Sidharth Ramesh arrived in Canada from the U.S. Like most of his fellow Indians, Ramesh initially struggled to find a job. He lived in a basement room in Scarborough, Ont. to keep the rent cost low, and achieve the life and status he dreamed of prior to coming to Canada.
Mississauga-based Ramesh is one of almost-60,000 Indian-born immigrants who took up Canadian citizenship last year in what has proved to be a record-breaking number.
Based on figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, India produced the highest number of people who became new Canadians in 2022. In all, 59,503 Indian-born nationals took up Canadian citizenship — a whopping 171 per-cent increase from the previous year.
Altogether, Indian nationals represented 16 per cent of the 375, 413 people who became Canadian citizens in 2022.
Indian nationals have to renounce their Indian citizenships because the country doesn’t allow dual nationalities. It does offer the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, a document giving a lifelong visa and rights similar to those of an Indian citizen to people of Indian origin living abroad.
“After all, for the most populous country on earth, a few thousands leaving is akin to taking a tub of water from the vast Bay of Bengal,” Ramesh said.
“With OCI providing all freedoms except political, aspects of dual citizenship are mostly covered anyway.”
Ramesh trained as a data engineer and said he knows why so many of his fellow Indians want to call Canada home.
“The high competition for resources in India and relatively-low competition in Canada owing to its smaller population size,” he said.
“Canada also provides access to a North-American lifestyle with its relatively-high standard of living, 24/7 power and water supply, clean air, wide roads, free K-12 education, which all definitely gives people from India a leg-up regardless of which economic strata they belong to back in India.”
Originally from the south Indian city of Hyderabad, Ramesh admits that taking up Canadian citizenship and letting go of his Indian-born nationality, was a difficult decision.
“The fact that I will not belong in India any more was not sitting well with my ethos,” he said. “I left India in search of economic upward mobility and had been living in North America for 10 years by the time I was eligible to take on Canadian citizenship.
“While it may be true that renouncing Indian citizenship changes my label legally from Indian to Canadian, I remain Indian in the linguistic, religious, culinary and socio-cultural dimensions and no one is taking them away, thanks to the multicultural nature of Canada.”
Mit Patel, 24, also started life in Canada in 2019 as an international student, working part-time as a security guard on Winnipeg transit buses to pay his way. Patel’s immigration journey in Canada, despite the struggles, was worth it, he said. “My family are farmers and I saw other people going overseas for study and I became interested. Yes, it has been worth it coming to Canada.”
Patel said when he first arrived in Winnipeg as a student, he shared a room with five other young men. He eventually graduated with a biology degree from the University of Winnipeg and now works as a research assistant at a multinational agro-based company.
Erin Kerbel, spokesperson for IRCC, prefers to highlight Canada’s diverse and inclusive society; high-quality educational institutions; and opportunities to work as reasons that Canada is a leading destination, and attracts new immigrants who choose to become Canadian citizens.
She said Canada “encourages all immigrants to take the path to citizenship in order to gain full, permanent membership in Canadian society.”
Emmanuel Nwaneri is a journalist with about 27 years of writing, travel and journalism experience in Nigeria, South Africa and Australia. He moved to Johannesburg in South Africa where he spent 10 years as a writer, journalism tutor and commentator. His time in South Africa afforded him the chance to observe the fast-changing dynamics of a country popularly-known as “a rainbow nation." He relocated to Winnipeg with his family in 2018 where he has since found interest in the Customer Service industry. He has published Once Upon A Woman and is working on a second work of fiction.
Shilpashree Jagannathan is a journalist from India. She now lives in Toronto and has worked as a business reporter for leading newspapers in India. She has tracked telecom, infrastructure, and real estate news developments and has produced podcast series. She currently focuses on human rights, feminist movements, and other related issues in Canada and India. Her weekends are spent bird watching in one of the Toronto birding hotspots; she loves trails, biking, and a lot of sun.