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Nov 7, 2003
Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada
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Newcomers to Canada are developing a strong attachment to the country, and 98% of them said it was the only destination they applied to when they chose to leave their homeland, according to the first data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC).

Many people emigrated for economic reasons; some came to Canada to reunite with their family; others chose to leave their homeland for political or other personal reasons. However, most immigrants had the same plan in mind: they would make Canada their new home. The vast majority (91%) of these new arrivals expressed their intention to settle here permanently and become Canadian citizens.

Between October 2000 and September 2001, an estimated 164,200 immigrants aged 15 years and older arrived in Canada as permanent residents. About 12,000 individuals were interviewed roughly six months after their arrival for the first wave of the LSIC.

The survey was designed to study how newly arrived immigrants adjust over time to living in Canada. According to the data, newcomers are making progress in building their new lives in Canada. Seven in 10 immigrants reported that they were satisfied with their new lives in Canada.

Most immigrants (85%) had made new friends since coming to Canada, especially with people from the same cultural background as themselves. In fact, 63% reported that all or most of their new friends were from the same ethnic group. As well, 47% of the immigrants reported that they wanted to bring their relatives to Canada by sponsoring their immigration.

Starting a new life in Canada was not without obstacles, however. Finding employment was the area where most immigrants reported some difficulties: 70% of newcomers who tried to enter the labour force identified at least one problem with the process, such as transferability of foreign qualifications, lack of contacts, and language barriers.

In comparison, 38% of immigrants who tried to find suitable housing and 40% of those who tried to pursue further education or training encountered at least one problem. For example, high costs and lack of guarantors or cosigners were the most common problems cited by newcomers trying to find suitable housing. Language barriers and financing were hurdles faced by immigrants seeking further education and training. Accessing health care services was the area where the fewest immigrants (only 23%) reported problems. However, those problems that were reported included long waiting lists, high costs of dental care or prescription medication and language barriers.

Kin, friendship network key to initial settlement

A large proportion of immigrants (87%) already had some form of social support system in Canada. Over half (54%) of newcomers already had relatives and friends living in the country; another third (33%) had only friends. Most newcomers (78%) settled in areas where their network of friends and relatives lived. As well, they often turned to their family and friends when they encountered difficulties in settlement and needed help.

Between October 2000 and September 2001, Canada's three largest census metropolitan areas (CMAs) -Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal-attracted three-quarters of the new immigrants. This settlement pattern is consistent with long-term trends from the census and other survey data.

Data from the LSIC clearly show that the network of family and friends had at least as much impact as economic factors on an immigrant's choice of destination, although other major reasons (for example, climate, language or existence of ethnic community) varied from city to city.

Immigrants in the economic class might have been expected to cite economic factors as their chief reason for settlement choice, but this was not the case. In all three CMAs, 44% of those newcomers who entered as principal applicants in the economic class said they chose their destination because family and friends were already living there. Only 19% said they were influenced by job prospects. Other reasons cited included lifestyle (7%), education prospects (6%) and housing prices in the areas (6%).

Half of the principal applicants in the economic class who settled in Toronto said they did so to join family and friends; less than one-quarter (23%) chose Toronto because of job prospects. Lifestyle, housing and the existence of their own cultural community were also strong reasons for choosing Toronto.

In Vancouver, 41% of the principal applicants in the economic class cited joining family and friends as the most important reason for settling there. Climate, the second most important factor for choosing the area, was cited by one-fifth of these principal applicants. Only a small proportion chose Vancouver because of its job prospects.

In Montréal, as well, joining family and friends was the most popular reason for choosing that destination, with 31% of principal applicants in the economic class citing it. Language was the next most important factor (19%), followed by employment (16%) and education prospects (10%).

About one-fifth (21%) of newcomers settled in CMAs other than Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal. Another 4% chose to live outside a metropolitan area.

The strongest reasons for choosing areas other than the three largest CMAs were joining family and friends (36%) and benefiting from employment opportunities (32%). In fact, these areas had a higher proportion than Toronto, Vancouver or Montréal of economic-class principal applicants who cited job prospects as the most important factor for settlement choice. Education prospects (12%), lifestyle (6%) and business prospects (6%) were the other top reasons for the principal applicants in the economic class to settle in areas other than the three largest CMAs.
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