As of 2020, there are more than one million Indian citizens in Canada on permanent or temporary status, approximately half of whom are based in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). But, in contrast to many other newcomer communities, most Indians in the GTA are not downtown in the shadow of Toronto’s famous CN Tower. Rather, Indian immigrants to the GTA have tended to settle further from the downtown core, creating vibrant communities in outlying cities and suburbs.

The GTA is home to roughly six million people, including millions of people from across the world, creating one of the most diverse and multicultural regions in North America. When Canada did a head-count of everyone in the country in the 2016 census, it showed that almost 308,000 Indian citizens were settled in the GTA as permanent residents or naturalized Canadian citizens. Since then, more than 200,000 additional Indians have obtained permanent resident status in Canada, 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 living in the GTA — many of whom will transition to permanent status — and the GTA’s Indian community makes for a total population equivalent to that of Halifax, Nova Scotia. All indications suggest that the Indo-Canadian community in the GTA will continue to grow in the years to come, and it is widely considered one of the best places to live in Canada for Indian immigrants. 

One of the most striking aspects of Indian immigration to the GTA is the relatively proportionate distribution of immigrants across all the urban centres in the area. The Indian community in Ontario has travelled far and wide in search of a place to call home. But which part of the GTA best meets your needs?

To answer that question we have selected our top five destinations for Indians in the GTA, starting with the region’s biggest city, Toronto itself.

Toronto

Toronto is a major magnet for Indian immigrants looking to embrace the Canadian Dream, and it’s easy to see why. The city is Canada’s economic engine with almost all big-hitters in the financial services, legal, accounting, marketing, and many other sectors housing their headquarters there. It is also home to some of the continent’s top schools and universities, and in 2019, the city’s much-loved Raptors became 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’ by virtue of the fact that he has attended almost every single home game in the team’s quarter-century existence.

In addition to Nav Bhatia, thousands of Indians have contributed successfully to help make Toronto the multicultural melting-pot it is today. 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, as well as some savings for arrival.

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.

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 more than $1,500 each month. These figures mean that Toronto is the most expensive large city in Canada, and one of the most expensive in North America. Toronto is an ideal location for an Indian immigrant who wants to be in the heart of the action but is content with possibly living in a smaller apartment to achieve this dream. 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 GTA. In fact, most Indians who settle in the GTA live outside the city of Toronto itself.

Brampton

Located to the north-west of downtown Toronto, Brampton is an important city in its own right. 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. 

No, you didn’t read that wrong, there are more Indian immigrants living in Brampton than Toronto despite the latter being multiple times larger than the former. So, what attracts so many Indians to the birthplace of Hollywood actor Michael Cera?

Strong transport links and affordable accommodation are two of the most important reasons why so many Indian immigrants, especially those with families, are looking to Brampton. For instance, a one-bedroom apartment in Brampton city centre will set you back around $1,542 per month, though more affordable apartments are also on the market.

Moreover, in 2018, Brampton City Council launched the ambitious Brampton 2040 project. Comprising free transit that loops around the whole city, a unified green network connecting every ravine and park, as well as a vibrant, developed “Uptown”, Brampton 2040 showcases a city with great potential. With so many Indian immigrants settling in Brampton, wouldn’t you be interested too? That said, Brampton isn’t the only non-Toronto city in the GTA with a sizable Indian immigrant population. 

Mississauga

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.

It is clear that the strong ties nurtured by the Indian community in Mississauga are important reasons why so many recent arrivals have also decided to set up base there. However, it is far from being the only reason for this influx. Much like Brampton, the affordable cost of living in Mississauga, and its relative proximity to downtown Toronto, mean that it is ideal for those who want the best of both worlds when it comes to high-quality employment opportunities but lower living costs. In that respect, you can expect to pay $1,886 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Mississauga, while an average city-centre apartment or house will set you back about $6,549 per square meter.

Continued below…

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Hamilton

Although not technically part of the official GTA, Hamilton’s close proximity to Toronto (just over an hour to drive) warrants its inclusion on this list. There is in excess of 10,000 Indian citizens living in Hamilton at present, and with a world-class university in the form of McMaster, a diverse and growing economy, as well as its very own Canadian Football League (CFL) team (go Tigers!), it’s understandable why an increasing number of Indian immigrants are choosing to move to the city on the shore of Lake Ontario.

One of the biggest draws of Hamilton is that it combines the natural beauty of the local region. The city of Hamilton is an important city in its own right with a metropolitan population of over 700,000, and is also a short drive from Niagara Falls and the US border. 

Although not as cheap as Brampton, Hamilton nonetheless offers impressive value for money, especially when it comes to buying property. As of July 2018, the average residential property price in the city was $541,778. The overall cost of living in Hamilton is about 25 percent lower than the cost of living in Toronto, and you can often find a one-bedroom apartment near downtown for just over $1,000 per month, and sometimes even less than that.

Markham

Last but not least on our list of destinations for Indian immigrants moving to the GTA is Markham. Located 30 km north-east of downtown Toronto, Markham had a population of 328,000, according to the 2016 census. Of this total, 14,000 are Indian immigrants, with the number of students and temporary workers increasing this total significantly in the intervening years. 

Markham’s strong tech sector, mixed with its expanding and diverse immigrant population, makes it very representative of Canada in 2020. For many, Markham is the happy medium between the often-crippling cost of living in downtown Toronto, while remaining close enough to the action that some feel is lacking when living in Mississauga or Brampton. To that end, a one-bedroom apartment in Markham city centre will, on average, cost you around $1,720 per month, while if you are a parent you can expect to pay about $1,000 for private childcare per month.

So, there you have it, our guide to the top five places to live in the GTA for Indian immigrants. Whether you are moving from India via Express Entry, a study permit or with family, you can rest assured that in the GTA 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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