Economy

Saturday, 03 December 2016 17:18

Thunder Bay – Off the Beaten Path

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Commentary by Paul Wojda in Thunder Bay, Ontario

Immigration represents both an incredible opportunity and a challenge for Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.

As skilled workers across a wide range of fields retire from the workforce in Northern Ontario, employers are struggling to find trained and experienced replacements who can step in to take their place.

Owners of small businesses throughout the region who would like to sell and retire are finding it challenging to find buyers. The inability to fill these gaps has a potentially devastating impact on smaller communities, leaving them with a reduced tax base and fewer services.

While the development of the local workforce to meet these needs is a necessary and desirable outcome, immigration can allow these businesses to survive and flourish while this training takes place.

Net negative migration

The number of immigrants arriving in the region has remained fairly steady over the past few years, but overall, the region has been experiencing negative net migration. This has sparked a number of efforts to reverse this trend and to encourage immigration both from other parts of Canada and other countries.

The Common Voice Northwest conference in September 2016 brought together stakeholders from across the region to analyze the topic and to develop a series of next steps to address it.  The creation of the Northwestern Ontario Immigration portal represents an effort to provide newcomers with an accurate picture of the advantages and resources available should they move to the region.

Job opportunities, businesses for sale, funding opportunities and other resources are centralized in one location to make the immigration pathway a seamless process for prospective newcomers.  

In addition, city and regional representatives have been attending job fairs, conferences and expositions around the world to showcase the opportunities available. The emphasis of these marketing efforts focuses primarily on the unique benefits of life in Northwestern Ontario.

Personalized attention

There are a number of distinct advantages for immigrants looking to move to a smaller community outside of the larger metropolitan areas. One of the key messages that is repeatedly heard from newcomers is the personalized attention and support they receive upon their arrival.

In Northwestern Ontario, there is often more of a communal effort to help welcome newcomers and support their integration, since they are seen as essential to the survival and growth of the community.  While there is a vast representation of different cultural groups from around the world, they do not tend to be grouped into enclaves as they might in large cities, resulting in a fuller integration into the community as a whole.

Recently, Thunder Bay has seen a rapid increase in the number and variety of restaurants and grocery options to meet the needs and desires of newcomers from diverse backgrounds to the area. The overall high quality of life with affordable housing, excellent health care facilities and a wide range of entertainment and dining options also plays a role in attracting and retaining newcomers.

Local residents can enjoy all the amenities of a bigger urban centre while still being only minutes away from a vast array of outdoor recreation opportunities. While some may see the area as being isolated, it is easy to connect to larger centres such as Toronto, Winnipeg or Minneapolis through several daily flights from the international airport or by ground transportation.

Keep students here

Encouraging newcomers to choose a smaller community can be a challenging process. A main obstacle can be convincing them to visit, tour and see the area with their own eyes.

One way to address this is by building on the success of Confederation College and Lakehead University in attracting international students.

These students are often highly skilled, motivated and bring a wealth of previous experience. Since they have already overcome that first step of visiting and living in the area, it would be advisable to create more programs to encourage them to stay rather than leaving upon graduation for larger urban centres.

The creation and enhancement of economic incentives for newcomers to settle in smaller communities can help to stimulate the purchase of businesses for sale, allowing those communities to continue to benefit from the services and jobs they provide.  

Expansion of the Provincial Nominee Program could allow more discretion in this area, to both support the settlement of newcomers and to help sustain the existence and quality of life in smaller communities.  

With affordable housing, employment opportunities, diverse recreational pursuits and an exceptionally high quality of life, Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario represent an incredible destination for immigrants to create a new life in Canada.  

 

Paul Wojda is the youth programs facilitator of the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association

Thursday, 27 October 2016 15:15

London’s Poor Diversity Score No Surprise

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Commentary by Evelina Silveira in London, Ontario

A recent study published by the Western University's Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations found a severe lack of visible minorities in leadership roles in organizations in London, Ontario. 

While the study made headlines, the findings came as no surprise to me.  I have lived in London all my life, working as a diversity consultant for the 10 years. I would like to offer an explanation as to why inroads have not been made in visible minority leadership in  London, Ontario.

Flashback to about 13 years ago, when I started to work on a business plan for Diversity at Work: I interviewed many leaders in London asking them whether my idea of having a business which promoted hiring and supporting diverse candidates would ever fly.

I will never forget the answer I received from a human resources consultant who had previously held many jobs in the recruitment and leadership fields.  She said:  “Evelina, as long as there are enough white people to fill the jobs, no one will ever consider anyone else, because they don't have to.”

Essentially, she conveyed that there really was no need to change the recruitment process and that it was too much work to do so.

