape beautiful.
posted by sindark at 11:36 AM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: One thing to keep in mind: The entire country has barely twice the population of Sao Paulo, in an area comparable to that of all of Brazil. The biggest city (Toronto) has only two million people (5M in the metropolitan area). There are only six metropolitan areas with over one million people (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton).

So the scale of things is going to be a bit different than what you're used to, especially if you live outside those major cities.

Other than that, reading through your questions:

Equality: Discrimination against major categories (including sexual orientation) is forbidden by law. There are still a lot of places where people militantly hate gays, though, especially in the Prairies and small towns.

Medical: Mostly free, yes. (Not dental, not optometric, not prescriptions.) Not very efficient; it can be hard in metro areas in Ontario at least to find a family doctor, so a lot of people end up going to walk-in clinics for everything.

Housing: really depends on where you live. If you want snowmobile commuting and no neighbours for a hundred miles, we've got it. If you want highrise condos and a subway to work, we've got that too. Most large Canadian cities have extensive suburbs where housing is more affordable, but more bland and with longer commutes, than downtown.

Self-employment: By my understanding you will need to invest a substantial amount in Canadian industry to enter self-employed. Plan on doing that once you're already here as a landed immigrant or citizen, not on the way in.

And you didn't ask this, but in case it comes up later:

Language: The only place where French is a necessity is the province of Quebec except maybe the city of Montreal (where you can get by in English, but would find a lot of jobs inaccessible). French is helpful but not really a requirement in Ottawa. In the rest of Canada it's all English.
posted by mendel at 11:39 AM on April 13, 2007

Yes, Canada is a nice place to live. You will find it cold. If you don't speak French, Quebec will be somewhat less friendly to you than other provinces. As is usual in most countries, immigrants are concentrated in Canada's large cities, so if you wish to find other Brazilians, you must live in Toronto, Montreal, etc. Toronto has plenty of Brazilians, and has one or two large festivals every year (Caribana). When Portugal and Brazil were playing in the World Cup, Toronto was riotous.

You will need to investigate just what you need to do in order to be accepted as an architect, and you may find it somewhat harder to get a job than a native-born architect, but not grossly so. If you both communicate in English fluently, that will be a big help. (I don't believe many people discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, etc., but if you can't communicate in English well, employers will notice that and quite possibly choose a candidate who can.)

Health care is excellent and quite good. A friend just had a premature baby who spent six months in neonatal intensive care, watched over every day by a health care team. Well over a million dollars worth of care. This would have bankrupted most Americans, even ones with insurance. Cost to her: zero. The entire billing department at one major downtown Toronto hospital is literally two (2) people. Health care waiting lists are based much more on *need* rather than money, so if you need an MRI *now*, you'll get it *now*, while if it's non-urgent the appointment may be next month.

Traffic, crime, and pollution are insignificant compared to major Brazilian cities, as noted above.

Homemaker question - Canada doesn't care whether you work or not. They only care that, as an immigrant, you don't apply for public assistance for at least three years. So if you can support yourselves on one income (or even zero incomes), great, Canada loves you. If you apply for welfare immediately after arriving, they will be upset with you.

Like every other place, after you've been here for a while you'll notice some shortcomings. But I have no qualms about saying Canada is one of the better places in the world to live.
posted by jellicle at 11:48 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

My observations are based on living in Ottawa, Ontario born and raised, and I'm native.

Health care - it's free in cost, but not in time. Depends on severity of injury and overall hospital stress. Data point: last hospital visit (minor hand laceration) required only 1 hour of waiting, but the one before that (small hand puncture) was a good 3 hours of waiting. There's been thoughts of introducting private health care, probably not going to happen for a few years but it's far from impossible. Surgery or other waiting lines really depend, I've heard stories of long queues for replacement surgeries. On the other hand my aunt was diagnosed with bladder cancer at the end of October this year, had the operation within a week or two, and treatments will be finished before the end of this month.

Equality - depends on person and location obviously, but I've never encountered any type of discrimination, mostly because it's against the law in workplaces. We're very accepting of all types of people. I'm at Carleton University right now, which has many different people from all around the globe, and haven't heard of one equality-related incident. It's really a live-and-let-live mentality here.

Urban life - other than bits of garbage here and there, it's very clean. There's plenty of traffic in Ottawa around rush hour, but other than that it's easy driving. As a side note, Ottawa has a decent bike network, so that's always an option (and if not as transportation, simply as recreation, biking through a mild weathered fall-colored forest is to die for) Crime's really that low, though there's still graffiti and general hooligan-related stuff. Pollution is low enough that it's not an issue.

Can't really give anything for the other points.

What don't I like about Canada? Ottawa winters can be really rough, although this year was not bad. You learn to bundle up real nice and warm! Coming from Brazil might be a bit of a cold shock. Other than that, I'm really having a hard time thinking of anything else I dislike or that bugs me.

Basically, it's a very nice place to live. Alberta's in a huge growth boom right now, jobs are aplenty and wages are high. I'm sure you could get a job as an architect pretty easily there, although I have zero knowledge of the education-immigration requirements. Highly recommend taking a trip up here sometime to see it for yourself! Email's in the profile if you've got more questions.
posted by Meagan at 11:50 AM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: I recently had occasion to discuss this with some recent Brazilian emigrants (Vanessa and Carlos a young married couple) about Canada vs. Brazil a couple of days ago. He is from a farming family, her parents are rather well off (I gather) as factory owners. Tupa was I believe, the town they were from.

1. Depending on where you chose to live, things like apartment/house prices would be difficult to quantify. My understanding is that in Brazil, rent is very high relative to the average wage consuming upwards of 40-80% of the take home.

2. Crime both agreed, is FAR less in Canada. Comments about the Brazilian political system were mostly negative. Canada they said, has more honest politicians and police presently. Carlos mentioned a story of assassination of a small town mayor who was about to expose some corruption. Apparently it hardly made news. It is a fact of life in their province.

3. Both agreed that for farmers, lawyers, dentists and most other (but somewhat selected) occupations, Canada's wage scale FAR outstrips the Brazilian model. Vanessa's sister is a dentist in Brazil who still lives at home because she can't make enough to get ahead. Her brother is a mechanical engineer who also barely makes enough to get ahead. However, their ideas of what is "enough" may be different from yours and mine.

