Planning your move to Canada requires tremendous preparation, and choosing a city to settle in is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. With the sixth-highest population in Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba may be on your list of potential places to live in. Winnipeg offers many benefits of metropolitan living, such as a good quality of life, a strong job market, cultural diversity, affordable cost of living, and an inclusive and welcoming environment for newcomers.
In this article, we cover all the basics of living in Winnipeg as a newcomer, including the culture, job market, weather, transit system, and more.
In this article:
- About Winnipeg
- Weather in Winnipeg
- Culture and languages in Winnipeg
- The job market in Winnipeg
- Renting accommodation in Winnipeg
- Transportation in Winnipeg
- The education system in Winnipeg
- Health care in Winnipeg
- Immigrating to Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Is Winnipeg, Manitoba a good place to live as a newcomer?
Known as the “Heart of the Continent,” Winnipeg is located near the geographic centre of North America, about 100 km north of the US border and almost midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The province of Manitoba is part of the Canadian Prairies, which also includes Saskatchewan and Alberta, and is characterized by its flat landscape of plains, lowlands, farmlands, and grassy fields.
As Manitoba’s capital city, Winnipeg is a major centre for the agriculture, financial, manufacturing, and transportation industries. Geographically, the city covers an area of 464.1 square km and has a population of 749,607. With its beautiful prairie landscape, slower pace of living, and comfortable quality of life, many newcomers choose to make this city home.
Before you move to Winnipeg, you need to prepare (mentally and physically!) for vastly varying weather through the four seasons of fall, winter, spring, and summer. Temperatures can be extreme in Winnipeg, given its northern location. Expect long, cold, and snowy winters with days that dip to -20° C from January to February. The summer months of June, July, and August can get quite hot with temperatures reaching 30° C.
Winnipeg has a diverse population, expected to increase to 822,200 by 2025, driven mostly by immigration. Winnipeg also has the largest Indigenous population of all the major urban centres in Canada.
With more than a quarter of the city’s residents being immigrants, Winnipeg has a culturally diverse and inclusive environment. The city is home to newcomers from all over the globe including the Philippines, India, China, India, Nigeria, and more.
Along with its official languages of English and French, at least 100 languages are spoken around the city and surrounding regions, including Tagalog, Punjabi, German, Mandarin, Cantonese, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Spanish, and Portuguese.
As a newcomer, you can find ways to connect with your home country through cultural communities, settlement agencies, and ethnically diverse shops and restaurants.
Read about in-demand jobs in Manitoba, along with our 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.
Due to its strong economy and population growth, Winnipeg enjoys an established job market with good employment opportunities. As of March 2022, the unemployment rate in Winnipeg is 5.3 per cent. Employment offerings span many industries, including financial services, IT, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, agribusiness, life sciences, transportation, construction, and tourism. Among its top employers are Canada Goose, Boeing Canada, GE Aviation, Standard Aero, SkipTheDishes, HyLife Foods, and Manitoba Hydro.
Employment opportunities are also available thanks to the Protein Industries Supercluster, which was launched in Winnipeg to meet growing global demand for plant-based protein. Newcomers looking for a job can reach out to Manitoba Start, a not-for-profit organization that connects businesses to the workforce and is the province’s leading provider of career services for newcomers.
When it comes to purchasing a home, Winnipeg is one of the most affordable major cities in Canada. However, many newcomers choose to rent accommodation when they first arrive, giving them time to build savings for a down payment. During the first few weeks in Canada, you may be unsure about what neighbourhood you’ll want to live in. That’s why you may prefer to initially book temporary accommodation, and then search for a location that serves your longer-term housing needs.
If you decide to rent, Winnipeg offers a range of rental housing options, including apartments, basement apartments, condos, townhouses, and semi-detached and detached houses. Average rental prices in Winnipeg are lower than other major cities. As of March 2022, the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment is $1,167 CAD. On average, a two-bedroom apartment rents for $1,435, and a basement apartment ranges from $900 to $1,350.
