Indian immigrants have been part of life in Canada for over a century. In fact, the first documented record of Indians in Canada is from as far back as 1904. Back then, the majority of the Indian newcomers to Canada were members of the Sikh community who sought a new life in British Columbia.

Fast-forward more than 100 years and, as of 2020, there are more than one million Indian citizens in Canada. When Canada did a head-count of everyone in the country in the 2016 census, it showed that almost 670,000 Indian citizens were settled here as permanent residents or naturalized Canadian citizens. Since then, more than 200,000 additional Indians have obtained permanent resident status, and recent data shows that there are around 220,000 Indian international students in Canada today. Throw in all the additional temporary work permit holders from India — many of whom will transition to permanent status — and Canada’s Indian community makes for a total population equivalent to that of the capital city, Ottawa. All indications suggest that the Indo-Canadian community in Canada will continue to grow in the years to come.

First generation Indians and Canadians of Indian descent can be found in every city and province in the country, but some destinations prove more popular. The majority settle in Ontario and British Columbia, but that doesn’t mean that there you’re confined to these two provinces. Canada has plenty more to offer.

So, the million dollar question for the million member community: where do most Indians settle in Canada? Let’s take a look at five of the most popular destinations for Indian immigrants moving to Canada.

Toronto

Given the sheer depth and scale of the Indo-Canadian community in Toronto, it would be wrong of us to begin our review of the best Canadian cities for Indian immigrants elsewhere.

Toronto is a major magnet for Indian immigrants. The city is Canada’s economic engine. It is also home to some of the continent’s top schools and universities, and in 2019, the city’s much loved Raptors became National Basketball Association (NBA) champions for the very first time. Riding shotgun on this success was Nav Bhatia, the Toronto businessman who immigrated to Canada from India in 1984 and is now affectionately known as the Raptors’ ‘superfan’.

The number of Indians who have contributed successfully to help make Toronto the multicultural melting-pot it is today is astounding. 79,225 to be exact, not including the many multiples of this number who claim Indian heritage. However, despite these crowning glories, including the team behind NHL television coverage in Punjabi, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be a successful businesswoman or a superfan of an NBA championship-winning team to lead a very fulfilling life in Toronto. One thing that you may need, however, is a solid salary, or at least a chunk of savings on arrival as you settle into life in Canada. Bharath Arvind, who moved to Toronto in 2018, recommends “nothing short of 15-20 lakhs for a family of three,” equivalent to CAD $27,000-37,000, which is slightly more than the settlement funds you are required to show in order to move to Canada as a skilled worker through Express Entry. This is just one of the many nuggets of information and advice Bharath shares in this excellent blog about moving to Toronto from India.

Toronto skyline with ferry

Toronto is Canada’s largest city.

Whatever way you look at it, rent and the general cost of living in Toronto is expensive. According to Numbeo, the price of a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto’s city-centre was approximately $2,173 per month in 2019. A monthly transport pass was roughly $150 per month, and private childcare for one child would cost parents around $1,524 each month. If you are looking for a more affordable option that is still within touching-distance of Toronto then you might want to  consider one of the smaller cities in the the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In fact, most Indians who settle in the GTA live outside the city of Toronto itself.

The GTA (excluding Toronto)

If Toronto is Canada’s economic engine, then the GTA is perhaps its heartland. Manufacturing jobs of all types abound in cities from Brampton to Oakville, and with many tech companies now also seeing the virtues that the wider GTA has to offer, the area is fast becoming a massive hub for new immigrants, especially Indians. 

To be clear, the Indian communities in cities like Mississauga, Brampton, and Markham aren’t a recent phenomenon. In fact, they have been based in these areas for more than four decades, but they have grown considerably in recent years. Take Brampton, for instance. There were 123,000 Indians settled in Brampton as of 2016, and many thousands more have settled there since. Add in all the temporary workers and international students (Brampton is home to many colleges), not to mention the thousands more who are first or second generation Indian, in a city whose total population is not much greater than half a million in total. 

In nearby Mississauga, the story is very similar. According to the 2016 census, there were almost 55,000 Indian immigrants living in Mississauga, meaning that it has one of the strongest Indian immigrant communities in all of Canada. However, it is important to note that this total figure only takes into account permanent residents and citizens. When temporary workers and students are included, the figure increases significantly. In 2016, Indians accounted for 27 percent of the total new permanent residence arrivals in Mississauga.