4. She has a Master degree in Business Administration, and she is having some difficulty finding suitable work in her field. However, they have chosen to live in a rural community, and she is prepared to deal with this over the next couple of years. I can say that I would be cautious expecting that Canada will automatically recognize a degree. If this applies to you be sure and check for parity with professional associations in the province you are considering.

Both Carlos and Vanessa said that the opportunities for growth in Canada were far greater than in Brazil. Yes, they both miss it (I understand it is a beautiful country) but they travel back regularly to see family, and this mitigates their homesickness somewhat. They are more optimistic about their opportunities in Canada and this helps put up with the crappy weather.

Are they happy? Yes, but there will be some adjustments for them. Living where they did however, the remoteness of the rural community does not bother them. They are used to driving long distances to get to a city, and so the adjustments were not that great between rural Brazil and rural Alberta. Driving in a January prairie blizzard however, might be something else again.

BIG difference in temperature depending on where you choose. Oh, and we Canucks suck at soccer so don't expect to see too much on TV (HOCKEY!!!).

Email if you like, and I will give your message to my friends if you have more questions.

I sincerely hope you do choose to come to Western Canada. We need people of all walks of life, and even we western rednecks are more open minded than most of our liberal media would have you believe.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 12:02 PM on April 13, 2007

What are Brazil's taxes like? Canada has significantly higher taxes than the US.
posted by jpdoane at 12:30 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Canada is indeed pretty cool. My husband is Canadian, and I'm in the process of acquiring permanent residence myself. My two cents:

Health Care: Yup, it's free, although the quality and wait times vary based on where you live. For example, there are world-class hospitals in Toronto, but they also have very long emergency room waits. Overall, though, I think it balances out and you'll receive a similar quality of care to what you would at home.

Equality: Yes, discrimination is illegal and the urban centres are quite multi-cultural (Toronto in particular) and liberal. You'll still encounter the odd jerk or two, but I'd be hard pressed to find anything on an institutional scale.

Urban Life: There's some crime, there's pollution, traffic in Toronto is a nightmare, but overall it's on par with or better than most large Western cities.

Self-Employment: As an immigrant, that could be tricky. There are investment requirements for that sort of thing if you immigrate with the intention of being self-employed (I believe it is considered "entrepreneur" rather than "skilled worker") but if your partner qualifies as a skilled worker, you might be able to have him or her apply to immigrate as a skilled worker, with you applying as his or her spouse (you don't have to be legally married, just demonstrably in a marriage-like relationship). Unfortunately I don't know much about barriers to recent immigrants starting businesses, though. It would be worth talking to a lawyer about; immigration, business and tax law in Canada are all as convoluted as they are elsewhere.

Degree and Work Experience: As others have pointed out, this is a problem for Canada. There really are people with professional degrees from respectable foreign institutions driving cabs and waiting tables. It would be wise to investigate what kinds of accreditation you'll need if you immigrate, because it varies widely from industry to industry.

Housing: This depends on the city, and if you want to rent or buy. Buying a home within most major cities can get expensive, but condos and rentals are manageable for most people. Suburbs are generally affordable, but can be crowded and there is of course a longer commute to the cities. I wouldn't expect it to be a problem for you.

Becoming a Homemaker: I seem to rememer that you have to at least make an effort to find a job if you're the skilled worker applicant, but again, talk to your lawyer. I think the big thing is making sure you don't claim social assistance when you get here.

Something you might also want to know is that there are different immigration requirements for Quebec and the rest of Canada. They vary depending on which class you'd be immigrating as a member of (skilled worker, entrepreneur, etc.) so you'll want to read up and see what the differences are. Also, the wait times for these applications can be quite long -- at least a year for worker classes is what I've heard.

If you can make it up to visit Canada, you really should -- it's a big country and the various parts of it all have their pros and cons. Good luck!
posted by AV at 12:42 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Hmm. I spent this morning in a conference about work and visible minorities/immigrants/Aboriginals/etc etc.

Short answer: immigrants are frequently better off than the Canadian-born. They are better-educated, and in many categories make more money than Canadian-born workers with the same amount of education. Equality issues were similarly bright in most areas; if you're disabled, you're less likely to be well employed, but if you're a 'visible minority,' you're more likely to be ditto.

For what an anecdote is worth, I did a rough count, and the per cent of visible minorities at this conference (almost all senior civil servants and academics) was almost if not on par with the per cent in the general population.

And, here, 'visible minority' did not include Natives. Not quite so much to brag about there in Canada.

How expensive is it to live comfortably in the city? Do tiny apartments cost a fortune? How about suburban living? Are there nice spacious houses or will I have to settle for project-like derelict condos? How about the countryside? Is daily commuting a viable option?

Not very expensive; I had nice enough apartments in downtown Ottawa even when I was a student. What exists for "project-like condos" here is, well, "not much." I lived in a non-project-like, non-expensive condo for a few years when I was little; it was quite nice, and an easy trip to downtown to boot. Canada just isn't much for urban (or suburban) decay.

I just bought my first house +/- a fifty-minute drive from downtown Ottawa for a thoroughly reasonable price; if you want to commute -- quite easily done -- you can live quite nicely in a small community. But the apartment I'm leaving is a quite decent $900 two-bedroom that's in view of Parliament Hill; that's on the cheap side for nice downtown 2bdrms, but not impossible.

Every Canadian city I've been in has been pretty clean and safe. The problems do not compare to, say, the problems in major US cities. This doesn't mean I don't bitch about graffiti. There's no gridlock here, but that doesn't make traffic fun. But I've never in my life had to worry about going out late at night in a Canadian city. I have much more trust than I do fear. Wait until your car gets stuck in snow or needs a boost in January, and you'll find (1) you can ask the first passer-by for help, and (2) they'll normally help. (And of course you help, or else, who'd help you when you got stuck the next day?)

Which brings me to the obvious, already-mentioned "it's cold." It snowed here today, for heavens' sakes. That said, how bad can it be if I'm not even wearing socks right now?

