Nigerians in Canada: Tracing Our Roots Together

By Funto Oyebolu

Since the 1960s, thousands of Nigerians have called Canada home; and in the first two decades of the 21st century, there has been a significant increase in the population of Nigerians who have made their way to Canada. According to the 2021 census report, over 40,000 Nigerians moved to Canada between 2016 and 2021, which makes them the fifth largest of recent immigrant groups to Canada and the largest population of African migrants to Canada. These numbers, as well as the uniqueness of Nigerians’ approach to life, make us hard to miss or ignore. Indeed, they contribute in no small measure to the richness of Canadian society.

Like our peers from other countries, the average Nigerian who migrates to Canada takes a “leap of faith” in pursuit of a better life – from education to career opportunities and overall standard of living. When we do, we bring along with us, our values of hard work, and passion for education. Indeed, Nigerians take education very seriously, typically aiming for the highest levels possible. In fact, the average Nigerian home, regardless of socio-economic status, considers a university education to be the minimum acceptable achievement from their children. As such, most Nigerian immigrants are highly educated. 

Nigerians’ hard work is especially evident in our hustle spirit. You can see it in our capacity to manage multiple business ventures at the same time. In Nigeria, it is not unusual to find an individual working 9-to-5 in a bank, while running a neighbourhood corner store, or selling clothes out of the trunk of her car.

Both our strong educational values and work ethic allow Nigerians to make meaningful contributions to Canada’s economy. It also helps that the most recent Nigerian migrants to Canada are coming from what has become a major technological hub in Africa and the continent’s largest economy. They join the ranks of Canadians of Nigerian descent who have distinguished themselves in numerous industries including technology, healthcare, financial services, to name a few, and as leaders of successful business enterprises. Take for instance, Kikelomo Lawal, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at CIBC, and Masai Ujiri, President of Toronto Raptors. Really, you will find successful Nigerians in almost any industry. 

Culturally speaking, Nigerians bring a strong infusion of vibrant music, fashion, food, arts and other traditions that enrich the multicultural character that Canada is well known for. Nigeria’s presence on the global music stage is an especially striking example of our cultural influence. From the days of Afrobeat maestro Fela Anikulapo-Kuti to present-day award-winning artists like Burna Boy, Davido, Tems, and others, Nigerian music has increasingly become global music. In fact, it is not unusual to hear the melodies of Nigerian musicians blasting from speakers in restaurants and stores owned by non-Nigerians. Weddings and festivals also represent important expressions of the diverse cultural heritage of the Nigerian community. 

woman holding microphone

The deep sense of community that pervades (or, as some might argue, is intrinsic to) Nigerian society translates here in Canada both in personal relationships and through organized groups, associations, churches and other events. We care for our neighbours, colleagues and friends, and contribute toward stronger social bonds wherever we find ourselves. 

Photo of Burna Boy by Emmanuel Agbeble
Photo of Burna Boy by Emmanuel Agbeble

Nigerians are also a bold and vocal people, attributes that serve us well in advocating for our communities and the wider society. This is evidenced by our active participation in socio-political organizations, where we lend our voices to policies that are shaping the Canadian society, and serve in key positions in the government, not-for-profit organizations and similar justice-oriented institutions.

These are only some of the qualities that Nigerians share that make us a notable migrant group in Canada. In the coming years, we can expect to see a growing Nigerian community that is dynamic and adaptable, one that integrates into Canadian society without losing its cultural integrity. In doing so, we will further enhance the multicultural diversity of Canada. Nigerians will also continue to make giant strides, paving their way into leadership in government, business, advocacy, sports, healthcare, and other facets of society. 

Funto Oyebolu is a highly skilled market researcher with a diverse background in business analysis, procurement, project management, and financial advisory services. She has gained valuable experience working at top banks in both Nigeria and Canada. Funto graduated with honours from the Algonquin College Marketing Research and Analysis program in 2022. Born in Nigeria, she currently resides in Ottawa, Canada, with her family. While passionate about her career, Funto’s favourite role is being a mom to her four children.

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