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After you arrive

A Portrait Of Ottawa

Canada’s capital – what makes Ottawa so attractive 

Ottawa is the nation’s capital and the fourth largest urban region in Canada. It includes over 1.4 million people, 66% of whom live in Ottawa and the rest in neighbouring municipalities, including Gatineau (located across the Ottawa River in Quebec). A special feature of the region is that both English and French are widely spoken and reflected in the City’s culture and commerce.  Ottawa is also multicultural with a large and growing immigrant population that enriches the city.

On the economic front, Ottawa is a major economic engine, offering jobs and opportunities in high tech industries, government, and important sectors such as health and education. The City is home to world- class research centres, top notch academic institutions and operations by major international companies. 

Take a tour of ByWard Market: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)

To top it all off, both the City and the surrounding countryside are beautiful. Ottawa is remarkably clean and green, with large trees, parks and beaches along the three major rivers and historic canal that define the City and region. As well, the Gatineau hills are visible just across the Ottawa River, offering a protected natural setting for many family-oriented recreational activities.

View some of the top attractions in Ottawa.

But if you do need to leave Ottawa and travel for business or pleasure, Ottawa is located close to many major cities in both Canada and the United States.

What the experts say: best place in Canada

Ottawa has much to be proud of. More and more people are becoming aware of Ottawa’s advantages: A study by Canadian Business ranked Ottawa as Canada’s best place to live based on incomes, car ownership, unemployment rate, housing, weather and lifestyle. Cultural factors were a key element of Ottawa’s high ranking.

Ottawa is one of six cities in the country receiving top marks for attracting newcomers, according to the Conference Board of Canada in a report released September 2014. Ottawa ranked well in four key categories: Society, education, innovation, and economy.

The City of Ottawa was ranked the best place to live in Canada by MoneySense Magazine in 2016. It's the second time in five years that Ottawa has taken the top spot! The big factors were a diverse private sector, a high quality of life for a low cost of living.  Aside from a strong economy and high income, Ottawa also earns high marks being pedestrian and transit-friendly. And it was also ranked #1 as the best place to live for newcomers to Canada as well. 

Canadian Business magazine ranked Ottawa 14th in the world and 3rd in North America in a 2009 survey of the best places to live. In 2010, Ottawa was among the top 10 per cent of cities globally in a ‘quality of living survey’ that included the economy, political system, education and schools, health, housing and the environment.  

In November 2013, the City of Ottawa received a silver-level designation as a walk-friendly city by WALK Friendly Ontario – which is a recognition program that encourages municipalities to create and improve spaces and places to walk. This silver-level designation is the highest level awarded so far by the program – with only Ottawa and Hamilton receiving those honours.

In August 2013, the City also had the honour of being the first city in the province to receive the gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community Award by Share the Road Cycling Coalition, a cycling advocacy organization that works with Ontario municipalities to make their communities more bicycle-friendly.

The Conference Board of Canada has said that Ottawa leads all cities in Canada in knowledge occupations - that is, occupations characterized by their use of high technology, computing, knowledge intensive processes and creative activity. More than 1 in 4 workers are employed in the knowledge field.

Ottawa was rated as the best overall city in Canada based on a measure of technology, talent and tolerance. Ottawa was ahead of major cities like New York, Boston, Washington, San Jose and London, England.

Ottawa tied for 3rd in the world in the ranking of best eco-cities in 2010.

Ottawa was a finalist in the Intelligent Community of the Year awards for its use of broadband and information and communications technology needed to excel in today's global economy.

Multicultural and cosmopolitan

Due to its rich ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity, and its strong talent base, Ottawa has emerged as an exciting cosmopolitan centre. The City is the second largest destination for immigrants to Ontario, after Toronto, and is a major attractor of Francophone newcomers.

Ottawa is also a young city (with a relatively low median age) and one that is rapidly diversifying: In fact, one in four Ottawa residents is an immigrant, a population that is growing twice as fast as the rest of the City’s inhabitants. All parts of the world are represented with 53% of new arrivals coming from Asia and the Middle East, 17% from Africa, and 15% from Europe.  This is reflected in the languages spoken in Ottawa, including Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Italian and German. 