I concur with the 'health care waits are based on need' above. I'm pregnant, so using up my share of health care; no hassles, no waits at all for anything I need. Seeing a dermatologist because I have pimples will not be a next-day thing, though. I've never had an urgent problem that wasn't quickly sorted out, and well sorted out, too. One of the nice things about socialised medicine is that nothing gets too lousy; rich people don't tolerate shabby hospitals well, so they're all at least pretty good...

For what it's worth, I've lived in the States and had what was supposed to be good insurance there; I was thoroughly unimpressed.

Re. "Not dental, not optometric, not prescriptions." True (unless you're thoroughly poor), but even lousy jobs here tend to have some coverage for those; good jobs, lots.

I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, at least not for an extended period. Exotic and exciting Canada is not, but there's a lot to be said for boring. An American I met in an airport once said to me "Canada's such a family country!" when he found out I was Canadian; I didn't know what to make of it -- huh, yeah, that's us; Disneyland of the G8. WTF? But it wasn't that unreasonable a thing to say. (Back to that conference again: family-wise, we are not doing as well as, say, Sweden, but we're certainly doing better than most.)

This social research site might be useful. Ditto Statistics Canada. I don't have the papers from the conference with me right now, but I'll take a look at them later and post again if there's anything particularly relevant.
posted by kmennie at 12:54 PM on April 13, 2007

I am a happy Canadian and I am glad that you are considering it here. Canada isn't a land of milk and honey, but it is pretty great. A lot of my comments would simply repeat what previous posters have said, so instead I'll just talk on one issue: equality. Canada is pretty egalitarian and is getting better over time. I am a married lesbian living in a small city in southern Alberta (typically known as a red-neck or bible-belt area), and I have gotten more negative reactions about being a vegetarian than I have about being gay. I did have people refuse to rent to me when I inquired over the phone, but no one has acted like that after meeting me. I openly include my affiliations with gay organizations on my CV and have never been denied a job or award that I was otherwise qualified for. So that's the experience from that side.

Overt prejudice is rarely displayed anymore, however, more subtle forms still persist. A recent study by my supervisor (Kazemipur, 2001) found that immigrants are consistently over-represented among the poor and immigrants who are also visible minorities face the worst conditions. I would caution you to be absolutely sure your credentials transfer before coming here.

Calgary (which, incidentally is only two hours from where I live) is growing incredibly fast, and a large proportion of that growth is from immigration. Just last weekend I went to a Jamaican cultural day in Calgary - the fact that there are enough Jamaican immigrants in Cowtown to have a huge cultural fest like this speaks volumes to the increasing diversity of this part of Canada.

By the way, Canadians love to bitch about our health care, but it is really good. Yeah, you might have to wait for three hours in the emergency room, but the nurses have a really good sense of just how much of an emergency your situation is - you'll never wait longer than your health allows.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:58 PM on April 13, 2007

I think many of your answers will depend on where to decide to live. Vancouver, my home, is quite different from Toronto in a number of respects. I do think the Brazilian pop is much higher there than here, though we get a lot of immigrants from Central and South america here - you hear Spanish everywhere.

I've worked with people from all over the world though I've never left the city. Eastern Europe to Africa, many immigrants do find work in their areas but it's tough! The main factor is your English skills - good English makes a huge difference. I can't speak to job opps as an architect. Perhaps the Royal Architecture Institute can help you there?

And yeah, the west is bananas with job openings but I find a lot of them are entry level and many don't pay well. Alberta may be different.

One thing I can say is that if you're a nice person, we're happy to have you. Canada is really open to immigrants and openly encourages them to keep their ties to their birth culture. I've never met anyone in the city who has a problem with immigration.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:08 PM on April 13, 2007

Oh and I'll just add, if you do decide to consider Vancouver or Victoria (lived there too), my email is in profile, I can answer more specific questions. I'm sure previous posters can do the same for their respective cities.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:11 PM on April 13, 2007

Self-employment: I'd recommend you try getting a job in a firm to work here for a year or two before striking out on your own. It's never the big things that get you when you move to/visit another country, it's the 101 different ways of doing things. This way you can learn them all, get comfortable with the culture, the references etc., on someone else's money. You'll also make good contacts, important in your industry.

Once you're comfortable, setting up shop is relatively easy and the tax situation is quite favourable to small to medium -size enterprises. You can do your taxes yourself, but I suggest you get recommendations for a good accountant, they are worth their weight in gold (good advice for anyone in business).

The weather in the southwesternmost tip of Ontario is very mild compared to most of the rest of the country - we quite often have green Christmases. The Windsor to Chatham-Kent area might be especially interesting to you as there are a lot of Italian and Portuguese immigrants in the area and there's a huge building boom going on right now; demographics predict Windsor may double in size in the next 50 years.

If you need additional advice or have more questions, please feel free to contact me personally - my husband is a recent immigrant and we're involved in the Cultural Coalition in our area, a service for welcoming new immigrants.
posted by Zinger at 1:15 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: I saw your question a little while ago, gave it a lot of thought, and now I see that others have said pretty much everything I was going to say.
As regards architecture though, I trained in Canada as an architect (myself I am an immigrant to Canada from South Africa), but after graduating moved to Ottawa and was unable (having no practical experience) to find an entry-level job there, after looking off and on for almost 2 years.
So, on a whim I came to the UK and had my pick of dozens wof jobs here within days - the architecture business really is booming here. In my office are a New Zealander, myself from Canada and a guy from Colombia. I'd say that, having been in the industry here for some time, that what matters is whether you can do the job, and I'm sure this goes for Canada too. If you have some office experience, and can use AutoCAD or Microstation or whatever, and make drawings, you will get a job without much difficulty, especially if you choose to settle in Vancouver or Toronto, or dare I say Calgary.
Getting your professional certification will be more difficult but again if you work in the industry for a few years, prove yourself, and get to know the systems, technology, laws etc.., plus have your credentials from Brazil, degree etc.., in time you will be able to write the exams and become an accredited architect. At least English doesn't seem to be a problem for you.
And finally, having lived in the UK for a while I'd say I can certainly appreciate how much more progressive and civilized Canadian society is compared to the UK. While Canada isn't quite as much of an economic power as the UK, it's a much more open, friendly and comfortable place to live. I miss it.

But, try and arrive in June, so you'll have the summer to settle in and look around; arriving in January would give rather a different first impression.

