Filipinos in Canada, including those of Filipino descent, numbered nearly one million in April, 2018 — this included a mix of naturalized citizens, permanent residents, temporary work permit holders, and those in the country as students. This total meant that Filipinos or Filipino-Canadians were the fourth largest visible minority community in Canada after the South Asian, Chinese, and Black communities.

This sizable community means that Filipinos and Filipino-Canadians have a population akin to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city.

The majority of Filipino citizens have settled in towns and cities in Ontario and British Columbia, but there are also significant Filipino communities in Winnipeg, MB, and Calgary, AB. If you are a newcomer to Canada from the Philippines and want an idea of where you should set up base in the Great White North, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get to it!

Toronto

According to 2019 data on the location of Filipino citizens in Canada as permanent residents or recently naturalized citizens, Toronto was comfortably the most popular destination with almost 119,000 people. When you factor in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), this figure jumps to over 192,000. As we mentioned previously, this figure doesn’t take into account the thousands of second and third-generation Filipino-Canadians, as well as more recent arrivals in the country on study and temporary work permits.

Unlike other immigrant groups in Toronto, the growing Filipino community has tended to settle in downtown Toronto or one of its nearby urban neighbourhoods as opposed to settling in the outskirts of the GTA. This is the inverse of trends seen among other large immigrant communities – Indians, for example – the majority of whom tend to settle outside the City of Toronto itself, but within the GTA. The wealth of job opportunities across all sectors makes Toronto an  obvious choice for newcomers from the Philippines to Canada. However, if you are hoping to make the move to Toronto then you need to know that it won’t be cheap.

One Filipino-Canadian enjoying life in Toronto is Gelaine Santiago, a successful entrepreneur who launched an online fashion retail website, Cambio & Co., that bridges Canada and Philippines culturally and economically. Cambio & Co’s products are produced by artisans in the Philippines, and Cambio & Co. is used as the e-commerce platform that enables the artisans to connect to a global market. We recently spoke with Gelaine about her experience in Canada.

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). 

Vancouver

The appeal of Vancouver for newcomers to Canada from the Philippines is very 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. There were almost 100,000 Filipino citizens resident in Vancouver as permanent residents and naturalized citizens in 2016, with the number growing considerably when second- and third-generation Filipino-Canadians, as well as temporary workers and students, were added to the mix.

Highly-skilled Filipino graduates are the perfect match for many employers in these sectors, while the wide range of colleges and universities in the Greater Vancouver area mean that it’s a hot spot for Filipino students.

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’s easy to see why so many recent arrivals from the Philippines have chosen British Columbia’s largest city as their home away from home in Canada. 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.

When it comes to leaders in the Filipino community, many point to the election of Mable Elmore, whose mother immigrated to Canada from the Philippines, to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly in 2009 as an important moment. 

Continued below…

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Winnipeg

Perhaps the most surprising entry in the list of top cities for Filipinos in Canada is Winnipeg, but that shouldn’t be the case. Self-described as ‘The Heart of the Continent’, Winnipeg has a rich and storied history with immigrants from the Philippines. Winnipeg witnessed its first major influx of Filipinno immigrants in the 1980s, and the multi-generational community has grown from strength to strength since then. 

Today, Winnipeg has the third largest Filipino population in Canada, as well as the largest in terms of per-capita population with just under 10 percent. In 2016, there were over 57,000 Filipino citizens living in Winnipeg as either permanent residents or naturalized Canadian citizens. In addition, between 2011 and 2016 the Filipino population in Winnipeg increased by 26.2 percent — the second-highest jump over this five-year period after Calgary. But what is attracting so many Filipinos to Winnipeg?

Winnipeg was recently ranked as the third-fastest growing economy among Canada’s major cities, and is also considered to be one of the most diversified. In addition, rental prices are among the lowest in Canada, making Winnipeg ideal for Filipino newcomers to Canada who want to find their own place after arriving in Canada rather than sharing an address with roommates. For instance, a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Winnipeg should cost approximately $995 CAD per month. Winnipeg is also home to the recently opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights, as well as the Centennial Concert Hall and the ever-popular Winnipeg Folk Festival. And, if you are feeling homesick, there are ample opportunities to sample the culinary delights from home thanks to one of the many great Filipino restaurants dotted across the city.

Finally, in terms of Filipino political leaders in Winnipeg, there are a number of success stories to choose from. Perhaps the most noteworthy is Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan, who served as cabinet minister in the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, and served as a Member of the Federal Parliament from 1988 until 2004.

Calgary

You might think that Calgary with its penchant for all things cowboy may not be very high on the list of potential destinations for those moving to Canada from the Philippines, but you’d be wrong. 2016 data indicates that there were 53,450 Filipino citizens in Calgary. This, combined with the thousands more on study permits and temporary work permits, means the city is one of the most attractive locations for newcomers moving to Canada from the Philippines.

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 many Filipino 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.

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, as of 2016, is home to over 45,000 Filipino citizens who live in Canada as naturalized citizens or permanent residents. 

With average daily temperatures of around −11.7 °C in January, making Edmonton your permanent home, especially if you’re coming directly from Manila or somewhere else in the Philippines, 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.

Despite a recent slowdown in the local economy, Edmonton still has a lot to offer newcomers from the Philippines. 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.

So, there you have it, our guide to the top five places to live in Canada for Filipino immigrants. Whether you are moving to Canada from the Philippines via Express Entry, a study permit or with family, you can 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 the Philippines 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 Filipino citizens. Contact [email protected].

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