There are many types of rental accommodation available, such as houses, townhouses, apartments, and rooms. By law, landlords cannot discriminate because of your race, color, religion, sex, age, handicap, marital status, ethnic origin. If you are renting a house or apartment, you will have a rental contract or lease. Contract conditions can be very different. For example, some contract agreements include heat and electricity charges and some do not. You will have both responsibilities and rights when renting any place. Before signing any contract, please ask for Housing Help at any of the Immigrant Settlement Agencies. You can also contact:
202-116 Lisgar Street
Phone: (613) 563-4532
There are many magazines advertising rental opportunities.
Most if not all of these are free of charge. You can also look for ads in newspapers.
If you have a limited budget, you can buy used furniture in good condition at different places in the city. Sometimes you see furniture for sale on the street during the summer. You will also see advertisements for used furniture in different magazines.
There are many charity shops that sell household furniture and kitchen materials at very low cost. Ask people where you can find any of the following: Salvation Army Thrift Store, Saint Vincent de Paul, or Value Village. There are many stores that sell new furniture. Shop and compare prices. Sometimes stores put their furniture on sale.
Almost all food shopping is done in “supermarkets”. Prices of food vary from time to time. If you want to save money and time in shopping, it is a good to look for the flyers of supermarkets that you want to visit and to find what is on sale in order to make a shopping list. You can also buy food at “convenience stores”. They sell basic products like bread and milk; sometimes they close later than “supermarkets”. Convenience stores are much more expensive than supermarkets.
In Ottawa you can find food from around the world. Ask at an Immigrant Settlement Agency where to begin finding food of your choice. Check for markets and farms in or around the city. The Ottawa Food Security Council has a very interesting list of farmer markers across the city. They also publish a guide: http://www.spcottawa.on.ca/ofsc . “Food banks” are an emergency service for people who need food. They provide free food. Please contact any of the Immigrant Settlement Agencies for information.
You need different clothes for every season in Ottawa. Most importantly, in the winter you will need very warm clothes. Minus 30 degrees Celsius is very, very cold. Some people wear two or three layers of clothes to help stay warm. You will also need mittens, a warm hat, and thick boots. Children get cold very easily. They need special attention, especially for their hands, head, and feet. Clothing can be very expensive. Many people choose to buy used clothing. There are many used clothing stores in Ottawa. Free clothing might be available for people who do not have enough money. Contact any of the Immigrant Settlement Agencies for help.
The hours that a business is open depends on the type of business and the area it is in. In general, stores are open:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday - 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, Friday - 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sunday – 10am - 5pm
It is helpful to have some Canadian money before you arrive in Ottawa. In Canada, you can only change money at official locations. You will need identification. Your passport should be enough in most places. Not all banks or official locations offer the best rates. You can look in the yellow pages telephone directory (“foreign exchange” section) to ask in advance. For more information about Canadian currency you can go to: http://www.vancouver.hm/money.html
Hotels exchange small amounts of money (especially US dollars), but the rate may not be as good.
Canadian money is based on the decimal system. One hundred cents equals one dollar. Canadian money is made up of coins and paper bills. There are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills.
Home Safety and Security
House Use and Safety
Most houses in Canada are built with wood. You must always be careful about fire. In Ontario it is the law that everyone has a working smoke alarm mounted on the ceiling outside of every sleeping area. A smoke alarm on every floor of your home will give you extra time to escape in case of a fire. These alarms are available at most hardware stores. It is also against the law to disable a smoke alarm by taking the battery out or disconnecting it. If you are renting the home you live in, the owner must provide you with a smoke alarm and they must make sure it works. If it works on batteries they must even supply the battery! To make sure your smoke alarm works you should press the test button at least once a month. If it does not work, notify your landlord and they must repair or replace it immediately.
To verify if your fire alarm is working: Ottawa Fire Department (613) 580-2860.
Dial 911. Ask for the fire department. Give them your address and answer questions if there are any.
City of Ottawa General Inquiries
For general inquiries the City of Ottawa’s “Call Centre” is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dial 311.