Anyway good luck - I don't think you'll regret it, and if you do you can always return to Brazil. In a strange way I envy you, because I remember the feeling of elation and joy I felt when my family first arrived in Canada, and it just seemed like paradise.
Well, it's not paradise, but as far as I've found in the world it's one country that works very very well.
posted by Flashman at 1:31 PM on April 13, 2007

One thing I don't think has been noted yet is that the immigration process is very slow. It can take more than a year for your application to be processed. Just keep it in mind.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:17 PM on April 13, 2007

These are some really good answers. One thing I wanted to add, double check the Quebec angle. I have friends who immigrated from Mexico and Romania through the Quebec program but never lived there. Not sure how that works exactly.
posted by dripdripdrop at 2:28 PM on April 13, 2007

One of my colleagues is a Quebecer married to a Brazilian. I can see if they're willing to chat with you if you want.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:32 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: So other people have covered most of it but I thought I would chime in as well. In interest of full disclosure, I'm a life-long Canadian who gets out and has travelled but Canada has basically been my home for 35 years so I may be biased, especially compared to other posters who are actual immigrants. But my experience is real for me, etc.

Medical Assistance: free, mostly (not dental, not drugs) but so-so on the efficiency side. I've never known anyone who couldn't get timely medical care for a serious problem though. The Taming of the Queue is a discussion paper released by the Canadian Medical Association that covers some of the major issues facing Canada's health care system today.

Equality: native Canadians, not really so much. It's actually pretty embarrassing. There are bigots and racists I suppose, but I wouldn't call it institutional. Almost every non-white friend I have has had some sort of racist incident in their lives but I think it sticks out as the outlier rather than as the rule. As a white guy I should really be the last person to comment on this issue, but in my working life I have always worked with a cross-section of people of all races, both genders and the occasional openly gay person (and probably a few more not so open ones). Still, white guys usually make up the single largest group in the working world.

Canada's Census
won't tell you much about equality, but it will give you an idea of the ethnocultural breakdown of different regions of Canada.

Urban life: well, it's not perfect, no. Teenagers get shot by other teens. There's traffic, especially in cities that have seen a lot of growth in the last decade or two (Calgary, Toronto). But it's pretty civilized. Here's an older study about crime & safety in Toronto - it's an opinion survey, not "hard" data, but it might give you an idea. for example: "eight in ten (78%) Toronto residents indicate that they would feel safe walking alone in their own neighbourhood after dark."

Employment: again, I've worked with lots of people who came from all parts of the world. but yeah, you hear stories about doctors driving cabs, etc. The government recently set up a web site to deal with the issue:

Entrepreneurship: starting a business in Canada is easy from a registration & taxation point of view. Getting customers is your own problem. I'm not sure what the market for architectural services is like.

Degree x work experience: yeah, again... some people do struggle with this. It may make it hard to get a visa. But I have worked with people (in the software industry) who have no "formal" qualifications. But as others have mentioned, it's the "Canadian experience" issue you'll have to overcome. It's bullshit and yes, some call it thinly veiled racism, but once you're over it, you're over it. Many of my coworkers over the years have been new Canadians, so all I can say it that it's not impossible.

Housing: housing is reasonable, with a few exceptions. Most small towns are quite cheap by international standards and even Toronto has reasonable options. I spend about a third of my after-tax income on housing (roughly and if you don't count renovations). Canada Immigration suggests budgeting 35% to 50% of your income for housing costs.

Homemaker: I doubt the government will give you any grief. Plenty of people immigrate into Canada every year to stay at home and look after kids or just do whatever. After living here for over 40 years, my mother-in-law still isn't a Canadian citizen and she flipped between working and being at home a number of times when my wife was a child. The government can't compel you to work. If they could manage that, they'd start with the Canadians first, believe me.

Best of luck in your decision and your move to Canada if you decide to come. I often marvel at my infinite luck that in the entire world I managed to get born here. By this one little geographic quirk I live a more comfortable life than any king or queen in history (well, except Liz) and most of the people alive today. You write better English than most native Canadians I know, so on that count alone, please move here.
posted by GuyZero at 2:59 PM on April 13, 2007

Oh, also - if you worry about missing Brazil, there is a large Brazilian / Portuguese community in Toronto and probably in other large cities as well. My grocery store occasionally carries odd foods labelled in nothing but Portuguese so there must be someone buying them. Plus when World Cup time rolls around - holy crap, suddenly everyone is Brazilian.
posted by GuyZero at 3:02 PM on April 13, 2007

Canada has significantly higher taxes than the US.

Often said, but untrue, particularly when you include "hidden costs". Canadians pay for health care through taxes, and Americans through fees. But Canadians spend half as much per capita. That's about 2% of their income right there that Canadians save.

A better number to look at is the percentage of income of an average production worker that is disposable; this will thus cover both the tax rate and those invisible costs. In 2003, for a single person, that's 75.9% in Canada and 76.4% in the US. That number would be even more favourable for a Canadian in 2007.

But 0.5% isn't "significant", I think.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:19 PM on April 13, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, great answers. Exactly what I needed.
If the response to my question speaks for Canadians' willingness to help, I don't know what I'm still doing here in Brazil!

I'l definately get in touch with those of you who offered as soon as I get further into the process and new questions arrise.

As for the weather, I was born and raised in one of the coldest capitals in Brazil, so I am tempted to say I'll get through Canadian winters no problem, but in reality the last time it snowed in Curitiba was 1975, so "coldest capital in Brazil" actually translates to lows around +5 degrees celsius in the worst of winter.
But I really hate hot weather so the cruel Canadian winters won't be nearly as bad for me as they might for other Brazilians.

Regarding living costs, the more I realize how little money most immigrants have when they arrive and are still able to make it, the more I get the impression Bernardo and I could possibly have a more comfortable situation right from the start, although we'd still be far from wealthy. I might be dead wrong, of course, and that's why your answers have been so helpful. From what you tell me, I guess even if neither of us got a job right away we could probably buy a (somewhat crappy) car, rent (fairly) well and still support ourselves for up to a year. And of course we have no plans at all of being unemployed for that long.

