Eritrean immigrants to Canada generally experience economic insecurity. Their education and job skills are seldom recognized by Canadian institutions and employers, and they do not have the Canadian experience that most employers require. Thus, even those with high levels of education and professional skills generally have to accept work in lower-level jobs, for example, as parking-lot attendants and taxi drivers. Since the early 1990s, however, a few Eritreans have managed to improve their economic status by starting their own businesses, such as small corner stores, printing offices, dry-cleaning establishments, and restaurants. Unemployment is higher among Eritrean women.
Eritrean immigrants turn to members of their own community for support and social contact. They have established community centres across Canada, and through them they share information on issues such as resettlement, housing, employment, and education. The centres also provide a convenient place to meet newcomers, and they offer classes in English and heritage-language programs; and they present seminars, conferences, and workshops of interest to the Eritrean community. Some of the topics discussed include employment issues, education, and women’s and refugee issues.
The strong tie of Eritreans to their liberation movements has increased their desire to return to the homeland, and, perhaps, explains why Eritreans have tended to remain an isolated group in Canada. However, it is interesting to note that, within the last ten years, Eritreans in Canada have established a number of well-organized community groups, such as the Eritrean Women’s Association in Canada, the Eritrean Relief and Rehabilitation Centre, the Eritrean Students Association, the Eritrean Workers Union, and the Eritrean Professional Association. The existence of these and other, similar organizations located in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and other major Canadian cities suggests that Eritreans are attempting to improve their position in Canada and compete more effectively in the broader Canadian community.
Performances of traditional Eritrean music, dance, and poetry are presented in Canada, generally at the Eritrean community centres. A number of young Eritrean musicians have become financially self-sufficient by playing traditional music in various Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs in Toronto. They also perform during weddings, holidays, and fund-raising events. The other important area that unites Eritreans in Canada is athletics and team sports. The single most popular sport among Eritreans is soccer (or football, as they call it). A large number of teams compete in local tournaments, and many Eritrean Canadians enjoy this outdoor sport as participants or as spectators during the summer