Ottawa’s diversity can also been seen in some of the City’s charming ethnic neighbourhoods. Chinatown, located close to downtown Ottawa, is a place for fantastic Chinese and Asian restaurants and food shops.

Take a tour of Chinatown:

Another wonderful neighbourhood is Little Italy situated in Centretown and the original home of Ottawa's established Italian community.  It’s hard to resist the great restaurants and outdoor cafes.

Take a tour of Little Italy:

Internationally, Ottawa is linked to a sister city: Beijing, China

Bilingual character - both English and French

According to the most recent population census, approximately half of Ottawa and the surrounding region’s population is Anglophone, while a third is Francophone.  Nearly half of the residents - combining Ottawa and Gatineau - speak both English and French. In fact, the number of bilingual residents has increased by 50,000 between 2006 and 2011.

The main business language in Ottawa is English, which is essential for economic success. Both the City of Ottawa and the federal government actively encourage bilingualism and work hard to ensure that residents can be served in either language. 

Ottawa residents regard the presence of an active Francophone community both within the city and right next door, across the river, as significant assets, with great music, restaurants and bars, and boulangeries (French bakeries). Within Ottawa itself, Vanier is an older, primarily Francophone neighbourhood, bordering the Rideau River.  

Ottawa also features a fully bilingual university – the University of Ottawa – which, based on various rankings, places within the top 250 schools in the world.

Knowledge economy and centre of learning

“Talent is at the heart of Ottawa's economic development. The region is recognized for having the highest number of residents with post-secondary education in Canada. More than half of its adult population (51 per cent) has a college degree and 43 per cent of its workforce is employed in creative occupations.”

“Ottawa leads all Canadian cities … with 26.4 per cent of its total employment in the knowledge field. … Ottawa has one in seven people working in the field of science or high technology … a consequence of the exceptional education system, modern educational facilities and the state-of-the-art research infrastructure provided by the region's academic institutions and the public and private sectors

 “Part of the strength of Ottawa’s economy is the diversity of its industries. Ottawa’s knowledge-based sectors continue to grow, employing over 75,000 employees within 1,922 companies. The Knowledge Based Support Services sector is the largest … followed by the software sector … Aerospace and Defence, eBusiness, Telecommunications and Cleantech industries also have a significant impact … IBM is now Ottawa’s largest employer outside of the public sector. 

Importantly, Ottawa offers 5 options for post-secondary education and an option to study in English or French or both. See the Study section.

Ottawa’s climate and environment

Ottawa offers four distinct seasons, each with its own special character and events. Summers are warm, spring and fall are cooler and winter temperatures are generally below freezing. How else could Ottawa offer a great winter festival, skiing and skating on the Rideau Canal?

Spring 

Spring is a great time in Ottawa as temperatures rise, days get longer, flowers appear and the City turns green.  It’s also time for the annual tulip festival.

10 Great Things to Do in Ottawa in Spring: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)

Summer 

Summer is one of the best times in Ottawa when the cafes and outdoor activities really come to life. Bike paths are full of baby strollers, walkers, bikers, and in-line skaters. Parks are full of children, soccer players, dog walkers (and dogs). And the rivers are full of bathers, paddlers, rowers, and all sorts of boats.  Festivals are also frequent and Canada Day is a great party for everyone, young and old.  And, there’s beach volleyball too.

12 Great Things to Do in Ottawa in Summer:  (Video by Ottawa Tourism)

Autumn / Fall

This is when temperatures slowly begin to drop featuring fabulous days when the sun is shining, the air is cool, and the skies are a vivid blue. A perfect backdrop for the fall colours – the spectacular time when the trees become bright orange, and red, and yellow. Everyone comments on how spectacular the trees are.

10 Great Things to Do in Ottawa in Fall: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)

Winter

There’s nothing to fear.  All you need are warm clothes, hats, mitts and boots.  Kids love it. It’s true that Ottawa's winters can be cold but they also present opportunities to ski, snowshoe, skate, ice-fish and snowmobile. The Rideau Canal is the largest skating surface in the world, with visitors coming from everywhere to skate and eat beavertails (pancakes with sugar).