All in all, the immigration process is pretty straightforward and especially clear to us after attending one of the lectures the Québec Government promotes. And yes, I would need major improvement on my French, and Bernardo would have to start his up from zero, so that's why we are still considering Toronto or Vancouver rather than Montreal. Although the possibility of living close to Boston, NY and Ben & Jerry's headquarters in Vermont has yet to be surpassed by other advantages on the west :-)

Yes, we will look seriously into going up there before making any decisions. Neither of us has ever been there so I agree that's a major step.

Well thanks a lot, and keep those comments coming!
posted by AnyGuelmann at 3:23 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: A lot of travel between the places you mention (Ben & Jerry's excepted) is done by plane and Toronto is a short and relatively cheap flight from Boston and New York.

If you do visit Toronto, let me know, I'd be happy to play tour guide, as long as you'll let me practice my sadly waning portuguese vocabulary on you (or really, even if you won't, I'm easy that way).
posted by jacquilynne at 3:30 PM on April 13, 2007

Yes I should add that Montreal is easily the best city in Canada for quality of life, nightlife, city life, neighbourhoods etc... Since you're starting from scratch, and if the Quebec government is giving you extra incentives to move there, and if you have a bit of French already (and I imagine that being a native Portugese speaker will make learning easier for your husband) you really should try to move there.
It also has a large Portugese community/neighbourhood (centered on Rachel/St. Laurent streets).
posted by Flashman at 3:52 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: jamesonandwater writes "Immigrants are not necessarily treated equally as professionals - there are a lot of stories in the papers all the time about everything from lift engineers to doctors having to retrain, and MBAs driving cabs and so forth. Google 'jobs canadian experience' to find many tales of woe. "

To be fair there are a lot of Canadians with those qualifications who just can't make it in their chosen field either. They just don't make the news. I've known more than a few Masters of whatever doing labour type jobs either because that was what they could find or because it paid better.

jpdoane writes "What are Brazil's taxes like? Canada has significantly higher taxes than the US."

To expand on what solid-one-love said you have to look at the whole picture. Americans in general seemed to be nickel and dimed to an amazing degree. There is no end to the special levies it seems, much of it hidden. Property taxes especially are gamed to a degree that doesn't occur in Canada. One side effect of which is the criminal disparity in public schools.

Medical Assistance - Efficient and free. IMO it is. You probably won't die if we can help it but you may not be comfortable. Contrasting with the American system where they seem to test _everything_ in CYA mode the Canadian system is much more cost benefit oriented. EG: you generally only get a single ultra sound in a normal pregnancy but you get to stay in the hospital longer after delivery.

Equality - There are pockets of intolerance but as a minority it seems pretty fair to me. Racial tension is very low, you don't see a discrimination card being played very often.

Urban life – Clean Canada is pretty clean to the point of stereo type. Vancouver has traffic problems but not nearly as bad as say Southern California. Calgary is quite good traffic wise if you're sane on your choice of residence, I lived half way across town from my employer and it only took me 20 minutes to get to work on an average day. Expect some time acclimating to traffic in winter conditions.

Employment – Architect If you know CAD and you don't mind grunt proccess piping work you've got a job in Calgary and probably Edmonton. Architecture can pay relatively poorly (C-Train drivers in Calgary make more than my friend the Architect) but there is work available.

Self employment and entrepreneurship. You don't need much more than a bit of a nest egg and an accountant to start your own sole-proprietorship.

Housing - How expensive is it to live comfortably in the city? Vancouver and Calgary are both experiencing a incredulous housing bubble at the moment. I expect that to break over in the next 6-18 months so just in time for you to buy a house.
posted by Mitheral at 4:49 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Medical Assistance - free, but if you don't want to have to wait two weeks to get xrays then it will cost you. Good service, but there's a wait, but if you know about the wait in advance you'll see it's not that bad in most cases. Emergencies are still treated as emergencies here.

Equality - Pretty equal in urban centers, a bit less so in rural areas. If you're in Quebec you'll definitely have problems if you don't speak French (you'll still find work, but your options will be severely limited)

Urban life – Clean enough, some cities are better than others for traffic. Depending on where you live pedestrians and cyclists are treated as second class citizens. Smog isn't as big a problem here as it is in many other places.

Employment – Honestly, this is a big weak point here (Quebec). I've met so many immigrants with degrees that aren't doing what they are trained in. Be very skeptical about what they say. Find out as much as you can about what education you might have to do over again. This is a serious problem here, although at least now the government has recognized it as such, but they are still slow to change things. In all faireness, I would come here with the assumption that I won't have a job that matches my skillset for at least the first five years. If you get one sooner than you're a fortunate person.

Self employment and entrepreneurship
I don't know anything on this topic.

Degree x work experience
Sounds like your husband would have a decent chance at getting a job.

Montreal is affordable compared to the rest of Canada. Apartments are not too small, relatively large, and most people don't live in high rises even though we live downtown (3 stories on most apartments).

I don't think so. Immigration is how we keep our population sustainable, you can expect money from the government (between $100 and $200 a month) simply by having children.
posted by furtive at 5:11 PM on April 13, 2007

To be fair there are a lot of Canadians with those qualifications who just can't make it in their chosen field either

Oh absolutely! But, equally fairly, Canadians don't give a couple thousand dollars and months of effort to a government department who promises them the skills they are currently using elsewhere are much needed here ... with the message boards etc at least more people are arriving forewarned now. AnyGuelmann, add me to the list of people you can contact with any qs and best of luck!
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:43 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: What I was looking for earlier:

Visible Minorities in Canada’s Workplaces
A Perspective on the 2017 Projection
(.doc file) (a few more papers of interest)

Re. "you generally only get a single ultra sound in a normal pregnancy but you get to stay in the hospital longer after delivery" -- you can also, in Ontario at least, have a certified nurse-midwife attend your home birth if you so please. We have a respectable infant mortality rate, too (Brazil: 29.61, USA: 6.50, Canada: 4.75). And, four or five years after those concerns, I'm not going to have any problem sending Kmennie Jr to a public school.

Re. "Regarding living costs, the more I realize how little money most immigrants have when they arrive and are still able to make it, the more I get the impression Bernardo and I could possibly have a more comfortable situation right from the start, although we'd still be far from wealthy..."

