A while ago I met a trucker who had moved from Brampton where he had lived ten years since immigrating to Canada to Edmonton because he was seeking a better quality of life, better job prospects and most importantly cheaper housing. These factors triumphed the fact that he was moving away his social connections to a place where he had to start from scratch both professionally and socially. He told me that moving from Brampton to Edmonton was the next best decision he made after moving from India to Canada! He has few if any regrets making that decision. “It was harder moving from my real friends and family in India than it was to move away from friends I made here,” he said. His friends and family in India keep in touch with him regularly, his friends in the GTA have all but dropped off the radar.
Now a couple of weeks ago, I met a well-educated professional who has been downsized twice in 8 years and has moved down in his professional career and lamented his fate. He mentioned that a head-hunter had once suggested some great opportunities in western Canada, but he point blank refused to even entertain the idea of moving out of the GTA where he didn’t know anyone! He was trapped by his wide social circle and could not imagine a life without weekend parties. Clearly, he lives for the weekend!
So, here were two South Asian immigrants, one a trucker and the other a highly educated professional. The trucker with his limited educational and spoken English skills had no qualms packing his bags, selling his Brampton home and moving to Edmonton where he knew nobody. He opted to move because he wanted to improve his financial circumstances and have a better quality of life for himself and his family. He rightly concluded that friends as wonderful as they are competitive and always sizing themselves up financially. Who has the bigger house and car has become a competitive sport among immigrants in the GTA. In Edmonton, not knowing many people freed him of this pressure and the result is a bigger bank balance.
On the other hand, the highly educated and urbane South Asian with a wide circle of friends is taking a financial and professional hit by remaining in the GTA rather than move to even Ottawa (too boring) leave alone Alberta. His friends apparently meant more to him than improving his circumstances.
Many new South Asian immigrants, especially those in the trades who don’t have the educational background have fewer hang-ups about moving to unfamiliar neighbourhoods and places where they are often the only visible minority. A friend circle is hardly a reason to sacrifice a better future.
I do understand the need to have a social support network when one moves to a new province or a new country. When immigrants leave behind their memories, family and friends to immigrate to Canada, even if they don’t know anyone, they see the big picture. But once here, many have difficulty deciding to move from one part of the country to another if required.
The early Sikh immigrants and other non-white immigrants who came here 40 years and earlier often lived in towns where they didn’t know anyone. It took courage for immigrants who often could not string together a sentence in either English or French to settle in a neighbourhood and be stared at as if they landed from another planet.
I’ve noticed that immigrants with poor English language skills are the ones willing to settle anywhere including the North West Territories if there are job opportunities. The urbane and ‘sophisticated’ immigrants will rather stagnate at unfulfilling jobs than move for the sake of better job opportunities. They are the ones who find more fulfillment among a group of like-minded friends.
This sort of thinking is very common and in part explains why economic growth in Canada is so uneven. Immigrants need to move to where they are in required not where their social circles dictate. -CINEWS