Winter Experiences in Ottawa: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)

First Days

Arrived in Canada. What's next?
Tips to make transition into Canadian life easy

To watch more videos produced by the Canadian federal government, visit Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s YouTube channel.

Settlement checklist

Arriving in a new city can be overwhelming. The following checklist will help you keep track of the most important things you need to do to get settled in Ottawa.

Your first days

  • Visit the YMCA-YWCA Newcomer Information Centre located at 200 Catherine Street in Ottawa or a settlement agency
  • Find temporary accommodations for your first few nights in Ottawa (if you haven’t already done so)
  • Exchange your money for Canadian currency at a bank
  • Apply for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), a publicly funded program that covers basic health care services
  • Apply for the Interim Federal Health (IFH) Program, a short-term health insurance program that provides temporary health insurance until you are covered by OHIP. It is available to protected persons only (resettled refugees, refugee claimants, certain persons detained under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other specified groups)
  • Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN), which you are required to have to work in Canada

Your first weeks

  • Contact an immigrant-serving organization in your community that will help you get settled in Ottawa
  • Get a map of Ottawa and find out about transportation in your area, including OC Transpo, the city’s public transit system
  • Open a bank account
  • Look for permanent accommodations 
  • Find someone who will act as a reference or co-signer for your apartment and/or mortgage
  • Set up essential services such as utilities (water, heat, electricity), insurance and telephone
  • Register your children in school
  • Arrange child-care for your children if you will be working
  • Apply for the Canada Child Tax Benefit, a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under age 18
  • Find a family doctor
  • Have your children immunized once you have arrived in Ottawa
  • Apply for an Ontario driver’s license
  • Get licence plates and registration for your car
  • Visit the Ottawa Public Library to obtain a free library card and learn more about the various programs and services offered. You may obtain information in multiple languages as well as, use the public computers and Internet
  • Start looking for a job
  • Look into having your foreign credentials recognized (if you haven’t already done so)
  • Register for language training to improve your skills or to learn English/French as a second language
  • Start volunteering to gain Canadian work experience

More information

Ontario Immigration
Settlement.org
Information about visas

Finding a place to stay

Before arriving in Ottawa, you should consider finding a place to live because it will make your arrival easier.

If you are going to arrange to have a place to live before your move to Ottawa, things you could do are to send a family member ahead to find a neighbourhood you would like to live in, view online classified advertisements, and work with a real estate broker or rental agent by phone or email.

You can also check Locate Ottawa; it’s a site that allows you to get a profile on specific neighbourhoods In Ottawa.

Ottawa street and bike rentals.

Renting

Apartments come in different sizes. Some have only one room, while others are much larger. Most apartments are rented by the month, although some are rented by the week. If you decide to rent an apartment, you usually need a co-signer or a reference. A co-signer is someone who agrees to share your financial responsibility for the rent. A reference is someone who can confirm your background.

Many rental places are unfurnished. You should also be prepared for additional costs such as utilities (water, heat and hydro). Other additional costs include television cable, internet and telephone service fees.

Ottawa Community Housing  offers low-cost renting options

Ottawa Real Estate Portal will allow you to search for rentals according to your price range and preferred location.

Buying

If you are thinking about buying a home, check your local newspaper and new home magazines. A real estate agent can also help you look for a home.

Ottawa Real Estate Board will allow you to search for property and a realtor.

Short-term options

Be careful as these options could become expensive.

Hotels

Find a hotel in your area of preference.

Hostels

Most hostels also charge by the night. They are usually less expensive than hotels, but you probably won’t have your own room. Hostels are more appropriate for people travelling alone, rather than for people who need accommodations for their family. 

Organizations that can help

There are many local agencies who can offer help and/or information regarding housing.

The organizations listed below can help you find a place to stay in Ottawa:

  • Action Logement – Action Housing provides support and information to people looking for housing in Ottawa.
  • Housing Help offers housing information and assistance to Ottawa residents. It provides information on subsidized housing and tenants’ rights.
  • The National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA offers short-term and monthly housing at the Taggart Family Y location at 180 Argyle Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K2P 1B7.