I suspect anybody with some savings or a job lined up does just fine. For some perspective: the welfare rates here are shameful at the present, but it would be possible to live off most of those amounts. The lower end of those scales would mean food banks and so on, but $12,057 pa would keep you housed, clothed and fed in a way that while irritating to most Canadians, would be the envy of a lot of the world, I think.

Some skirting of the Canadian Craigslists would give an okay gauge of rent if you haven't peeked already, and for house prices.

(And, of course, e-mail's in profile if you have any Ottawa questions.)
posted by kmennie at 6:53 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: wow, awesome answers. I'm an expatriate Canuck (30+ years in Toronto and now living in the States). I miss Canada a great deal, and not just for sentimental, 'my family is there' type reasons. Ironically enough my father eventually immigrated from Sao Paulo to Toronto, although I don't have much information on his transition.

I'll probably just be duplicating a lot of the same answers, but maybe that will be supportive so you can see we're all saying the same thing about certain stuff (i.e. health care is generally good). And yes to your comment regarding Canadians' willingness to help, in general Canadians are polite and eager to help and in general good, good people to live with.

Health care - yes, fairly easy access to things outside of the main emergency room care; there are long waiting lists for some specialists, and I hazard to guess what Prime Minister Harper (ugh, still pains to say that) has tried to do. But yes, in general, things are good. We tend to bitch about the state of things, but living in a country where there is health insurance is problematic, well, um, no, Canada is a godsend in comparison.

Equality - yes, people are generally treated equally both socially and employment wise. Of course there is racism - we're not perfect in that regard, and our treatment of First Nations peoples (our Indian population) has been awful. However, I think we're improving, slowly but surely.

Urban life – Having been to Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, I can say all the cities are clean, organized, ok with traffic (not wonderful, but not horrid), polluted in parts but fairly good and crime is as you say insignificant. We're not paradise, but the quality of life generally means pretty happy people.

Employment – can be tricky, but if you have qualifications (especially architects' equivalent) it shouldn't be a problem. There's been a huge problem of skilled labour coming here and not always finding opportunities right away because of equivalency, and yes, it's definitely an area Canada needs to work on to continue to attract good candidates. I find the idea of being self-employed as an architect a little odd, but try contacting architectural associations up here and find out if they can help inform you on stats - how many people do it, etc. etc. In general I think architects tend to work in firms, often with urban planners and engineers. Small businessness are generally getting support - we have smiliar gov't structures as the States in terms of helping entrepreneurship.

Housing - can be tricky to answer since it depends on where you are, but I think project-like derelict condoes aren't likely. Toronto has some projects, but I doubt you'll get be forced into them (especially since they're tearing down Regents Park, one of them).

Homemaker - can't really speak to this, so you might want to consult an attorney. I'm sure if you start out as an architect and then at some point decide to have a child you'll be fine.

By all means visit when you're closer to deciding where you'd like to live - and check out expat Brazilian communities for support in making a decision. (There is a sizable one in Toronto, I believe - as well a large Portugues section).

In general, about all I don't like about Canada is what comes with any society - we're only as good as the people in it, and we're got our issues to work on as well as any country. Sometimes it feels like we're a 2 year old, knowledgeable in so many things but still stumbling in other ways.

But there is a reason why Canadians are well liked, and why we're quite fanatic about living here - because for all the problems, it often seems to be like a slice of heaven here. There are many wonderful, progressive countries (the Netherlands comes to mind, and much of Scandinavia) that I could be equally glowing about, but Canada I think succeeds so well because of a conscious committment to diversity (and that's where you come in!). You'll find no melting pot - it's a cultural mosaic, and I think we'd have it no other way. Remember that Canada is a nation largely of immigrants; it's what's made cities like Toronto and Montreal such amazing cities to live in, and we know it. Come join us - we'd love to have you :)
posted by rmm at 7:05 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: I'm a Canadian sociologist, and I've lived in several major cities across the country, now living in a small city. Generally I'd agree with what's above. There is more ethnic and cultural diversity in the larger cities, and this may make it easier for you to find your groove. We have racism in Canada, but it tends to be more systemic/institutional than overt and in your face.

There is professional based discrimination for immigrants into Canada. There is a shortage of family doctors in Canada, but no one would be left out from emergency care, and generally Canadians are getting good health care. There are also health clinics available. Schools are fairly good, and in most medium to large cities kids will also typically learn some french.

The traffic and crowds do not come near to large Brazilian cities. We have high taxes, but we have fairly good services available. Except for large cities, public transit is generally poor, and professional families would typically own one or 2 vehicles. Typically, it's challenging for most Canadian families to own a house and 2 cars, without both partners working. That said, it can be done. They can't build fast enough in Alberta. I can't imagine an architect couldn't get work. Housing is pretty tight.

I wouldn't discount Montreal. It's a great city to live in, and in my opinion it is more integrated multicultural than is Toronto (more neighbourhood based). Lots of people speak English there (my husband got by the entire 8 yrs. we lived there without learning much French), but also there is lots of portuguese there. I lived in a neighbourhood where the first language was portuguese, then french, then english, then spanish, and a few others after that. Besides, French is not hard to learn coming from Portuguese.

As for seasons, most of Canada has 4. How long and how cold the winter is, depends on the region. The temperatures can be deceptive. Hovering around freezing can feel very cold and unpleasant for outdoor activities for some (I couldn't stand Halifax winters for this), but winter temperatures of -5 to -15 C, in my opinion are far more pleasant. You dress well and you can enjoy the winter. Discussion of the relative merits of types of cold will draw most Canadians out revealing their regional and individual differences ("yes, but it's a dry cold").

Most Canadians would be happy to have you here.
posted by kch at 9:00 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Just joining the choir ... come to Canada! Judging by the verbose answers above you would think the government pays us by the word for each new recruit we get.

I don't know why architects aren't paid more for the neat blend of practical and creative work they spend so long in school for. This page may give you more information on transferring your credentials as an architect. The average salary of a full-time architect is $50,000, but it can vary between $35,000-$70,000. Your husband's job sounds like a management level position that would pay at least $100,000. To compare this with housing costs, you would probably spend around $300,000 to purchase a newish three bedroom detached house in the GTA or around $200,000 for a newish two bedroom condo in downtown Toronto (or rent either for $1500-$2000 a month - but I never paid more than $800/month for rent in Toronto and bought my detached house in an exurb for $150,000 just a few years ago). I know everyone is encouraging you to move to a major city but it has actually become very common for New Canadians to move to the suburbs/exurbs/rural areas straight from the plane. Really, there are New Canadians everywhere. You can buy land pretty cheap (we have lots of it!) and building your own house is pretty common (one acre lots about an hour commute from Toronto are around $100,000 I believe). I don't know why I assume you are in residential architecture but if you are you may find the information at the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation interesting, both as a professional and as a potential home-buyer.

