Author : Josh Schachnow, CEO, Visto
Londoners may have been disappointed to learn in 2017 that their city was no longer the world’s most diverse, but to Torontonians, the news came as little surprise.
For much of the 20th century, London and New York could argue over which city ought to hold the title. But over the past 30 years Toronto has undergone a dramatic transformation — in both population and diversity — that’s turned it into a truly cosmopolitan city.
The BBC confirmed in 2017 that Toronto had surpassed London for proportion of residents born in foreign countries (46% according to a 2016 census) and diversity of individual ethnicities (more than 230). And it’s not just Toronto that’s seeing a growth in immigrant populations — many of Canada’s cities are becoming increasingly diverse, with the proportion of foreign-born residents in Vancouver and Calgary reaching nearly 41% and 30%, respectively, in 2016.
You might wonder, “What’s driving this transformation?” Famously open immigration policies — about 300,000 people immigrate to Canada each year — as well as a robust innovation economy that foreign citizens want to take part in are certainly a part of it. But it’s the Canadian dedication to multiculturalism that allows people from all around the world to cohabitate in harmony and enjoy the high quality of life that Toronto is famous for.
In addition to living side-by-side throughout most parts of the city, many of Toronto’s different ethnic populations also have their own neighbourhoods including Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown, Koreatown, and of course, Little India. And the nearby suburb of Brampton is more than 52% Indian!
What’s it like for Indians living in a thriving metropolis where more than 200 languages are spoken? In many ways, it’s the same as it is for any Toronto resident. Indians in the Toronto area can enjoy a virtual taste of the world on their doorsteps. They’ll interact with people hailing from around the globe on a daily basis. And recent immigrants will be welcomed, in true Canadian spirit, as “new Canadians,” as Margarot Eaton, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council has observed.
But Indians also admittedly have it particularly good among Toronto’s immigrant groups when it comes to things like a taste of home, a strong support network and other factors that come along with being part of the largest visible ethnic minority group in Canada. Houses of worship are plentiful. Numerous cultural and community organizing groups help you hold onto your cultural roots even as you integrate into Canada’s famously welcoming society. And with hundreds of Indian restaurants and grocery stores in the Toronto area alone, you’ll never want for comfort food in Canada.
Immigration has changed Canada for the better, and the evidence is all around us: in our beautiful streets, in our innovative businesses, in our thriving arts and culture scenes. Torontonians are privileged to share their city with hard-working immigrants from around the world.
Josh Schachnow is a Toronto-based immigration lawyer who has helped over 100 skilled workers move to Canada. He is also CEO of Visto (www.visto.ai), which builds free tools to help skilled Indian technology professionals immigrate to Canada.