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Rising cost of living forcing some B.C. newcomers to consider leaving

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Six years after arriving in Vancouver from Iran, Melika Azizi is seriously considering moving elsewhere.

"I am sad even thinking about it," she tells CTV News while walking along the city's seawall on a beautiful fall day.

"But it's a kind of must, I feel, now, to be happier … Every move that we want to make, the first and the only thing we think about is money."

Azizi is far from the only recent immigrant now looking at leaving Canada due to the skyrocketing cost of living.

A recent study by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Conference Board of Canada found the number of immigrants who left Canada surged in 2017 and 2019, to levels 31 per cent higher than the historical average. 

Former Vancouver resident Jack Strange is one of the newcomers who has left in recent years, returning to the U.K. after two years in the city, driven away largely by cost.

"I was skipping meals, basically, because I was struggling to afford my food and my rent," Strange says.

For Azizi, the difficulty of transferring foreign credentials has also been an issue.

"I was an architect back in my home country," she says. "I went through the certifications."

Here in Canada, she is an intern architect.

Most of the 450,000 new permanent residents Canada will welcome this year will have some foreign work experience, like Azizi. About 20 per cent of them, on average, will settle in B.C.

But if they can't put their skills to use, or can't afford the kind of lifestyle they imagined before arriving here, they may pack up and leave.

The number of immigrants leaving Canada pales in comparison to the number arriving, but David Lee, director of employment, language and social enterprise at Mosaic – an organization that helps newcomers to B.C. – says onward migration can have negative economic consequences over time.

"Without being able to address keeping immigrants here in the province and in Canada, we are going to continue to experience these issues with filling our labour needs," Lee says.

"(There's) definitely a big question about what the Canadian dream entails," he adds. "For a lot of folks, that may have included coming to Canada, purchasing a home, raising their families here. That's definitely been brought into question."

Melika Azizi's Canadian dream may soon be packed in a suitcase, ready to journey onward.

"It's just sad," she says. "I think I wasted my life, kind of."

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Jumy Ogunsola and CTVNews.ca's Megan DeLaire 

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