Self-employment is very easy and very common. I'm not sure how to answer this to be honest. Is it hard in Brazil? Here, you see a need, you open a business to serve that need = profit (with a little going to the government via taxes but less taxes than if you were employed).

I know a lot of women who moved to Canada as skilled workers and then decided not to work; as long as they weren't on social assistance (welfare) in the first three years nobody minded and they got their citizenship after writing the really easy test. But working for a bit before the birth of your child entitles you to a year of pay from the government (available to either parent or can be split between them) through employment insurance - plus your job is held for you to go back to. This maternity/parental benefit is separate from the various cheques that are sent out monthly for each child. I think Quebec pays the most for each child, plus a birthing bonus and day care is only $7 a day. But Ontario has the Early Years Centres which are free playgroups/mom's networks/parenting classes.

The few times I have had to use health care (midwives, doctors, emergency) there has been no wait. Really, the last time I went to the ER I saw a doctor for my daughter's constipation within 30 seconds, my mum had her hip replaced the day she broke it.

I don't lock (or usually even close) my front door; unless I am going out of town for a few days and then I lock it but leave the back door unlocked. I have left cash on the dashboard of my topless convertable for a few hours on a downtown toronto street - several times. My car usually is parked with open windows in the summer - I can't stand getting in a hot car. I have never been the victim of a crime - except for once when my tires were randomly slashed. I'v also never seen a gun or any other kind of weapon. I once saw a catfight between two girls but that is all the violence I've experienced. Maybe I am a little too sheltered although I lived in Parkdale in Toronto.

When I was eighteen I was shocked to hear an anti-semetic remark, I haven't heard another one in the fifteen or so years since. Everyonce once in a while I hear homophobic/racist remarks but it is pretty rare; none of my friends have ever felt they lost a job or professional opportunity because of their culture/accent/skin colour. As a feminist I gotta say Canada isn't perfect but I have not personally known any women denied employment/promotions for being a woman; but almost all of my managers have been women so they have been very understanding of female staff's sick children and menstrual cramps.

Many New Canadians find the first year or so a little tough as everything is different and they may have to work at a lower level than they did in their birth country but after getting that little bit of "Canadian Experience" you're golden; being a New Canadian is not held against you. Winters are really not a big deal around Toronto/GTA. Schools and businesses close down for maybe one snow day a winter and it gets kinda festive with everyone excited about the day off tomorrow so everyone leaves work early "to avoid the storm". Then you get to walk on deserted streets in the snow to your friend's house and drink wine and speak several languages and eat good food from around the world and watch a bus slide backwards downhill from the living room window while the children build snowmen and an igloo on the lawn and see the neighbour's lights blazing and the smell of woodsmoke and feel grateful to be alive and in such good company.

I'm another one of those Canadians you can email if you have any questions. And I know Brazilians in Canada too!
posted by saucysault at 9:16 PM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I read several comments that medical is free in Canada. I didn't read the whole thread. Anyway, medical is not free here in BC. You are required to have medical coverage if you live here. You can get it from your work benefits, ie privately, or you can get it from the government agency, but unless you are low income, it's not free. Then again, it's not that expensive either. Google. BC Medical for the current fees.
posted by Listener at 10:36 PM on April 13, 2007

One quick recommendation - come up in the summer, instead of in the winter, unless you've already got winter clothes (from skiing or whatever). That means a winter jacket, toque, wool gloves, boots, etc.

A lot of folks from warmer climates come to visit their families or friends in the winter and don't bring any winter clothes, which makes things pretty chilly until they hit up a department store. Coming up in the summer means you've got time to prepare for winter instead of just getting smacked by a blizzard and catching a cold.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:49 PM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: Everyone's covered the main points quite well, so I'll just add a few things.

You may find that Vancouver's a decently close fit, temperature-wise, to what you're used to; winter lows only to -5 C, and in the summer it never seems to go above 25 C. Whether you can deal with the often-overcast skies is another issue, but that's the tradeoff you make for not having to buy winter coats and having beaches and a provincial park nearby.

Traffic is increasingly becoming a problem in the major cities. Moreover, it's crosstown/suburban traffic. So yes, moving to the outer suburbs means you get more bang for the buck in terms of accomodations, but you also lose an extra hour or two from your day sitting in traffic. It's getting particularly ludicrous in the Toronto area, with people routinely taking hour-and-a-half trips each way to and from work, and it's only going to get worse.

This is one reason why you may also want to consider a smaller city. I lived in Kingston, Ontario for a couple of years, and though the nightlife isn't to my tastes and the shops a bit limited, otherwise it's a very nice place to live. Also, I'm a visible minority, and I never once had any trouble from the local residents—in fact I'd characterize them as generally friendly and welcoming.

Finally, a word or two on crime: by and large, violent crime is not a concern in the major cities. Gang warfare does exist, but it's not as though they roam neighbourhoods with submachineguns. What organized crime does exist in Canada is apparently very unconcerned with attacking innocents on the street. The homicide rate in Toronto hovers around 100/year, which is about average per capita in the country. Property crime is also not a major deal, though petty theft and the like is a danger in the downtown areas—I wouldn't leave my door unlocked or anything, and I probably wouldn't get too attached to my bike, either.

Finally, bad neighbourhoods are relatively few and far between, and spending any amount of time in the cities will likely give you a good idea of where they are. For example, in Vancouver it's generally accepted that you don't venture through the Downtown Eastside on a regular basis because that's where the drug junkie population is concentrated. But even then, it's not so bad that you couldn't, say, take the bus through there at night, or walk through the three blocks with a couple of friends. And even after all that, your main concern walking the streets at night will not be attackers so much as homeless people. Toronto, arguably, doesn't even have an equivalent to the Downtown Eastside; its bad neighbourhoods are not quite so bad.

