From the World’s Most Populous Country to Canada’s Smallest Province

Emily Pei moved to Canada 12 years ago. Her journey from southern China to Canada was a decision made out of love.

“My husband, he’s Canadian,” said Pei. “He went to teach in China, and that’s where we met.”

Pei’s husband wanted to return to Canada, took her to Prince Edward Island for a summer visit, and the rest is history.

“I just… fell in love with PEI, so I said, ‘Sure we can.’”

Pei says there are several ways immigrants arrive on the island.

“You have mainly two pathways to come here,” said Pei. “One is through your skills. The other is through business. Depends on what kind of skill set you have.”

Emily Pei moved to Canada 12 years ago. (VOA News)

Emily Pei moved to Canada 12 years ago. (VOA News)

Today, the former university instructor helps foreigners, including some from China, make a new home in Prince Edward Island with her company, Canada Ask. Pei says there is one main reason why someone from China would resettle on Prince Edward Island.

“Most of them, they say for the education, for my children,” Pei said.

Canada has been experiencing a labor shortage since before the pandemic. Immigration is one solution. From 2020 to 2021, even with the pandemic, 4% of new immigrants who are working or will soon arrive to work on the island are from China.

Jeff Young, director at Prince Edward Island’s immigration office, estimates more than 2,000 people from China currently live on the island. He says they are here for different reasons.

“They enjoy the fresh air, those sorts of things. The peace, the quiet, the tranquility. But the big reason they give us is for their kids,” said Young. “They want to come to Canada and come to PEI to build a better life for their children. It’s a safe place. It’s the work life balance. There’s activities for their kids to do. We do have a good educational system, which they appreciate for their kids.”

Overall, not all of the island’s residents stay. Some move to other parts of Canada. As Canada’s smallest province, with just over 164,000 people, there are some limitations, including fewer private schools and a limited number of family doctors.

Pei is one who stayed to raise her family and has witnessed positive changes for the local Chinese community.

“Compared to things 10 years ago, it’s much better now, with Chinese supermarkets, you know,” said Pei. “Before, I think only one or two. But now, maybe more than five (or) six now. So, the Chinese community is growing.”

With an estimated 1.9% annual growth rate and a working-age population on the rise, in part because of immigration, Canada’s smallest province is quickly transforming and becoming more diverse each year.

“Chinese supermarkets...before, I think only one or two. But now, maybe more than five or six now. So, the Chinese community is growing. ”

Emily Pei, Prince Edward Island resident from China


WRITER, PRODUCER, VIDEOGRAPHER: Ken Linton Post-production coordinator: Marcus Harton

About this series

From 2010-2020, U.N. Refugee Agency reported a consistent increase in the number of asylum-seekers from China totaling more than 630,000 people. Separately, the number of asylum-seekers from Hong Kong jumped dramatically, from 22 in 2018 to a record 487 people in 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Asylum-seekers are just one part of the China exodus story, as people from China and Hong Kong emigrate in other ways, as well. This project examines why people left and where they have resettled.