Planning a move to Canada requires preparation and, as a newcomer, choosing where to settle will be one of your top decisions. Like many newcomers, you may be considering Toronto or one of its surrounding cities for your new home. As Canada’s largest metropolitan city, it promises a good quality of life, a strong job market, and an inclusive, multicultural community. However, the cost of living in Toronto city can be high, and you may be drawn to suburban centres around Toronto, like Markham. Markham is a popular choice for newcomers because it offers many of the same benefits as Toronto, but at a lower cost.
In this article, we cover what you need to know about living in Markham as a newcomer including its job market, transit system, weather, education, and more.
In this article:
- About Markham
- Weather in Markham
- Culture and languages in Markham
- Job market in Markham
- Renting accommodation in Markham
- Transportation in Markham
- Education in Markham
- Health care in Markham
- RBC Newcomer Meeting Place in Markham
- Is Markham, Ontario a good place to live as a newcomer?
Markham is part of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which includes Toronto as well as the regional municipalities of York, Peel, Halton, and Durham. Situated about 30 kilometres northeast of Toronto, Markham falls in the York region which includes eight other municipalities.
Spanning an area of 210 square kilometres, Markham is York’s largest community and is situated east of Vaughan and Richmond Hill and west of Pickering. With a population of 338,503, it’s the fourth most populous city in the GTA and 14th largest in Canada.
Newcomers can expect to experience all four seasons in Markham: winter, spring, summer, and fall. The winters are cold and snowy from November to March with temperatures dipping as low as -10° C in January and wind chills that make it feel colder.
Temperatures rise in spring, and peak in the summer when days are warm and humid. The hottest months are from June to August with average temperatures ranging from 18° C to 27° C. Rain is common in spring and fall.
The diverse population of Markham makes it a multicultural centre, and according to the 2016 census, 59 per cent of the people living in the city were born outside of Canada with almost one-half from China and Hong Kong. Many newcomers also come from India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, as well as other countries.
In Markham, 78 per cent of residents identify as a visible minority—the highest proportion in the GTA. Many speak a language other than English or French in their homes with the most prevalent language being Cantonese, followed by Mandarin and Tamil.
With a thriving multicultural community, Markham offers newcomers many ways to stay connected to their ethnic roots thanks to restaurants, grocery stores, cultural events and malls that represent global cultures.
Read our article series for information on where to find groceries, food, places of worship, and other services to give you a taste of home in the Greater Toronto Area:
Read our article to learn about the in-demand jobs in Ontario, along with insights into key industries and cities with the most employment opportunities. You can also download our job market guide to learn more about the scope of your occupation in Canada.
The City of Markham was recently named one of Canada’s best employers for 2022 by Forbes. Home to 650 corporate head offices, as well as more than 1,500 high tech and life science companies that generate close to 40,000 jobs, Markham has an established job market and offers a variety of employment opportunities to newcomers. Among its employment sectors are: information and communications technology, banking, finance, engineering, design, technical and commercialization services.
The city is also home to the IBM Innovation Space-Markham Convergence Centre where organizations, startups, and scaleups work on innovative products and solutions. With more than 4,300 IT companies located in the region of York, many Markham residents commute to jobs in other cities in the region.
If you choose to make Markham your new home, you’ll need to decide which neighbourhood is best suited to your lifestyle, budget, and family size. Booking temporary accommodation for your first few weeks in Canada may be the best way to get to know the neighbourhoods before you select longer-term housing. It’s also typical for newcomers to rent accommodation during their initial years in Canada with the goal of buying a home a later.
In your search for rental accommodation in Markham, it’s important to know the different types of housing available. You can choose from a range of rental accommodations, including apartments, basement apartments, condos, townhouses, semi-detached, and detached houses.
It’s more affordable to rent accommodation in Markham than in Toronto, with savings of 20 to 35 per cent based on recent apartment rental rates. In April 2022, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Markham was $1,512 CAD, compared to $2,044 CAD in Toronto. On average, a two-bedroom apartment rented for $2,134 CAD in Markham while in Toronto, it rented for $2,640 CAD. Basement apartment rents in Markham ranged from $1,400 CAD to $2,000 CAD depending on size and number of bedrooms.