Renting a home as a newcomer can be challenging at first, as landlords may require tenants to provide an employment letter or a Canadian credit history before signing a lease. Read our article on how to rent an apartment with no job letter or credit history for tips on how to overcome these obstacles.
Many people who live in Winnipeg rely on public transportation to commute to work and travel around the region. Winnipeg Transit offers regular bus transportation, as well as a BLUE Rapid Transit Line for high-speed travel. Residents can download the Winnipeg Transit app to pay for travel, or purchase a reloadable Peggo card.
If you plan to buy or lease a car to drive in Winnipeg, you’ll need a Manitoba driver’s license. Manitoba has a three-step graduated driver’s licensing system. If you have a valid driver’s license from a country other than Canada, you can drive a passenger vehicle with your license for up to three months.
Sending your children to school in Winnipeg
Winnipeg provides free public school education, as well as a wide range of fee-based independent schools. The official languages of instruction are English and French. Some schools also offer bilingual education in Cree, Ukrainian, Hebrew, Ojibwe, or Spanish.
The City of Winnipeg operates six school divisions, the largest of which is called Winnipeg School Division, which includes 78 schools and serves more than 33,000 students. The other divisions are St. James-Assiniboia School Division, Pembina Trails School Division, Seven Oaks School Division, Franco-Manitoban School Division, River East Transcona School Division, and The Louis Riel School Division.
Students can start kindergarten in September of the year a child turns five years old and will complete elementary school at the age of 13 years, or when they successfully complete Grade eight. Secondary schools, or high schools, enrol students aged 14 years to 18 years for Grades nine to 12.
As a newcomer, you should contact your local school division for registration information. Newcomer students can register for English as an Additional Language (EAL) programming to help them better adapt to their new school and improve their English language skills.
Some schools employ settlement workers to help newcomer children integrate with the Canadian school system and culture. You can also enrol your children in English as a second language (ESL) programs offered by the provincial government and by public libraries in Winnipeg.
Higher education in Winnipeg
Winnipeg is home to many post-secondary institutions including world-class universities. The University of Manitoba is the province’s only research-intensive university and offers programs at two Winnipeg campuses. The University of Winnipeg also offers undergraduate and graduate programs including several that are unique to Western Canada. Université de Saint-Boniface is Western Canada’s only Francophone university.
Other post-secondary institutions include Booth University College, Canadian Mennonite University, Assiniboine Community College, International College of Manitoba, Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, and Red River College Polytech.
As a Canadian permanent resident or citizen living in Winnipeg, you qualify for publicly-funded health care through the provincial government’s Manitoba Health program. You can apply for a Manitoba Health card when you arrive, however, your health coverage will only begin on the first day of the third month after your arrival in Manitoba. Therefore, you should plan ahead and find alternate options for the period you are not covered through a company health plan or private health insurance.
There are five hospitals that serve Winnipeg and surrounding areas: St. Boniface Hospital, Concordia Hospital, Grace Hospital, Seven Oaks General Hospital, and Victoria General Hospital. To find a family doctor in Winnipeg, visit the Family Doctor Finder. Your health region will find a healthcare provider or clinic that is accepting new patients at a location that works for you. For more specialized health needs, your family doctor can refer you to a specialist.
Newcomers wishing to start a new life in Winnipeg may be eligible to apply for permanent residence through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). After Express Entry, PNP is the most popular way to immigrate to Canada. Manitoba’s PNP offers a number of streams designed to nominate skilled workers and their families who wish to work and live in the province permanently.
Many newcomers choose Winnipeg as their new home for a variety of reasons, including its culturally diverse community, affordable cost of living, employment opportunities, and a slower-paced life.
As a diverse city that welcomes newcomers from across the globe, Winnipeg makes it relatively easy to stay in touch with your cultural roots while building a new life in Canada.