More information

CANADA MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
Nepean Housing - Affordable Housing
What is the average cost of an apartment in Ontario?
What are monthly living expenses for a family of three?
How Do I Buy a Home?

Getting around the city

There are many ways to get around Ottawa such as walking and cycling, public transportation and taxi. If you would like to travel outside of Ottawa, there are a variety of services available.

Public transportation

There are three choices for public transportation. The OC Transpo bus system runs in all directions throughout the city. The O-Train runs north-south on a railway line for about 8 km. The Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) is a bus system that transports people throughout Gatineau, offering many buses that travel back and forth across the river between Ottawa and the Quebec side.

Walking and cycling

For residents on the move, the City of Ottawa has more information on walking, cycling, driving and public transportation. The National Capital Commission offers over 170 kilometres of pathways that you can walk, rollerblade or ride a bicycle on.

Renting a bicycle

You can rent bicycles at certain stations in Ottawa and Gatineau.  This is an economical way to travel the city.  A variety of plans are available starting from $2.50.  

DID YOU KNOW?

Ottawa has over 880 parks and hundreds of kilometres of bike paths and nature trails.

Taxi

Taxi drivers will take you anywhere in the city. The cost varies depending on how far you are going. There are several taxi companies in Ottawa. The City has established guidelines for safe and reliable taxi service.

Car

If you want to drive a car, you must

  • Apply for an Ontario driver’s license
  • Register your vehicle
  • Obtain Ontario licence plates.
  • Have insurance to drive in Ontario.

Visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to learn more.

Car rental

You can also rent a car if you need one on a short term.  Canada 411 offers a listing of car rental companies in Ottawa.

Another option is car sharing which allows you to reserve a car on-line and pick it up at self serve locations, you can use the car for as little as half an hour to several days.

Parking

If you drive a car, you’ll have to find parking. You can park on some side streets for up to three hours free of charge, but this varies on from streets to streets, it is important to check signs. You can also pay to park in a parking lot or put money in a meter on the street. If you plan to park in one area for long periods of time, you may need a parking permit.

Travel outside of Ottawa

You can travel outside Ottawa via train, bus or airplane. Greyhound bus service will take you anywhere you want to go in North America. The Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority offers information on flying across Canada and throughout the world. Via Rail operates train travel within all regions of Canada including travel by train for vacations or business.

More Information

DriveTest
OC Transpo
O-Train
Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO)
Major Highways Map

Shopping

As you get settled in Ottawa, you’ll need to shop for food, clothing and household items. You might pay for your purchases by cash, Interac Direct Payment (debit card) or credit card. Banking has more information on the variety of payment methods available to you.

Food

Ottawa offers many food choices for people from all backgrounds.

There are several large grocery stores throughout the city that sell food basics, including:

Two large markets sell fresh fruit and vegetables

  • The Byward market in downtown Ottawa
  • The Ottawa Parkdale market in Ottawa west
  • There are also a few weekly farmers markets around the city.

For further information you may also refer to the Ottawa Buy Local Guide.

The Just Food Resource Guide can also help you find safe and nutritious food from local producers.

Specialty foods

Many neighbourhoods in Ottawa have shops that sell specialty foods. Chinatown is located on Somerset Street in the city centre. Little Italy is in the Preston Street area, slightly west of downtown Ottawa.

There are also many Middle Eastern, South Asian and European stores and delis located throughout the city. Learn how to locate these stores in the Food and clothing section.

Clothing

  • Ottawa has hundreds of clothing stores.
  • You can find new and used clothing at small stores throughout the city or at one of the large shopping centres.
  • The Salvation Army sells used clothing at a low cost.

Household items

For second-hand household items such as dishes, pots and pans, and small appliances, the Salvation Army is also an inexpensive place to start.

More information

Ottawa Shopping Centres and Malls
Grocery Stores & Markets
Natural & Organic Food Stores
Ottawa Food Bank
Value Village - Second Hand Store

Banking

In Ottawa, most people keep their money in bank accounts, where it can be kept safe and earns interest. You should go to a bank if you need to convert currency to Canadian dollars.

To learn more about opening a bank account, using bank machines and Interac Direct Payment (debit cards), and applying for a credit card, visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada – Banking and follow the “next” prompts near the end of the page.

