When you come from a country where it’s a crime to leave debts unpaid, you often suffer in silence. Canada’s immigrants need better financial education

December 14, 2020

By Globe and Mail |

In 2015, I arrived in Canada from Nigeria with my wife and newborn daughter in tow. With 10 years’ experience as an investment banker, securities and bond trader and portfolio manager, I felt quietly confident about my financial knowledge and how to apply it in Canada. While I wasn’t familiar with the concept of using a credit card for recurring purchases, I had an overall sense of self-reliance as I settled into my new home.

But not all newcomers are as fortunate. Despite immigrants coming to Canada being more highly educated and skilled than ever before, many leave their countries and can be immediately beset with challenges. There are cultural and linguistic barriers that persist. Meanwhile, navigating Canada’s financial, legal and tax systems is a complex matter. Additionally, the majority of newcomers settle in urban centres with ever-increasing housing and living costs, often leading to greater financial hardship.

The financial services sector varies dramatically across the world. Credit scores are handled differently from country to country, with many having no credit score system at all. Some new Canadians come from countries where it’s a crime to leave debts unpaid, causing worry they will go to jail. Instead of seeking help earlier, they suffer in silence. When they speak with me in my role as a restructuring consultant, they do so from a place of fear. For others, the perceived stigma from being unable to repay their debts can be mentally overwhelming, causing them to make desperate financial decisions that could lead them further into debt.

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