Canada is a safe and accepting country for newcomers of all ages and backgrounds. The OECD Better Life Index 2014 even ranked Canada a 9.7 out of 10 for safety due to its low crime rates and secure communities. Safety contributes to the high quality of life newcomers experience in this country. However, if you are moving out on your own for the first time in Canada or you are unfamiliar with the country and culture, promoting your own safety should still be one of your first priorities.
In this article, we have compiled safety tips for individuals moving out to Canada on their own, including guidance on newcomer resources, safe housing, navigation, and emergency services. These tips may be especially helpful for young people, students, and solo female newcomers. However, all newcomers can benefit from these safety tips to build a secure and comfortable life in Canada.
1. Leverage helpful resources for solo and female newcomers
Though you will be moving to Canada by yourself, remember that you are not alone in managing your well-being and comfort. There are many organizations and networks dedicated to newcomers who can help you feel comfortable and ensure your safety in your new home.
Building a safety network
A good idea for solo newcomers is to build a network of reliable contacts who can keep general tabs on your whereabouts and well-being. You don’t need to let people know where you are at every hour of the day, but it is a good plan to let one or two people know if you are headed out in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, going on a date, or going away for the weekend. Chances are, you already do this with your friends and family back home, who would notice if you didn’t respond and alert the proper authorities. Here are a few other places you can start building your safety network in Canada:
- Roommates (or neighbours you trust): Roommates or neighbours you trust are a great contact as they are probably familiar with your regular routine. Get your roommate’s phone number and let them know to watch for you if you plan to change your routine.
- Co-workers: Whether you work remotely or onsite, you probably have multiple co-workers that you speak to every day that can keep tabs on you.
- University groups: If you are a student, your university may provide regular newcomer digital group chats and in-person meetups to check in.
- Chat and support groups run by newcomer organizations: A great way to meet and connect with other newcomers is through newcomer-dedicated chat groups.
Here are a few organizations that provide connections for newcomers in each province:
|Newfoundland and Labrador|
|Prince Edward Island|
|The Northwest Territories|
2. Find emergency services for newcomers
In the unlikely event of an emergency, you will feel comforted in knowing whom to call. Store important numbers in your cell phone or print it out on paper and leave it by your home phone for quick access. If it is a real emergency, always call emergency services before calling anyone else.
|In case of emergency:
For fire, medical, or any other police-required emergency, call 911 immediately.
Stay calm and collected; always give the address or approximate location to the operator immediately, as well as a report of the situation and your name and phone number. Stay on the line as long as you are instructed to by the operator.
Depending on your location, 911 services may be available in multiple languages.
Other important numbers and services:
|Community and social services||211|
|Kids help phone||1-800-668-6868|
|Mental health hotlines||Look up your province’s 211 site or call 211 for various numbers and mental health services for newcomers.|
Tip: To develop your own emergency preparedness plan, see the Canadian Emergency Preparedness Guide.
3. Keep your important documents and finances secure
Your passport, Social Insurance Number (SIN) card, financial information, insurance documents, and health documents are important and can be difficult and time-consuming to replace. They may also be prime targets for thieves who want to use your identity or financial information for illegal activity.
Follow these tips to keep your important documents safe:
Only carry what you need
Avoid carrying your valuables and important documents around with you when you don’t need them. Leave your passport, other immigration documents, financial documents, large amounts of cash, expensive jewelry, and any other valuables at home when you aren’t using them.
Make copies of important documents
It’s always a good idea to photocopy, scan, or take photos of your important documents. Keep the copies in a different spot than the originals; if the originals are damaged or stolen, your copies will be safe and will help you receive new documents faster.
Don’t give out personal or banking information
Never give out your personal information to people you don’t know online, in person, or over the phone (your address, your full name, your phone number, your SIN, your student number, etc.). The Government of Canada will not email or phone you asking for this information. If you receive this request, block the sender and delete the message as someone may be trying to scam you.
The same advice goes for your personal banking information. Never give out your PIN or lend your bank card to anyone, and be sure to shield the PIN pad from others’ view when you enter your PIN on an ATM or Point of Sale machine. Never give out your financial information over the phone or by email.