Leaving Your Children Alone at Home
It is against the law to leave children alone at home in Ontario if they are under the age of 12. If you have children, you might find it difficult to move around with them everywhere. You must have someone older than 12 in the house if you want to leave children at home. Before you leave even teenagers at home alone for the first time, it is important to make sure they are ready for the experience. A website for youth and parents: http://www.choix.org
Safety for young children:
Using the Telephone
Having a telephone at home is very important. If you are not careful in selecting the telephone company, you may pay a fortune on long distance telephone bills. Ask that your telephone bills are sent to your home address and keep your phone bills so that you understand how you are paying for calls.
For home service (called “land line”), a fixed monthly fee is paid for all local calls. Long distance calls are usually paid by the minute. Some companies offer special prices. Be careful with the company or plan that you select, because you may easily end up in a long term contract with very expensive long distance bills.
Long Distance Phone Cards
Phone cards are available at small shops around Ottawa. With phone cards you can make cheaper long distance calls.
You might find that a mobile phone is your best choice when you first arrive, especially if you do not have a permanent address. Mobile telephones can be very expensive. Therefore discuss your plan thoroughly to avoid hidden charges and long-term binding agreements. Telephone numbers: Special numbers Dial these numbers on your telephone to get help. (complete sentence)
Sending and Receiving Mail
Mailing a Letter or Parcel
Look for Canada Post sign on stores and other outlets. You can also buy packages of postage stamps at drug stores, grocery stores and convenience stores. Bigger parcels and heavier parcels cost more to mail. The cost also depends on where you want to send it and on how fast you want it to get there. Usually, the farther the parcel has to travel, the more it will cost. If you are sending a parcel to a different country, you must fill out a customs form. You can get a customs form at the post office. The form describes what is in the parcel. It also describes how much the parcel is worth and how much it weighs.
Getting a Mailing Address
When you have found a place to live, people can send mail directly to your home or post office box number. Until you find a place to live, you can receive mail in three different ways:
Ask if you can use the mailing address of a relative or friend. Tell people to send mail to you “care of” (c/o) your relative or friend. Ask for general delivery service at the post office. This service is known internationally as “poste restante.”
Rent a mailbox at the post office or a store that sells business services.
Public Transit (OC Transpo)
Ottawa has a very good local transit system. If you are going to take the bus on a regular basis, you can get a monthly pass. When you are buying the bus pass for the first time, you will need a photo identification that you get from the OC Transpo authorities. You will have to go to a special location to obtain your OC Transpo identification card. You can call the number below for further information. If you will not use the bus regularly, you can buy tickets at different stores or pay the exact price every time you take the bus. Buses do not give change. If you are going to change buses, ask the driver for a transfer ticket. The transfer ticket will allow you to get on the next bus.
All information is available at: http://www.octranspo.com
Phone: (613) 741-4390.
If you drive a car and live in Ottawa, you will need an Ontario license. If you live on the Quebec side of the river, you will need a Quebec license. International driver licenses should be transferred as soon as possible. You must have a valid driver’s license to drive a car. If you have an international driver’s license it is valid for a short period. You need to check with local authorities for details. If you have children, any child under 18 kg. must use a special, regulation seat. Ask any of the Immigrant Settlement Agencies about how to get one of these seats.
By law, drivers and passengers must wear seat belts. There is a fine for not wearing them. Drivers are responsible for proper use of seat belts for children from birth to 16 years of age. A driver can be charged and face a fine and two demerit points for seat belt infractions. Demerit points remain on a driving record for two years from the date of the offence.
They are safe to use. In Ottawa, you can sometimes stop them on the street, though not as easily as in some cities. Stand on the sidewalk and wave at a taxi that has no passengers in it. Taxis are expensive. The cost of taking a taxi depends on how far you go. The price appears on a meter in the front beside the driver. The meter will display a minimum charge when you get in the car. Airport taxis sometimes charge a flat rate instead of using a meter. You can call taxis by telephone. See “taxis” in the yellow pages telephone book.
It is common to give people who provide services a little extra money. This is called a tip. People usually give tips to:
• Waiters in restaurants
• Taxi drivers
• People who make deliveries
• People who carry your baggage in hotels
Usually, the tip is 15% of the cost before taxes. A tip is also called a gratuity.
Sometimes where there are no traffic lights you will find a “crosswalk”. You may carefully cross the street at this location. Pedestrian signals appear at street corners where there is a stoplight. They tell you when it is safe to cross the street.
Do not cross. If the hand is flashing, do not start to cross the street. If you have already started to cross, continue.
Walk. It is now safe for you to cross the street.
Push the button and wait for traffic to stop.