Since many landlords require tenants to have an employment letter or a Canadian credit history before signing a lease, this can make the search for a rental challenging for newcomers. However, there are ways to work around these requirements. Read our article on how to rent an apartment with no job letter or credit history for more information.
Public transportation in Markham is provided by York Region Transit (YRT) which offers local and rapid transit to all nine municipalities in York. YRT services more than 130 routes in the region with connections to the City of Toronto and the regions of Peel and Durham.
Viva is the region’s rapid transit system that operates along major routes. You must purchase a ticket in advance at a designated vending machine or use one of the other available payment options: the YRT Pay app to purchase fares through your smart phone, or Presto—a reloadable smart card to access public transportation across Toronto and the GTA.
It’s easy to connect to Toronto or surrounding cities via GO Transit from one of Markham’s five GO stations. For travel outside of the region, a VIA Rail station is connected to the Markham GO station, and two airports are a short distance away: Toronto Pearson International Airport and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
The majority of Markham’s households own a vehicle, as getting around by car is easy and convenient. To lease, purchase, or drive an automobile, you’ll need an Ontario driver’s license. Ontario has a three-step graduated driver’s licensing system and most newcomers need to take a knowledge test and two road tests to get a full license (G license). As a newcomer, you may be able to drive in Ontario for up to 90 days using your foreign driver’s license.
How much money do you need to live in Markham?
The cost of living in Markham will depend on a variety of factors including the neighborhood you choose, your lifestyle, the size of your family, and whether you plan to use public transportation or drive. A comparable lifestyle in Toronto will likely be more expensive, particularly when it comes to accommodations. You can get an estimate of your monthly expenses in Markham with Arrive’s cost of living calculator.
Sending your children to school in Markham
In Markham, you’ll find several different schooling options for your children, including free public schools or Catholic schools, as well as fee-based private schools. The public schools operate under the York Region District School Board while the York Catholic District School Board operates all Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the region.
As a newcomer to Markham, your children may be eligible for programs that support learning English as a second language (ESL) through both school boards. The school system in Ontario also offers international language programs to help newcomer children stay in touch with their native languages. Students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 can enrol in International language classes in either school board—a select number of languages are offered each year.
To register for Kindergarten, your child must be at least four years of age by December 31 of the school year for which they are registering. Elementary schools typically enrol students up to age 13 years, or up to Grade eight. Secondary schools, or high schools, enrol students aged 14 to 18 and offer classes for Grades 9 to 12.
Newcomers can register their kids into Kindergarten through the school board. From Grade one upwards, the York Region District School Board requires all newcomers to register through its Reception Centre by appointment only. Newcomer Welcome Centres give newcomer children access to multicultural liaison officers, settlement workers, and English language classes to help them better adapt to their new school.
Higher education in Markham
Markham residents live near world-class universities and colleges located in Toronto and surrounding cities, including York University and the University of Toronto. By 2023, Markham will be home to York University’s Markham Centre Campus—the first public university campus in York Region. It will offer programs in arts and media, information technology, liberal arts, environmental studies, engineering, science, and business. Seneca International Academy also has a campus in Markham that offers full-time programs for international students in business, finance, and information technology.
As a Canadian permanent resident or citizen living in Markham, you qualify for publicly funded health care through the provincial government’s Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP). There is no waiting period for OHIP coverage and you can apply for immediate health coverage if you’re eligible.
Newcomers to Markham have access to a wide range of clinics and doctors’ offices that provide health care services. The city’s one hospital, Markham Stouffville Hospital, provides state-of-the-art care for Markham residents. The Stollery Family Centre for Childbirth and Children, located within the hospital, provides quality, patient-centred care for pregnant women, infants, and children up to 18 years of age.
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has set up several Newcomer Meeting Places across Canada to help newcomers with more than just their banking needs. The Newcomer Meeting Place in Markham has dedicated Newcomer Advisors who can help you engage with your new community and introduce you to partners who can support you in your settlement journey. You can book an appointment with an RBC Newcomer Financial Advisor for personalized one-to-one advice and support.
Many newcomers choose Markham as their new home for a variety of reasons, including a culturally diverse community, close proximity to Toronto, lower cost of living, employment opportunities, and great schools.
As one of the most diverse cities in the GTA, Markham is a welcoming place for newcomers who will have little difficulty staying in touch with their cultural roots while enjoying Canada’s great quality of life.