O’Canada: Why Canada is so attractive to expats

O Canada

Why Canada is so attractive to expats

By Sabrina Bucknole

Originally published in Global Living Magazine – Summer 2017  issue

The Economist’s league table of the world’s most livable cities features three Canadian cities, all in the top five: Vancouver (3rd), Toronto (4th) and Calgary (5th). The only other country to outrank them is Australia, which has four cities in the top ten. Canada, as a country, also ranks third on the 2016 HSBC Expat Explorer league table.

So, what is it about this country (and these cities) that makes it appeal to expats? Is it the healthcare, sense of safety or the culture – or a combination of all these things and more – that make it such an attractive location?


Canada has a very high-quality standard of healthcare. Ranking higher than the healthcare systems in other major countries including Australia and the US, Canada’s system was awarded 30th place out of 191 countries by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Canada has 13 provincial and territorial healthcare insurance plans instead of a single national plan, under their publicly funded healthcare system known as Medicare. All Canadian citizens and permanent residents may apply for this, which will give them access to medically-necessary hospital and physician services without paying out-of-pocket fees.

However, this system does not cover services such as ambulances, dental care, physiotherapy, prescription medications, and prescription eyeglasses. Expats may therefore need to have international health insurance in place to ensure they have access to the right healthcare at the right time.


Canada was ranked eighth out of 162 in the “world’s safest countries”. The Crime Severity Index (CSI) which measures the volume and severity of police-reported crime, was 31 percent lower in 2015 than it was in 2005, showing a tremendous decrease in police-reported crime. The cities with the lowest CSIs were Québec (41.8), Barrie (43.3), Toronto (45.7), Ottawa (46.5), Guelph (48.4) and Sherbrooke (49.2).

Toronto and Montreal were also ranked among the safest cities in North America according to the Economist’s “Safe Cities Index”. Being home to some of the safest cities in the world, and with an overall low crime rate, it is clear why expats, especially those with families, may feel attracted to Canada.


In Canada, each province and territory has its own system of education, which may appear unusual to expat families moving from countries that have national systems of education in place; however, its benefits are clear.

The country’s educational system is classed as one of the best in the world, making it attractive and appealing to expat families with children in education. According to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Canada was awarded seventh place out of 72 countries for their performance in reading, science, and math, ranking higher than other major countries including the United Kingdom and the United States, which scored 15th and 25th place respectively.


Canada has a diverse culture, making it easy for expats to integrate and feel at home. For instance, the most recent census from the National Household Survey (NHS) found that Canada was home to about 6,775,800 foreign-born individuals, making up 20.6% of the total population.

More than one million Chinese-born immigrants live in Canada, which could partially be due to the influx of Chinese workers that contributed to the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s.

To celebrate the contributions and to acknowledge the long and rich history of their Asian population, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration in 2002 to designate May as Asian Heritage Month. This is a great example of Canada’s welcoming and celebratory approach to people with different origins, and why expats may find it an attractive place to live and raise a family.

As well as English, Chinese and other nationalities, Vancouver’s population, for instance, is also made up of Aboriginal communities. In fact, after Winnipeg and Edmonton, Vancouver has the third-largest population of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. In addition to three Coast Salish Nations, who are indigenous to the area, the city is also home to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples from other parts of Canada.

Something else…

As with many countries that have major metropolitan areas, expats will find a wide range of shopping outlets, restaurants, cafes, theaters, attractions, and more. But what makes Canada’s cities special are their unique landmarks, and title-breaking attractions and services.

For instance, Canada is home to the largest mall in North America and the fifth largest in the world. The West Edmonton Mall offers more than 800 stores and services, and includes nine attractions, two hotels, cinemas, and more than 100 dining venues. Around 30.8 million people visit the mall every year, making it the most visited tourist attraction in the province.

Canada’s unique natural landmarks also add to the appeal, especially the iconic Niagara Falls, which attracts more than 30 million visitors each year. Niagara is the most powerful waterfall in North America, with an average of four million cubic feet of water falling over the crest line every minute.

From the access to high-quality healthcare, the level of safety, the world-class education system, the diverse culture and welcoming attitude, to the wide range of attractions, it is easy to see why expats find Canada so attractive… and why the magnetism of this vast country is set to continue well into the future.

[Image courtesy of Creative Commons]

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