In summary: if you can swing the employment issues, come to Canada! We've got our problems for sure, but I honestly cannot think of another place I'd rather live than somewhere in this country.
posted by chrominance at 3:54 AM on April 14, 2007

Best answer: One downside that hasn't been mentioned is that, as an immigrant, your credit history and rating will be very low. Mortgages will require large downpayments, and credit cards won't be available for a while.

Be sure to find a good way of bringing your money over. Our bank hit us with about 10% charges when we came.

Some Ontario professional associations seem to take perverse enjoyment out of not accepting foreign qualifications. I've heard it's better in other provinces.

We got our visas really quickly; three months. I have friends that theirs took nearly three years, so it varies a lot.

It took me about three years to feel properly at home in Canada, but now I don't think I'd live anywhere else.
posted by scruss at 4:22 AM on April 14, 2007

Listener raises a good point, the health care premium in Ontario maxes out at $900 a year. That is taken directly from payroll taxes. If only one person is working the premium only applies to them. I know some families with a stay at home parent and four children that only pay $300 for unlimited medicare for all six people.
posted by saucysault at 7:32 AM on April 14, 2007

My only input is: My Uncle and Aunt emigrated to Victoria BC from Scotland ten years ago. He was a low-level insurance salesman, she was an average hairdresser. Ten years on they live in an amazing 4 bedroom house, they and their two kids drive top of the range cars, they holiday in Hawaii, she owns her own salon and he is quite high up in some bank with Pacific in the title. Victoria seems beautiful and clean, she sings in Gaelic choirs and he plays and coaches for an ex-pat soccer team. They are very, very happy. Seems to me Canada offered them a wonderful life.
posted by brautigan at 11:04 AM on April 14, 2007

Best answer: Medical Assistance - Efficient and free.
As others have pointed out, yes with some qualifiers.

As kmennie points out, "One of the nice things about socialised medicine is that nothing gets too lousy; rich people don't tolerate shabby hospitals well, so they're all at least pretty good." For example, when our premier lost a leg to flesh-eating disease, he was treated in the public hospital around the corner from me in a somewhat run-down neighbourhood. Because there *are no* private hospitals, the powers-that-be need to ensure that the kind of health care they find acceptable for themselves is available in the public hospitals that serve everyone.

There's a lot of complaining in the media about waiting lists. If you just want a routine checkup, you are likely to have to wait a couple of months. If you have a minor emergency, a private (privately-run, paid for by public insurance, therefore nominally free) clinic will be able to see you on a walk-in basis, sometimes in minutes, usually in a couple of hours. For a real emergency, you will be treated quickly in a hospital emergency ward. (If you have a non-emergency, you are likely to wait a long time in a hospital ER because the doctors only see you in their spare time between actual emergencies.)

Equality - "Immigrants and native Canadians, men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals are treated equally, not only socially but when applying for jobs too. Really?"

In Canada, "Native Canadian" means a member of our First Nations, aka an aboriginal Canadian, an Indian or an Eskimo. I think you are referring to 'native-born Canadians' vs 'Canadian-born Canadians.' They get a lot of discrimination. Also a lot of opportunity, which for various reasons (structural, cultural, whatever) they may find difficult to access. I'm not sure there's anywhere on the planet that it's good to be an aboriginal person, and Canada is no exception.

For the rest - yeah, more or less. I work for a large corporation. About three-quarters of the folks in my department are foreign-born. (All of the folks in the Toronto office; about half the folks in the rest of the country.)

My beloved is foreign-born and was initially very worried that his imperfect command of the language would put him at an impossible disadvantage. I pointed out that my boss has an imperfect command of four languages, two of which he uses on a daily basis in business, and is considered a strong candidate for further promotion. My beloved has been living here full-time for more than three years and has let go of his language anxieties.

Note that Canada doesn't have the same social tensions between native-born Canadians and immigrant communities because of the selection process. The average immigrant is better-educated than the average Canadian. Yes, there are poor and disadvantaged immigrants and children-of, but there will also be educated and professional members of the same immigrant communities who will be able to represent their concerns intelligibly in the public sphere. It's not like some of the European countries who have been admitting primarily unskilled labour and creating a foreign underclass.

I was an out lesbian for ten years before succumbing to the easy lure of bisexuality and was never discriminated against (that I could detect) though some people thought I was strange. Now that I am legally married to a man, people still think I am strange.

Urban life – Clean, organized cities, no traffic, no pollution, insignificant crime. Again: really?

Yup, at least where I am. Well, Montreal could be cleaner, and it clearly isn't rich, but there is nowhere I wouldn't walk alone at night. Including the red-light district. I think that says a lot.

Traffic is very dependent on how and where you live. I live in a nice (nice people, a range of incomes from low to medium) residential neighbourhood with trees, a park, all the stores I could possibly want within walking distance, close to a metro line. Traffic has never been an issue for me. If we want to go downtown on a Saturday night, it's easiest to take the metro.

Employment – Anything that requires membership in a professional association will be difficult to access. If your field of specialisation works best for people familiar with local infrastructure and contacts, you will have to start lower than you are now and work up as you build your local knowledge.

Self employment and entrepreneurship: The same difficulties as someone straight out of a Canadian school (no network) with the added disadvantage that you don't have the family-and-friends connections that school graduates often rely on to get their first nudges.

Degree x work experience
"My SO, however, has a solid corporate career in the mobile industry, but a degree in Psychology." In the private sector, a degree is only one of the things a candidate offers. Having completed a degree iis a good sign of being able to complete projects; so is a glowing resume. I would be much more concerned about lack of contacts than the degree.

Housing: Canada is a big place. Really big. The answers to these questions depend entirely on where you are.

Homemaker: Unless you are immigrating as an entrepreneur, commiting to create a certain number of jobs in Canada within a certain amount of time, I don't think Canada cares at all.
posted by kika at 11:36 AM on April 14, 2007

Important caveat: Canada can be a great place to live. Emigration, however, is always difficult. You can prepare for tears and struggle, but it *will* be harder than you are prepared for. After about five years you will discover that you have made a home for yourself and a place in society and things will get better after that, but those first five years will be hard.
posted by kika at 8:53 AM on April 15, 2007

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