4. Choose safe and comfortable housing
Choosing the right neighbourhood for you
If you are on your own, you want to find a place in a safe neighbourhood where you can feel comfortable going about your everyday activities. Most cities in Canada are quite safe, and you can check statistics like crime rates in each area to determine average neighbourhood safety. Sites like AreaVibes and Nextdoor can help you learn about various neighbourhoods and get in touch with your neighbours for safety reasons.
Finding a safe apartment or room
If you live on your own, a safe space to come home to is a top priority. You may wish to live with a roommate for increased safety. It is up to you whether you prefer your roommate to be the same gender as you, though many women feel more comfortable living with other women for safety reasons.
If you are searching for a place to rent, always use caution when dealing with online listings to avoid scams or misrepresented properties:
- Avoid “too-good-to-be-true” deals that are listed far lower than market price. This may suggest the place is in poor condition or in a dangerous neighbourhood.
- Go to open-house style apartment showings with multiple people, or bring a friend along to avoid going alone.
- If you cannot visit the apartment in-person, ask for a video chat room tour of the listing to prescreen both your potential landlord and the listing.
- Never send money without inspecting the place in-person.
- Never send unnecessary personal information to a potential landlord.
Tip: Studying in Canada? See how to find student accommodation in Canada for tips on finding on- and off-campus housing.
5. Learn to safely navigate your city
If you’re moving alone to a new city, one of the first things you will probably want to do is start exploring. Make sure you know all the most secure ways to navigate your city before setting out.
Is it safe to ride public transportation in Canada?
Public transportation is a safe and secure travel option within Canadian cities. Trains, buses, and other forms of public transportation are typically clean and well-monitored. If you ever feel uncomfortable on a bus or bus stop, remember that you can always let the bus driver know and they will help you. You can even politely ask if they can drop you off closer to your house in between stops. Many transit authorities also have a phone number that you can discreetly text or phone if you feel like you are in danger.
Tip: If you want to avoid waiting for a long time at bus stops or subway stations when it’s cold or dark out, you can try out a transit app like Rocketman. Use Rocketman to find out when the next bus or train is arriving, track your bus along its route, save your favourite stops, and get transit delay alerts in real-time. You can download the Rocketman app today for free.
Getting around on a bike
Cycling is a quick and fun way to get around Canadian cities, especially in the summertime. Buying a nice bike is a great investment for your fitness (especially if you commute to work by cycling), but unfortunately, nice bikes are also prime targets for theft. Be sure to buy a bike U-lock to protect your bike, as chain locks can often be easily cut through.
Before you ride, you should always become familiar with your province’s bike safety rules. It is especially important to wear a helmet and use proper cycling hand signals whenever you bike in traffic. Try to keep your bike well-maintained to avoid any mishaps on the road, such as a flat tire.
Driving a car
If you plan to get a driver’s license in Canada, driving is one of the most secure ways to get around as long as you know the rules of the road. Go frequently for oil changes and maintenance checks, especially if you are unfamiliar with the mechanics of cars. Winter driving can be icy and more dangerous, so be sure you are familiar with winter driving best practices before heading out on a solo road trip in the snowy season.
Tip: Avoid leaving valuables in your car and always lock your car doors when exiting your vehicle.
Rideshare programs such as Uber and Lyft are popular ways to get around in Canada’s larger cities. These can be a safer option than a taxi, as some programs allow you to share your GPS location with a friend while you ride to be sure that you reach your destination. However, both rideshare and taxis are still a good choice, especially if you find yourself a little too far away from home after dark.
Can you walk alone after dark in Canadian cities?
Most areas of Canada are safe to walk around alone at night, as long as you are familiar with the area and have an awareness of your surroundings. Stay in well-lit areas and busier streets, and keep your phone fully charged when you go out. Avoid listening to music or a podcast when walking around at night, as you may not be able to properly hear your surroundings. If you live in a rural area, keep an eye out for wildlife and consider carrying bear spray or a whistle.
Coming to Canada on your own is full of plenty of unknowns, but your safety and well-being doesn’t have to be one of them. Following these five tips will help you to feel comfortable and secure in your new city as an independent newcomer. Building a network of trustworthy connections and friends, knowing who to call in an emergency, finding a comfortable space to live and navigate around, and keeping yourself and your belongings protected are all important keys to help you feel safe and welcome in Canada.