Point your arm out in front of you to let drivers know that you want to cross. Once drivers have stopped, you can cross the street.
Legal Ages in Ontario:
You must be at least 16 years old to:
• Work full-time
• Leave school or home
• Consent to sex (pending)
• Get married
You must be at least 19 years old to buy tobacco and to buy/drink alcohol.
Detailed maps of the City of Ottawa are found in all “Yellow Pages” telephone book. You can also visit their maps section online.
Caring for Children
Registering Children for School
Please also read the Education section in this booklet. Staffs at an Immigrant Settlement Agency speak many languages. They can help you register your children in school. OCISO (see back of booklet) has a special Multicultural Liaison Program for immigrant children and their families in almost all of Ottawa’s French and English schools. At each school they will let you know how to register your child. They will also help to place your child in the right grade. All children, boys and girls, from 5 to 16 years old must go to school.
Actually, most children begin school when they are 4 years old in “maternity” or “kindergarten” classes. This depends on the parents and each school. “Maternity” or “kindergarten” and grade 1 to grade 8 is called elementary school. Grade 9 to grade 12 is called secondary school.
All children and adult immigrants who will attend elementary or secondary school must be assessed at:
Family Reception Centre
202-300 Rochester St., Ottawa, ON, K1R 7N4
Tel: 239-2416, Fax: 239-5990
Children must be given vaccinations or have Ontario standard vaccination certificates before they can register for school. All students who are new to Canada must have a Certificate of Immunization and Tuberculosis Assessment for School Entry.
Many schools have programs that provide care to children before and after school, during lunch hours and school holidays. Ask at your child’s school for more information.
Finding Child Care
Children who are under 12 years old cannot be left home alone. It is against the law. Ask an adult family member or friend to look after your children when you are not home. Different types of child care options are available in Ottawa. There are full-time and part-time options in either English or French. If parents are unable to pay the entire childcare fees, they may be able to get financial help to pay (subsidized childcare). Most child care centers have both regular full fee and subsidized spaces. Subsidized childcare is very limited and each child care centre keeps its own waiting list for subsidized and regular spaces. You should visit a few centres as soon as possible. You can request to put your child’s name on their waiting lists. If your child’s name is on several lists, this will increase your chances of securing a space when you need it.
Childcare options include:
• Child Care Centres
• Home Child Care
• Licensed Home Child Care
• Nursery Schools
• Municipal Child Care Centres
• Municipal Home Child Care.
Ontario Works Child Care: (613) 580-2424, ext. 24104
Informal Child Care: (613) 580-2424, ext. 24384
For information on child care, visit:
Children’s Services Division: (613) 580-2424, ext. 24100
Applying for the Canada Child Tax Benefit
If your children are under 18 years old, you may be eligible to receive the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB). The CCTB is a monthly payment that helps families with the cost of raising children. You can obtain an application from an Immigrant Settlement Agency or the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA). You should apply for the CCTB as soon as possible. You can receive payments for up to 11 months prior to your date of application.
There is a law in Ontario that protects children from physical and sexual abuse. The local Children’s Aid Society can provide information on child protection services, adoption and other services related to the well-being of children.
HST and PST
People in Ontario pay several types of taxes. In Canada, there is a Federal Goods and Services Tax (HST). HST is added when you pay for an item or service. Some things that are exempt from GST are rent, most food products, and medical goods and services.
In Ontario, there is a Provincial Sales Tax (PST). There are some items that are not taxed including most food purchased in supermarkets and prescription medication.
Each year you must declare your earnings to both the Federal and the Provincial governments. The taxation year is from January 1 to December 31. The deadline for submitting income tax forms (called a “return”) is April 30th of the following year. Income tax forms are available at post offices.
Employers must give a T4 statement to every employee. The T4 show any interest earned on savings or investments during the past year. You must attach copies of all income statements to your income tax return. Remember to keep all your receipts.
There are often free income tax clinics which help people fill out the income tax forms. For more information, contact the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-(800)-959-8281. http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca
There are many free tax clinics in Ottawa. You may ask at any Immigrant Settlement Agency or Community Health and Resource Centre.
These are paid to the city by most property owners. If you are renting an apartment, you don’t pay property taxes. Instead, tax is included in your monthly rent.
For general information, call the Municipal Property Assessment
Corporation: 1-(866)-296-6722. http://www.mpac.ca