From an interview with Paulo Mattos.
Paulo came to Canada from Brazil in 2018. He had a thriving business at home. He was successful: making good money, living in a nice apartment, and he had two cars. When his son was born, Paulo’s point of view changed: he became alarmed by the increasing violence he saw in his country and began to look elsewhere and make plans to find a better place for his young family. Paulo takes us through his journey to Canada, timing, and doing whatever it takes – even changing provinces to achieve his goals.
We lived in the city of Natal, located in the Northeast of Brazil, at the very corner of the continent. We were at the top of the list of the ten most beautiful and safest places to be in South America. It was like the Cancun of Brazil. But things changed. The city became more violent.
One night, after visiting my grandparents, I got in my car to head home. It was around 11:30. I drove about 200 metres and stopped at the first red light. A car pulled up on my left, and the passenger got out. I didn’t think anything of it – he was probably just being dropped off. But then he tapped on my window with his gun. I told him to take my wallet, my phone, my car – everything. He encouraged me to just stay calm and got in the car with a second man. “Don’t do anything,” he said, “Just drive.”
I was forced to drive through these very dodgy areas for several hours, wondering all the while if I would die there. One guy was pushing the gun barrel into my ribs and then sometimes against my head, while the other guy was trying to calm me. I would realize the next day that they were part of a huge bank heist. They robbed three branches that night and had carjacked several cars as getaway vehicles.
Finally, they released me around 3:00 a.m. I went to the nearest police station to report the incident, and the desk officer asked, “Did they hurt you, did they take anything from you? No? OK, you can wait two hours in the line to fill out a report, or you can go home and hug your family – you were just born again.”
I was twenty-four at the time, so I moved on from the incident and went about my business within the increasingly familiar climate of violence. I was a real estate broker and had my own brokerage. I had 52 people working for me, I had property, and we made a lot of money. But money loses its value when you start seeing things that you don’t want to see, and you start experiencing things that you don’t want to experience.
When my son was born, I saw that the violence was coming ever closer to us, it was hitting people that we knew: we were starting to lose friends. In 2017, there were almost 800 people murdered in my city – 64,000 in Brazil. I didn’t want my son to grow up in this environment. I had to guarantee the future of our child now.
Before making the decision to leave Brazil, we were even considering armouring our two cars. The cost of which would be enough to cover most of our expenses for a year in Canada. So we started to formulate a plan. When my son was only one year old, we enrolled him in an international Canadian school in Brazil so he could start learning English at an early age. English would not be a barrier for him.
“As a father, my main goal was to give my son the best chance at having a peaceful life.”
We researched the best, quickest way to get to Canada.
I decided to study in Canada as an international student. I applied and was accepted at Schulich School of Business, York campus. Just before my tuition was due, I realized that for what I was looking for, a college education would do the same job as university education, but for a fraction of the cost.
I picked the sustainable business management program at Seneca College because this was a niche that I was really interested in. I love the environment, I had a degree in international business and business administration and a specialization in leadership and global commerce, so why not try something totally different but still within the scope of business.
The program began in September 2018, and in April 2019, after completing two semesters, I got a letter from the college offering me the third semester, so I could go on an internship if I found one.
I landed an internship with a large real estate asset management company in Toronto from April to the end of August. It was amazing. They offered to extend my work with them, but as my time at the college was over, I could not extend a work permit specifically for the internship. So I had to apply for my post-graduation work permit. If you’re a graduate, the Canadian work experience you get through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) helps you qualify for permanent residence in Canada through Express Entry. There are specific regulations around work permits according to the National Occupation Classification (NOC); these can be job types, skill levels, wage levels, etc. You can also apply through a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP).
In business, looking for a job, and life in general, timing is everything
Right after I finished my internship, I got a job with a start-up selling corporate online educational programs around sustainability. I was dealing with CEOs of large Canadian and American companies. It was sales, which I had been involved with for 15 years, and sustainability, which is what I had studied. It was a very nice job.
The work was amazing, but there were issues with the way the company was running. It was a small start-up, with only eight people. There was a big learning curve at the management level, and we were burning through funding far too fast. Everybody was stressed, and the atmosphere and work environment became unbearable. So, after six months, I started interviewing with other companies, and one day I was so fed up that I resigned on the spot.
