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‘A great place to live, but it can be expensive and you have to talk yourself up’

Young Irish give advice on living and working in Canada

Rebecca Ryan from Sandyford in Dublin arrived in Canada at the height of the pandemic in summer 2020. Very few people were being admitted to the country at that point. She and her partner, Tom Gibbons from Leixlip, Co Kildare, arrived with about nine others. Both received their initial visas just before the onset of the pandemic in February 2020 and decided to leave Ireland in the summer when there appeared to be a lull in the pandemic. They both now work in consultancy. They were among a number of emigrants who told of their experiences in Toronto to The Irish Times.

Ryan says there is a great quality of life in Toronto but it is expensive.

“When it comes to rent, you get a lot more value for money, you may pay the same or maybe less but get all the amenities; the gym, the condo building, common area, co-working space, all that stuff. We get a lot more for our money.”

She says eating out is expensive and “groceries have gone up a fair whack” in recent months.


Gibbons say they are now waiting for new visas to be processed.

Bedilu Gebrselassai worked on the front line in a Canadian hospital as a care assistant during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Originally from Ethiopia, Gebrselassai lived in Ireland for six years before moving to Canada on a two-year visa. However, after this visa expired, his application for both a work permit and permanent residency were rejected. He has been waiting five months for Canadian authorities to process his second attempt to remain and, in the meantime, cannot work. He says he just has to wait, checking his email every day, unsure how long it will take.

He had worked as a care assistant in a nursing home in Ireland, but his arrival in Canada coincided with the start of the pandemic. After working with an agency for six months, he got a full-time position in a hospital as a care assistant looking after a number of patients with Covid. “It was very scary and very hard.”

In full PPE, he worked 12-hour shifts looking after patients and found “it was very hard to breathe sometimes”.

Aoife Phelan from Portlaoise, Co Laois has been in Toronto just under a year. A business data analyst, with a MS in data analytics from Dublin Business School, she left for the experience of living abroad and says Toronto is a “brilliant option”.

While acknowledging it can be expensive, she says you do get what you pay for. “I have a lovely apartment here, a lot of lovely amenities within the apartment building, there’s lot of shops, restaurants, good places to go and it is very, very dog friendly which I love... I would love to get a dog, but that would require me being here a bit more long term.”

It took her a couple of months to get a job, but she was prepared for that. An employment seminar provided by the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre (ICAN) gave specific advice.

The approach to finding a job is different, she says. It relies on networking and connections.

Her advice to intending immigrants is that “you need to have a backup to the backup”, and be open to doing other types of work before you get a job in the area in which you are qualified.

Mark Graham is from mid-Ulster and now works as a legal projects manager in a bank. He has obtained permanent residency through the foreign skilled workers programme.

He left a relatively good job in Belfast and cautions about the presumption that once you arrive in Canada, you will walk into a similar position. He spent several months working as a glass installer – tough physical work – in a friend’s company, and has just recently been offered his new role.

He has heard absolute horror stories about people trying to get jobs – one person he knows had up to 70 meetings before he found a job he wanted.

“It’s a waste of time applying for endless jobs online... you have to network and meet people and they have to scout you out,” he says.

“You’ve got to talk yourself up. You don’t want to be arrogant, but you want to appear confident. Being overly modest does not pay.”