But now there are figures to back the story.
More than 200 taxi drivers, who are mostly from the Toronto-area, were found to be doctors in their homelands before arriving in Canada for a better life, according to a federal immigration survey.
The department last year surveyed 50,101 cabbies, through the use of their tax forms. They also found another 55 Canadian-born taxi drivers who were doctors or had PhDs.
The study, which is one of the most comprehensive into the cab industry, found one of every two taxi drivers are immigrants and one of every three of them were born in India or Pakistan.
The results of “Special Study: Who Drives a Taxi in Canada” has not been released publicly by Ottawa but obtained through an Access of Information request by lawyer Richard Kurland.
“Architecture and related’ is a top field of study of Canadian-born drivers,” the study said. “Business and management’ is the top field of study for immigrant drivers.”
The study said cabbies who purchased taxi licences did well as the price of the permits rose from $100,000 to about $300,000.
It said 14% of immigrant drivers had a Bachelor’s Degree, as compared to about 4% of Canadian-born drivers. And 5.4% held a Masters Degree, compared to 1% of Canadian drivers.
The study shows that the most educated drivers arrive from India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, the U.K., Bangladesh, Haiti and the U.S.
The study shows Toronto leads the country with 11,265 cabbies, compared to 7,185 in Montreal, 3,530 in Vancouver and 2,100 in Calgary.
Members of Toronto’s taxi industry claim the immigrant workers make good employees and reflect the city’s diversified work force.
“Many of these drivers have post-secondary education and are working to be a success in Canada,” said Jim Bell, of Diamond Taxi. “These people are hard-working and serious about what they do.”
Bell said immigrant drivers work long hours and want to get ahead and sponsor their families to Canada.
“They are making a sacrifice for their families,” he said. “You can bet their kids won’t be cabbies.”
Peter Zahakos, of Co-op Cabs, said newcomers to Canada gravitate to the cab industry.
“These guys work hard and are real hustlers,” Zahakos said. “They want a better life for themselves and their families.”
Zahakos said one cabbie put himself through police school and is now an OPP officer.
Kurland said he was surprised by some of the well-schooled immigrants who are cabbies.
“This confirms the urban myth that there are cab drivers who were doctors at home,” Kurland said.