Ottawa Community Loan Fund (OCLF) has launched a Newcomer Finances Toolkit to help newcomers get use to Canada’s banking system. The toolkit has practical information that newcomers need to know about finances in Canada, including hands-on activities like an online ATM and debit card machine.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, provides information about Canadian financial products and services and your rights and responsibilities as a financial consumer.

More information

Currency converter
List of banks operating in Canada

Getting Settled in Ottawa

Essential services

Discover what you need to know to live in Ottawa; emergency services, Ottawa By-Laws, the legal system, the political system, taxes and embassies.

Embassies

As the Nation’s Capital, Ottawa is host to many embassies, consulates and high commissions representing countries from around the world. Find information on Ottawa’s diplomatic community, as well as a list of contact information for local embassies and commissions, in the weekly magazine Embassy.

Emergency services

The city also provides emergency services, such as ambulance, fire and police services.

Ambulance, fire and police

In the case of an emergency, dial 9-1-1 on your telephone to reach ambulance, fire and police services. To reach ambulance, fire and police services, dial 9-1-1 on your telephone. This emergency phone line is available 24 hours a day at no cost. Dispatch operators will talk you through your emergency until help arrives.

Medical emergency

Most of the major hospitals in Ottawa offer emergency medical services 24 hours a day. Several after-hours clinics and late-night pharmacies are also available. For more information, visit Finding Healthcare.

Dental emergency

If you have a dental emergency, the Ottawa Dental Society’s emergency referral service can put you in contact with a dentist who will treat you as soon as possible.

Pets

If your pet is sick or injured, or if you see an animal in distress, the Ottawa Humane Society’s Emergency Animal Protective Services can help.

Legal system

Find resources to understand your legal rights and access resources to protect these rights.

Ottawa by-laws

Ottawa’s by-laws are rules and regulations the City has developed to protect the health, safety and peace of its residents. By-laws cover a wide range of areas, including noise and animal regulations, parking restrictions and business licensing practices. You should become familiar with the by-laws in Ottawa.

Taxes

All levels of government charge taxes to residents in order to pay for free services, including schools, health care and much more. Learn more about taxes.

More information

Ottawa Community Health Centers
Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage waiting period
Where can I get health care if I don't have OHIP
Community Legal Clinics in Ontario
CLEO – Community Legal Education Ontario

Settlement services

Ottawa has many specialized agencies that are available to help new immigrants and their families to settle and integrate into the community.  The services that are offered include basic orientation; language training; help with finding a job; information about schools, healthcare and housing; help with completing forms; and many other services.  Most of these services are offered free of charge and many are available in multiple languages.  Agencies also help direct newcomers to the services they need. 

Are you new to Canada?

Coming to a new country can be both exciting and challenging. Newcomers face many changes at the same time with their family, social networks and environment. As a result, adapting to a new country can be stressful. While you are adjusting to your new home, the video below provides some ways to take care of yourself and your mental health.

Many sections of this website offer links to organizations that provide services related to finding a job, education, healthcare and other essential services.  Below is a partial list of agencies that help newcomers:

The following links direct you to organizations or sites that offer important information:  

Applying for....

Applying for a driver’s licence

If you have a valid driver’s licence from your country of origin, you are allowed to drive in Ontario for up to 60 days. But you must get an Ontario driver’s licence if you want to continue driving after that period. If your car has licence plates from another province or country, you have 30 days to register your vehicle and get Ontario licence plates and a vehicle permit.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has more information on how to apply for a driver’s licence, register your vehicle and obtain Ontario licence plates. You must have car insurance to drive in Ontario.

Car insurance

If you own a car, you’re required by law to insure it Ontario Ministry of Transportation has more information. You can often save money if you buy your house and car insurance from the same company. Canada 411 has a list of insurance companies. Some banks also offer house and car insurance packages.

More information

Driver's Licence Wizard
Apply for a Driver's Licence
Register and Insure your Vehicle
Driver's Handbook

Applying for your Social Insurance Number

The Government of Canada uses Social Insurance Numbers (SINs) to keep track of all Canadian workers. You must have a SIN to work in Canada.