One of the biggest draws that Bramton, Mississauga and other areas in the outer GTA have over Toronto itself come with cost of living. A one-bedroom apartment in Brampton city centre will set you back around $1,542 per month, while the same location in Mississauga can be secured for around $1,886 per month – both of these figures compare favourably with downtown Toronto.

Humber River.

Brampton is on the doorstep of some wonderful nature.

Continued below…

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Vancouver

The more things change, the more they stay the same, and this is certainly true when it comes to the relationship between Vancouver and Indian immigrants to the city. Some of the first Indian immigrants to Canada came to the country through Vancouver, and over 100 years later the relationship between the city and recent arrivals from India remains strong. There are over currently more than 125,000 Indian citizens currently based permanently in Vancouver and its surrounding areas. 

The allure of Vancouver for newcomers from India is clear. The city is a leading player in the film and visual effects industries, and also offers a wide range of employment opportunities in engineering, construction, health sciences, financial services, and much more besides. Highly-skilled Indian graduates are the perfect match for many employers in these sectors who are in search of experienced and motivated candidates. Throw in the temperate climate that Vancouver offers (pretty much the only major city in Canada that can promise such), as well as jaw-dropping natural beauty for outdoor enthusiasts, and it is easy to see why so many recent arrivals from India have chosen British Columbia’s largest city as their home away from home. The one catch is accommodation. Unfortunately, renting or buying property in Vancouver isn’t cheap. According to Numbeo, a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Vancouver can cost anywhere around $2,050 per month, while the price per square metre to buy a property is approximately $12,481.

Vancouver, British Columbia.

Finally, Indian heritage in Vancouver runs deep. It is perhaps fitting then, that the first person with Indian heritage to lead a major Canadian political party would also be an MP for a riding in the Greater Vancouver Area. New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh is a representative for Burnaby South and is the first person of colour to hold the role of leader of one of Canada’s so-called ‘big three’ political parties. Singh is the son of Indian immigrants who settled in the GTA. Like many Canadians, he is bilingual in French and English, and like many members of the Indo-Canadian community in Canada, he is also fluent in Hindi and Punjabi.

Calgary

From the outside, Calgary might seem like an unusual destination for Indians to Canada. After all, isn’t this the place where cowboys, double-denim, and line-dancing abound? The truth is that this overly-simplified view of Calgary is as inaccurate as the misconception that all Indian immigrants to Canada are based in the GTA. 

There are approximately 50,000 Indian citizens settled in the Calgary Metropolitan Area, with many thousands more temporary workers and students, making it the third most popular city for Indian newcomers after the GTA and Vancouver. There are around 1.3 million people living in Calgary, making it the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Canada. Calgary is a major draw for Indian immigrants with engineering, mining, or related backgrounds. 

When it comes to cost of living, Calgary is pretty much middle of the pack in terms of Canadian cities. It is cheaper than Toronto and Vancouver but more expensive than Montreal, the Atlantic cities, and Winnipeg. A one-bedroom apartment in one of Calgary’s central neighbourhoods will probably set you back around $1,200 per month. If you are a family and happy to live a little further out in the suburbs then you should be able to find a decent three-bedroom property for about $1,540 per month.

Aerial photo of Calgary, courtesy of Tourism Calgary.

Edmonton

Edmonton is the most northerly ‘big’ city on the continent of North America. It is also where hockey legend Wayne Gretsky played and won multiple Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, and, at present, it is home to tens of thousands of Indian citizens. 

With average daily temperatures of around −11.7 °C in January, making Edmonton your permanent home, especially if you’re coming directly from India, is something that you are going to want to consider closely if the cold is an issue for you. That said, Edmonton is also Canada’s sunniest city and really embraces the harsh extremes that Mother Nature throws at it with multiple festivals and community events throughout the year.

From an employment perspective, Edmonton has a lot to offer Indian immigrants. Like Calgary, the city is an oil hub but it also has many opportunities in construction, engineering and affiliated industries. When it comes to cost of living, Edmonton fares well. According to Numbeo, a one-bedroom apartment in the city’s downtown core will cost around $1,200 per month, while the same property a little further out in the suburbs should set you back about $975 per month.

Edmonton River Valley. Courtesy: EEDC Digital Library.

So, there you have it, our guide to the top five places to live in Canada for Indian immigrants. Whether you are moving from India via Express Entry, a study permit or with family, you can be rest assured that no matter where you end up in Canada, you will find many friendly and familiar sights and sounds. And, if you moved to Canada from India and want to share any insights about your destination, even if it’s not listed above – get in touch! We’d love to share the  information or advice you may have for your fellow Indian citizens. Contact [email protected].

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