Two weeks later, the coronavirus pandemic struck, and I was caught. Everyone was freezing their recruiting processes due to COVID-19. I couldn’t even apply for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) because I had resigned.
My goal was to become a permanent resident: the clock was ticking
In 2012, a friend of mine told me that I should move to Canada. If I had listened then, I would be a permanent resident by now. There are a number of factors to consider when you are applying for permanent residence, as set out in the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). For me, basically, it came down to one: the older you are – the more points are deducted from your ranking.
In a conversation with our immigration consultants in May this year, they said, “Look, Paulo, you’re over 40, it has become almost impossible for you to immigrate in Ontario. The only way is if a company sponsors you.
This costs the company money. I’ve had several opportunities that have gone to final interviews, but when I raised the idea of sponsorship, the companies got cold feet, and the positions disappeared. In most sponsorship cases, the employer needs a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to support your job offer for Express Entry. I found out the hard way that companies I interviewed with were not interested in this.
In Ontario, especially Toronto or Ottawa, or other large centres, they are overwhelmed with people. Everybody wants to go there. So they can afford to be picky, and if I need them to do an LMIA and another candidate doesn’t, they’re likely going to go for the other candidate.
So I started applying for jobs in Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta and the Atlantic provinces, where there is way more opportunity for immigrants who are over 40 years old. For example, in the Atlantic provinces, you don’t start losing points until you’re 55, while in Ontario, I believe you start losing points at the age of 30. Also, they seem to require way less from companies to sponsor newcomers, making it less daunting an ask.
Then I started getting calls from companies in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Moncton, Montreal and Halifax. I had been applying for jobs in Toronto for sixty days and was able to get six interviews. But in just one week after I started applying in the other provinces, I got 12 calls, which turned into four job offers: one in Vancouver, one in Moncton and two in Halifax! I picked the one best suited to me, and we decided to move to Halifax.
A journey within a journey: Changing provinces in Canada
On the 28th of June, we started our latest family adventure, driving from Toronto to Halifax. We camped along the way, which was an amazing experience, especially for my son. It was his first time camping, and it was so beautiful. We were lucky to see deer, raccoons and coyotes. For him, it was really overwhelming. I’m now working (from our new home) as a business developer for an online payment solutions company. It’s a pretty big US-based company, doing business in 131 countries.
Moving to Halifax, we were surprised to meet Canadians who seemed even more welcoming. Our neighbours are amazing. When we arrived, they came to our door (staying 2 meters apart), to give us a welcome cake. People in the company called to see if everything went well on our trip and if we needed anything. My boss even volunteered to go to the supermarket to pick up groceries because we were still in self-isolation.
The company is so accommodating and genuinely concerned about our well-being. My boss talked to me about the process of signing up all the papers now so we can get our PR. I didn’t want to mention that because of my experience in Ontario, but he brought it up. My boss said, “What about your immigration situation – when can you get your PR so your life can go back to normal? I will do whatever it takes to make that happen. If it depends on me, consider it done.”
The system is less complex, and I can even use my experience from Brazil in the PR application. The details can be found through The Nova Scotia Immigration Skilled Worker Program and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP).
Time heals all things, now we are spending our time living
I didn’t know if I would be successful in Canada or if my son would adapt, but I had to take the chance. Now my wife and I see that we were totally right in our decision. Even when we started planning things back in Brazil, we had this image of feeling safe. I could have come earlier, but I believe things happen for a reason, in their own time. We are here now.
We are adapting, and we are living in a different reality. Even though we knew it was safe walking the streets of Toronto at night, if there was a lone guy coming towards me, my alert mode was on. I would think, “Oh, if this was in Natal, I would be running at this point, or praying.” But that has started to fade away because we are getting used to our new normal.
My son learned how to walk on a sidewalk here in Canada. He had never done that before in Brazil. It wasn’t safe. Now, he’s like a normal Canadian kid living a normal Canadian kid’s life. When we got here, he was three years old. So, he didn’t remember much from his Brazilian life. The only thing my son said he missed from Brazil was the beach. Now that we are in Halifax – back on the coast, I think we’ll all be spending more time at the beach.