For new permanent residents who arrived just before the first lockdown, there was little support to help them settle down. Their new life turned out to be full of unexpected challenges
When she arrived in March 2020 in Toronto, Marushka Loshki Nair was not prepared for the lockdown that came just a few days after she landed at Pearson International Airport.
“It wasn’t lockdown yet, but it definitely felt like a ghost town when I was in an Uber going to my lodge,” she explains.
Originally from Bombay, India, she arrived from Dubai where she was working as a consultant for PwC. She already had a job waiting for her in Toronto at the same company. Nonetheless, it was still a struggle for her to adapt. Without any time to meet new people, she had to work from home permanently.
“I went to office and got to meet two coworkers, then I was told to go back home because there was nothing for me to do. The next day we received an email saying we all had to work from home,” Nair says.
Since then, she hasn’t been able to go back to the office and meet the people with whom she’s working. For Cassandra Fultz, an immigration consultant based in Toronto, being a new immigrant in Toronto is hard and it’s even harder with the pandemic.
“You are starting from the bottom. No matter what job you had before, no matter how powerful you were, you’re new in town and nobody knows who you are. And it’s even more difficult now,” she explains.
Nair says she struggled to find an apartment. Landlords were reluctant to offer her a lease because she couldn’t provide a Canadian reference or credit score. She found herself very lonely in a time of need.
“When you’re going through all of this by yourself, you want some emotional support. And my emotional support is on the other side of the world,” she says.
After a few months of uncertainty, with no social life and a constant fear of losing her job, she was finally able to make some friends online. And with summer coming and the lockdown rules becoming more lenient, she met them in person for a little while.
“We would spend every weekend, birthday or holiday together. This is how I formed my big friend circle, which is why I think my situation is not tragic at this point. If you decide to take action and work on it you’ll be fine, COVID-19 or not.”
For Fultz, if the government did what it could to financially assist people in Canada, there is not much that was done to provide any other kind of support.
“No one is really paying attention to the mental health toll that this is taking. Because that’s one of the hardest part of being an immigrant: finding your new place in a community,” says Fultz.
Nair remains optimistic about the future, and she’s impatient to see her new city back to normal. But she’s not deluding herself, the pandemic is far from over.
“I can’t wait to see what it’s like, but for now I’m not holding my breath. I’m just going to live each day as it comes,” she adds.
Listen to the full story of Marushka Loshki Nair in the episode below. This is the second in a four-part series exploring the experience of newcomers to Canada navigating the pandemic.