Challenges await new GTA immigrants

Immigrants who settle in the Greater Toronto Area are finding that the transition to life in Canada is anything but easy.
Many immigrants are finding the transition to life in the GTA difficult. 3:14

Like thousands of immigrants who come to Canada every year, the Thanesh family came to Toronto hoping for a better life.

And like the thousands who share their immigrant experience, the family’s integration into Canadian life hasn’t always been easy.   

Kiruba Thanesh and her husband — who uses Thanesh as both a first and last name — left behind good jobs when they departed their native Sri Lanka more than a year ago. Making the move with them were their two sons, aged 13 and nine.

Back home, the Thanesh family had a large house with servants. He worked for the United Nations, she was a social worker.

They came for the political stability and better education opportunities that Canada offers.

"As a mother and father, we have to provide them a good education," Kiruba told CBC News. "We have to provide a safe environment. We have to provide a good, bright future. That is one reason we made the decision."

Finding jobs that match their prior level of employment in Sri Lanka has been a particular challenge. They arrived in Canada as skilled migrants but Thanesh, who holds an MBA, is currently working in the payroll department of a courier company.

Kiruba has yet to find a job in her field. Their experience is typical as 38 per cent of recent immigrants to Canada were jobless in 2010.

Their son has also been bullied by fellow students who ridicule everything from the clothes he wears to the food he eats.

York Region a popular landing spot

One place where immigrants are choosing to settle is York Region, which is among the fastest growing regions in Canada.

Estimates suggest that within 20 years, immigrants will form more than half of York Region’s population.

That rapid growth means York Region municipalities, such as the town of Markham, are reviewing their services to meet the changing need.

"We literally have welcomed people from every corner of the world," Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti told CBC News. "New immigrants now are landing at our doorstep. They're landing in Markham, they're landing in Richmond Hill and in Vaughan and in Newmarket and so we have to make sure the services that are here are meeting the needs of new immigrants."

Kiruba says she’s managed to access some services, but feels they didn’t really provide the kind of support she and her family need most.

"We need the emotional supports, like the caring and concern … that is most important than this paperwork to us," she said.