To apply for a SIN, you must submit an application form to your local Service Canada office. You will also need to provide documents that prove your identity and status in Canada. If you meet all the requirements, you will receive your SIN card by mail within three weeks.

Service Canada has more information on how to apply for a SIN and how to locate the nearest Service Canada office. You can also get an application online.

 More information

Get an application online
Service Canada 

Applying for your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) is a publicly funded (free) program that covers basic health care services. You must be a permanent resident of Ontario to be eligible for the program.

Although there is a 3 month waiting time before you become eligible for free health care, you should apply for OHIP as soon as you arrive in Ottawa. Details on how to apply are available through Ontario Immigration. While you wait, you should consider private health insurance. There is also short- term health insurance for newcomers who qualify through the Interim Federal Health Program.

More information

Private health insurance
Interim Federal Health Program
Ottawa Community Health Centers
Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage waiting period
Where can I get health care if I don\'t have OHIP

Finding a Health Professional

Ottawa has services to help you find a doctor or dentist, but finding one can take time. If you don’t have a regular doctor or if you need after-hours medical attention, you can go to a walk-in clinic.

The City of Ottawa’s Health and Support Services has a list of available doctors, dentists, walk-in clinics, hospitals and emergency resources.

Health Care Connect

Helping you find a family doctor or nurse practitioner

Health Care Connect helps Ontarians who are without a family health care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner) to find one. People without a family health care provider are referred to a family doctor or a nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients in their community.

For more information, visit Health Care Connect.

Telehealth Ontario

Telehealth Ontario is a free, confidential telephone service you can call 24 Hours a day, 7 days a Week to get health advice or general health information from a Registered Nurse.

A Registered Nurse is a qualified health professional, who can help you decide if you should see a doctor.

Call them at 1-866-797-0000 TTY : 1-866-797-0007
For more information: visit Telehealth Ontario

What is mental health?

Have you asked yourself what is mental health? It is not about being happy all the time or the absence of illness. Mental health is being able to feel, think, and act in ways that help us enjoy life and cope with the challenges we face. This video explains the differences between mental health and mental illness. It also explores cultural misunderstandings, myths and stigma related to mental health and illness.

For information on mental health and illnesses, check out the Mental Health and Addiction Services listing and multiculturalmentalhealth.ca.

Health care options

Get To Know Your Health Care Options by visiting Health Care Options Medical Services Directory

Dental care and eyeglasses

You may be able to receive dental subsidies for children and adults if you are an Ontario Works recipient, belong to a low-income family or are a recipient of the Ontario Disability Support Program.

For more information: visit Help paying for health services

In addition to traditional health services, there are many alternative treatments available in Ottawa, including homeopathy, naturopathy and Chinese medicine.

More information

Ottawa Public Health
Ontario Immigration - Health
Ontario Health Initiatives
Settlement.org - Health

Get help in your language English, French, Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Spanish, Thai, German and Russian.

311 is a phone number you can dial to receive information on any City of Ottawa program or service. People who call this number can receive translation services in over 170 different languages. The translator will facilitate the conversation between you and City staff, allowing you to receive answers to your questions, or more information about City services in the language of your choice.

How I Got Settled

We asked immigrants in Ottawa to name 2-3 actions that were key to their settlement or that they would recommend that a newcomer consider after arrival. Below are some of the answers.

A hand writing on a white board “What you need to know”.

Settlement supports

“Settlement agency and also volunteer work – extremely important in cultural integration adaptation and language improvement.” – Cristina, Romania

 “I recommend that you get in touch with the Catholic Centre for Immigrants.

  1. Also I recommend that you get touch with World Skills, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) and YMCA-YWCA.
  2. Getting in touch with (the) Library is very important.” – Hashm, Iraq

“I got settled in the community by:

  • Visiting an agency that provided employment support for newcomers in my first two weeks in Ottawa
  • Looking for information on the Internet about everything that was important for our settlement process: Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card, Language Assessment, Driver’s Licence, Apartments for Rent, etc.
  • Getting involved in as many programs/services for newcomers as possible to meet people and to gain more knowledge about the Canadian culture” – Ledianis, Cuba

“I found the Catholic Centre for Immigrants on Argyle was very useful to me. They do very nice services to immigrants that just break the ice between the newcomer and Canada.” – Yomna, Egypt

“Get in touch with organizations such as Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) and use of mentorship programs.” – Siamak, Iran

“In the first week, you could go to Ottawa Chinese Community Service Center (OCCSC), if you can speak Cantonese or Mandarin. They will advise you what you should do when you settle down.

