Settling in the Other Ontario

Dalaja was crying as she packed the last of the boxes. In less than forty-eight hours, she would be leaving Toronto to spend twelve months in Timmins, a mid-size city in Northern Ontario. And if Kabir had his way, they might even settle there. She had seen that light shining in his eyes as he spoke of the gold, silver, zinc, and copper mines of the Porcupine area.

Dalaja did not share his enthusiasm. All she could think about were the friends and relatives she was leaving behind in Toronto, her new adopted city of three years. Living upstairs in her cousin’s duplex, she was in daily contact with her relatives and their large circle of friends. On weekends, they met with other members of the Indian community and visited the many sites of the city.

And now that was all coming to an end. They were moving to an isolated community eight hours’ drive from Toronto. Dalaja would not ask Kabir to give up this dream job, this opportunity of a lifetime. Since leaving India, he had worked hard to qualify as an engineer in Canada. He’d spent his days working on construction sites. Evenings and weekends, he took courses and networked with industry professionals. So Dalaja shed her tears privately and prayed that Kabir’s contract would not be extended beyond a year.

I would advise Dalaja, and anyone else considering a move to Northern Ontario, not to despair. There is more to Ontario than Ottawa, Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe.

Treat It as an Adventure

Even if you intend to stay for only a short season, explore every nook and cranny of your new community. Visit the sandy, sheltered beaches of the many fresh-water lakes that dot the region. Take pictures of the vast, unspoiled landscapes. Participate in the many activities and celebrations that can only be described as “Northern Ontario style.” This may be your only opportunity to hop on the Polar Bear Express and visit the most northerly point in Ontario, or to take the Agawa Canyon Tour through granite rock formations and the forests of the lower Canadian Shield. Some other events to consider are the Bon Soo Winter Carnival in Sault Ste. Marie, the Northern Lights Festival in Sudbury, and the Haweater Weekend on Manitoulin Island.

Write in a diary or set up a blog and share your experiences on the Internet. Invite your friends and relatives for a week during the summer. They’ll be glad to leave the sweltering heat of southern Ontario and have a “cottage” experience in your new community.

Move Out of Your Comfort Zone

When you move from your homeland to a large ethnic community in Canada, you no doubt enjoy spending time with people from “back home.” While this may be comfortable, true growth will only be achieved when you move out of your comfort zone.

Use this opportunity to expand your network of new friends and practice your English language skills. Take continuing education courses offered by the local school board and any satellite campuses of larger colleges and universities. Join any religious or community groups that interest you. Invite another new Canadian to join you as you attend your first Toastmasters meeting. Share your favourite dishes with your new neighbours and experiment with new cuisines.

Embrace the Cold, Enjoy the Summer

While the temperatures in northern Ontario are not always much lower than those in Toronto, many newcomers tend to hibernate during their first winter. Do not follow their lead. Instead, dress appropriately for the weather and make an effort to go out each day. Try out or take up a winter sport: snowshoeing, downhill or cross-country skiing, ice skating, ice fishing, tobogganing, dog sledding, snowboarding. Accept invitations to go snowmobiling on miles of well-groomed trails. In summertime, learn to swim in the beautiful northern lakes, hike along forest trails, and join your family and new friends boating, canoeing, kayaking, camping and fishing. You’ll find yourself relaxing in the clean, fresh air and clear water of the woodlands.

Give northern Ontario a chance. You might just find it’s the place where you want to spend your new life in Canada.

This story is from the "Immigrating to a Smaller Community" InfoBlock. To read more stories on this topic, click here.