Living in Ontario
Welcome to Ontario, the most diverse province in Canada. This is where half of all new immigrants to Canada choose to live.
- Choosing a city or town
- Life in your new community
- Getting around
- Finding health services
- Human rights protection
- Related resources
Ontario is a province of opportunity, from our big cities to our small towns – a prosperous, democratic society built in large part by the hard work of generations of immigrants. Our population of 13 million includes people from 200 countries, speaking 130 languages.
On the map, Ontario is in the middle of Canada. It is also critical to the Canadian economy, and is often referred to as the “economic engine” of the country.
Choosing a city or town
For help choosing a city or town, see the following resource:
- Municipal websites: Ontario has 445 towns and cities. Many cities have websites with practical information on living, working, studying and doing business to help newcomers settle successfully in the region. Major destinations for newcomers are the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa (the capital of Canada), Hamilton, Windsor, London, and the region around Niagara Falls.
As a new immigrant to the Province of Ontario, you may have many questions as you settle and build a new life. To find out what services are offered in a community, look for:
- Newcomer settlement and community support services: these agencies give information and support around some key matters – housing, education, registering your child in school, learning English or French, employment, health, transportation, the law and legal services, your rights and responsibilities, Ontario society, filling out forms, and more.
- ServiceOntario: gives general information on Ontario government services – everything from getting a vehicle licence to registering a business. If you have any questions about citizenship and immigration applications, visa requirements, refugee issues and other matters for which the federal or national (not the provincial) government is responsible, you would contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Help in your language
The Ontario government offers services in English and French. Settlement agencies in Ontario provide services in several languages. Some agencies offer interpretation services to help newcomers use government and other community services.Top
Life in your new community
Finding a place to live
You’ve chosen your new city or town – now where exactly do you live? There are many housing options, including:
- Renting – you’re a tenant and the owner of the property is the landlord.
- Buying – banks and financial institutions can outline interest rates, mortgages and loans for buying a house or condominium.
- Co-operative housing – tenants contribute their time to upkeep and maintenance.
- Boarding homes – usually one room, and sometimes other services like meals or laundry; most suitable for a short period.
- Emergency shelters and hostels – temporary places to stay, often with support such as counselling and referrals to legal, health and other services.
- Subsidized housing – if you qualify, the rent is based on how much money you make.
When searching for housing, think about where you want to live in your community and what you can afford. Some questions to consider – how far you might have to travel to work, or how close you are to schools and other community services.
You can find information about places to live on the internet or in the local newspaper. Newcomer settlement agencies can also help.
Finding a school for your children
Ontario’s public schools help to prepare for a lifetime of success.
Ontario’s public schools are free. Ontario public schools are divided into elementary schools (also known as grade schools or primary schools) and secondary schools (also known as high schools).
An elementary school usually offers classes from junior kindergarten through to grade 8. Grades 6 to 8 are often known as middle school. Upon completing grade 8, the student advances to secondary school.
A secondary school usually offers classes from grades 9 to 12. To graduate, students require a certain number of academic credits (earned after successfully completing a course), and volunteer for 40 hours in the community. Secondary schools prepare students for post-secondary education (college and university), as well as programs (such as technical training) that get students ready for work directly after graduation.
Each community in Ontario is served by one or more publicly-funded school boards or school authorities, including Francophone school boards. Most districts also have publicly-funded Catholic school boards.
Taking part in community life
Volunteering is an important Ontario tradition. Volunteering means giving your time and skills free of charge, to help make life better for others. It is a great way to meet people and get to know the area in which you live, to make contacts, and to gain valuable and rewarding experiences.
Many communities have organizations such as volunteer centres that help you find a volunteer role to fit your interests. Newcomer settlement agencies may also be able to identify volunteering opportunities.
Newcomers find that volunteering is a great way to learn about the workplace and to develop skills and contacts that will be useful when looking for a job.
The government of Ontario recognizes, encourages and celebrates Ontarians for their volunteer participation and contributions. Through the Honours and Awards program, the Province honours Ontario residents who make the province and the world a better place to live.Top
Using public transportation
Most cities in Ontario have a public transportation system to get around. Typically, this includes buses, but some systems also include streetcars or subways, like the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission).
GO Transit is Ontario’s interregional public transportation service, with buses and trains that link communities in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton area and other communities to the east, west and north of Toronto.
Search “transit” or “public transportation” on the internet for transits systems in other cities or towns.
Getting your driver’s license
If you live in Ontario and want to drive, you need a valid Ontario driver’s licence. If you buy a car, you will need papers to show vehicle ownership and proof of auto insurance. You will need to carry these papers and the driver’s license with you at all times.
Ontario has several kinds of driver’s licences for motorbikes, cars, commercial vehicles, etc.
- Don’t have a driver’s license? Getting a license takes at least 20 months, and includes a vision test, a written test of the rules of the road (available in several languages), and two road tests.
- Already have a driver’s license? If you hold a foreign driver’s licence, it’s valid for 60 days after you arrive in Canada. This gives you time to get your Ontario driver’s license. You’ll need identification and driver’s license documents, and will have to pass a vision test and a written test of Ontario’s traffic rules. No road test required.
Finding health services
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) pays for many medical services, including visits to the family doctor. To receive health care services through OHIP, you must be a resident of Ontario. There’s a waiting period of three months to obtain an OHIP card and coverage. Your local settlement agency can help you get an OHIP card, and provide additional information on accessing health care in Ontario.
Human rights protection
The Ontario Human Rights Code protects you from discrimination and harassment based on race, sex, colour, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, marital or same sex partner status, sexual orientation, age, disability, citizenship, family status, or religion.
You have the right to be free from discrimination (unfair treatment) and harassment (behaviour/comments that insult or offend you) based on these categories, whether you are in the community or your workplace. You’re also entitled to complain to the Human Rights Commission if you feel you are being discriminated against or harassed.Top
- Ontario’s cities and towns
- Settlement and community services near you
- Settlement information in your language
- The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)
- Finding a home in Ontario
- Ontario’s public schools and school boards
- The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), GO Transit, and other public transit systems in Ontario
- Getting your driver's license
- Ontario government services
- Ontario Human Rights Commission
- Volunteering in Ontario
- Ontario's Honours and Awards programs