Go to church. There are a lot of people can help you.” – Weyii, China

Community activities

“I recommend that you find a community (a church) where you could get advice or support (make Canadian friends); find educational and employment advisors; take a lot of advice from the immigrants that have been in Canada longer than you.” – Natalia, Ukraine

“Linking up with LASI-World skills and meeting people who live in the region was very important. Participation in community events and getting around was also very important. You cannot settle by staying on the internet.” – Fitzgerald, USA

"I recommend you seek membership in creative organizations and creative workshops. Artists in Ottawa are not as intimidated by immigrants as other more traditional communities.

I recommend you learn as many winter sports as possible to avoid winter blues and to enjoy the beauty of the parks the city offers." – Maria, Columbia

“Fortunately I had a baby in Toronto before coming to Ottawa, so I searched free children activities such as Library Family Storytime, I’m from Japan so I searched in Japanese Ottawa website.” – Mari, Japan

Workshops and language classes

“In terms of my career, taking LASI World Skills Career Access for Newcomers 1-week course really helped me get settled and get started. It was a great motivator to network more effectively. I highly recommend taking advantage of the many career-related programs for newcomers that are offered by LASI, the YMCA-YWCA, or other services. How did I find out about this? In the public library through a flyer!

In Ottawa, speaking French is very important for your career. Unless you already speak French, I recommend you sign up for a class at Education Permanente or Le Carrefour.” – Nina, Germany

“I recommend that you get in touch with a settlement agency in the city. We have so many in Ottawa today (LASI-World skills, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO), YMCA and many more). They will help you with all aspects of your Immigration process. I signed up right away to Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) and later to English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, as I knew that speaking the language is my number one key to success in my new home country. (Algonquin College, Adult High schools offer LINC, and ESL Programs).

I also connected with my community. Being a part of my community made me realize that I am not alone in the situation I am experiencing. And I also started volunteering right away helping newcomers to integrate to Canada. During this time I met many people from all kinds of cultural and professional backgrounds.” – Livia, Slovakia

“Get your Social Insurance Number, Health card and start your language courses with Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) even if your language is good. The courses will help you to get integrated in a new social environment.” - Andrei, Republic of Belarus

Video transcript - Are you new to Canada?

Did you know that almost 22% of Canadians were born outside of Canada? That is 1 in 5 Canadians.

So, many people who live here have come from somewhere else. Moving to a new country can be exciting.

Visiting new places, meeting new people and seeing new things can be fun.

At the same time, adjusting to a new climate, culture and language, finding a job, a place to live and making new friends can be difficult.

And for some people who are coming from unsafe parts of the world, you may face greater challenges like having bad dreams, anger, losing sleep, not eating well, and feeling tired. You might even feel these things in your body, like having a stomach-ache. This can make the process of settling in more difficult.

Feeling a sense of loss, missing your home, feeling like you don`t fit in, or dealing with past trauma, can also be part of settling into a new country. And some people may even experience discrimination.

It is important to know you are not alone! Many people feel like this and have lived through the same experience.

So, what has helped them get through it? Let’s look at an example…

This is Abdul.

Abdul moved to Canada six months ago with his wife and two children. Although Abdul is happy in his new home, getting used to many new things at once is overwhelming.

He sometimes feels upset and frustrated because he feels he should know everything. He is trying to find work and support his children in their new school and community.

Other times he is sad and lonely because he misses his previous home, friends and family.

Although many newcomers feel this way, there are helpful things Abdul can do.

Getting used to a new way of life is not easy. It takes time and that is ok.

Abdul can think about things that has helped him feel better in the past. He knows that

  • Spending time with family and friends,
  • praying, and
  • playing sports

Have helped him feel better.

You might be feeling like Abdul, sad, disappointed and missing home. These feelings can be part of adjusting to a new country and home. However, if these feelings continue, you can talk to a health professional or someone you trust.

It can be very helpful. Talking to someone about your challenges and feelings can help you feel better mentally and physically.

So, let’s review…What are some things you can do?

  • Remember what helped you feel better in the past
  • Focus on the positive and the things you can control
  • Meet with people from your community or your country of origin
  • Call 211 to find programs and services available to newcomers in your city and community
  • Talk to someone you trust. It can be a family member, a friend, a religious/community leader or a health professional.
  • You are not alone. Get help when you need it.

Like Abdul, we all need a little help sometime. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of courage! As much as we are able to offer help to others, it is ok to seek and accept help when we need it.

What would help you to adapt to your new home?

How could you help someone you know adapt to living in a new country?

It can be something as small as cooking a meal for someone or helping a neighbor shovel snow.

Write down your ideas so you can go back to them when you need them.

Try it out and see how it goes! If it is not perfect, that is ok. Try something else.

It is amazing how small changes can make a big difference.

You won’t know unless you try!

For more information on mental health for newcomers and diverse communities, check out Settlement.org and www.multiculturalmentalhealth.ca

For more information and resources on mental health and mental illnesses …and when and where to get help…. check out haveTHATtalk.ca

Brought to you by Ottawa Public Health.

Video transcript - Mental Health = Health (diverse populations)

Have you asked yourself what is mental health?

It is not about being happy all the time or the absence of illness

Mental health is being able to feel, think, and act in ways that help us enjoy life and cope with the challenges we face.

As our life experiences and circumstances change, so can our moods, thoughts, and sense of well-being.

Many things can effect our mental health in a positive or negative way. Stressful life situations, adjusting to life in a new country, living through violence, trauma, loss, discrimination and racism are some things that can negatively effect our mental health

So, what is the difference between mental health and mental illness?

Well, mental illness is a medical diagnosis given by a doctor just like other illness like diabetes. And like diabetes, medications, supports and treatments such as counselling can help someone get better.

Mental illness can affect people of all ages, gender, education, income levels, and cultures.

However, due to myths and misunderstandings, some people believe that:

  • mental illness is a personal weakness;
  • a curse or punishment from God or;
  • is caused by the devil or evil spirts

This can result in labeling the person, especially when they are perceived as different or described as crazy or psycho.

Because of these negative beliefs and myths, people with mental illness are treated poorly and face stigma.

So what is stigma?

Stigma is a set of negative beliefs, attitudes and behaviors towards a group of people.

Stigma exists in every community and in some communities stigma can be so hurtful that it effects work, education, family, marriage and other prospects for the person living with a mental illness and their family.

Stigma can also stop people from being accepted by their family, friends, community, and it can stop them from getting the help they need.

When people living with a mental illness are supported and get the help they need, they can have good mental health.

Let us look at an example.

This is Mei,

Mei’s family moved to Canada when she was 10 years old. Lately, she feels sad and does not feel happy doing the things she used to enjoy. She feels stressed because her parents and teachers expect a lot from her. She struggles living with one culture at home and another one at school and work. She does not think her family will understand what she is going through.

Luckily, Mei is close to her aunt Hong who notices these changes and asks her how she is doing. She feels relieved that she can talk to someone. Hong listens to her and together, they write down things Mei can do to feel better like:

  • remembering what helped her in the past;
  • thinking of things she is grateful for;
  • writing down her feelings before she talks to her parents and;
  • speaking to a counsellor at school

Like Mei, we all have days when we do not feel our best. If you continue to not feel well, it is important to speak with a health professional just like you would if you do not feel well physically. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health.

Write down one thing you can do to stay mentally healthy like:

  • Remembering what helped you deal with stress in the past
  • Making time for yourself, praying or reflecting on what you are thankful for
  • Reaching out for help from family, friends, community leaders or health professionals and
  • Getting help early

For more information on mental health for newcomers and diverse communities, check out Settlement.org and www.multiculturalmentalhealth.ca

For more information and resources on mental health and mental illnesses and when and where to get help, Visit haveTHATtalk.ca to learn more

Brought to you by Ottawa Public Health