A late joiner

In comparison to other cities, London has lagged behind. Perhaps it is because the jobs could easily be filled as the human resources consultant suggested, or maybe we ignore the ever-growing presence of visible minorities which started in the mid-1980's. 

Some of our largest employers and institutions have only recently developed diversity policies, later than their counterparts in other comparable cities which have a high number of visible minorities and immigrants. I often scan the diversity plans of the public service organizations in London and it would appear that the effort or the kind of approach being used – if at all – are not producing  much in terms of achieving a representative workforce, let alone diversity in leadership. 

My observations are consistent with the findings which indicate a very low level of visible minority participation, notably 5.3 per cent on agencies, boards, and commissions.  Their lack of participation at these levels can have ramifications for how services are delivered, in addition to resource allocation. 

Furthermore, there is a tendency, especially with boards, to recruit people they know, often friends and co-workers, to fill vacancies.  This can perpetuate the lack of representation and the effort to create a more diversified board and committees.

It is startling how many workplaces have not implemented the strategies and best practices that can help mitigate these gaps. How might we explain the disconnect? There are a multitude of reasons why this occurs and this is key to understanding the problem of under-representation in London’s publicly-funded organizations.

Consider these possibilities:

·         Foreign credentials and work experience are not recognized. Generally speaking, if an applicant has not graduated from a leadership program in North America or the U.K , there is a good chance their education in leadership may not be recognized.  Leadership experience from other  parts of the world may not be taken into consideration for a host of reasons, including cultural differences in how we do business and interact with employees.  

·         Effective leadership requires highly developed communication skills:  in person, in writing and over the phone.  An internationally-trained applicant is disadvantaged if they have a pronounced accent and have an indirect style of communication.  Interviewer bias can hamper heavily-accented applicants, who may be mistaken as unqualified because they speak differently.  Across cultures, there are variations in how we conduct meetings, presentations and write reports. The Canadian standards are often learned in school or through work experience.

At civic level: zero

The number of visible minorities and immigrant leaders in municipal organizations is at a glaring zero per cent! 

Given that government organizations are held to a higher standard than the private sector to have a reflective workforce, as well as to meet Employment Equity standards, this represents a failure of implementation and consequently lost opportunities for diversifying the workforce and gaining new skills and perspectives. 

With increasing job insecurity, good benefits and salaries, public service employees are not likely to leave their jobs.  Understandably, this represents fewer opportunities for external applicants to get hired. 

It would be interesting to know if the City of London has an internal mentoring program to assist aspiring leaders.  Research consistently indicates that visible minorities and immigrants find a lack of mentors in the workplace. 

Successful leaders often attest to the significance of mentors throughout their careers.  There have been some attempts over the last few years to develop internships for immigrant professionals at the City of London. However, it is hard to know if this experience translated into permanent employment with the City.

Finally, we cannot overlook bias and racism in the recruitment and selection process, although it does not probably explain the huge disconnect between the population and their representation in the workforce. In my experience, if the leadership in an organization is not familiar with the business benefits of a diverse workforce, they are very unlikely to support and initiate programs which can facilitate the entry and promotion of visible minorities within their organizations.

Evelina Silveira is the President of Diversity at Work in London, a three-time award winning firm which specializes in creating inclusive workplaces and diverse customer bases.  She has co-authored two globally acclaimed books and is the publisher of the Inclusion Quarterly.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016 16:12

New Immigrants Much More Financially Savvy

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Commentary by Bernice Cheung in Toronto

For many of us, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of immigrants is a struggling population — those who come here with little understa­­nding of the culture they’re entering into, only to spend a generation struggling so they can give their children a better future. It’s a story that Saima Naz knows all too well.

Saima moved to Montreal from Pakistan with her family when she was a small child. Her parents came here with an attitude that paying cash is always best. They had little understanding of the way finances worked in the developed Western world, and were wary of taking on any debt.

As Saima describes it, her family always had enough to survive, but they were missing out on opportunities. If her parents had had a better understanding of finance and not been so averse to debt, they could have been much better off — and Saima was determined not to make the same mistakes. At 15, she opened her first bank account, and by 21 she had taken out a $5,000 loan to start a small business. She purchased her first family home for about $500,000 when she was 23 and today, 11 years later, that property is valued at well over $1 million.

It’s a familiar story, considered by many to be the norm for a successful immigration cycle. An immigrant generation struggles and sacrifices so that their children can build the knowledge they need to thrive in the following generation.

New trend

Today, though, that narrative seems to apply less and less. In actuality, our data suggest that emerging technologies in today’s highly connected world have significantly widened the spectrum of a typical immigrant success story. Having conducted an annual survey to understand new Canadians’ financial habits, product usage, attitudes and satisfaction towards their financial institutions since 2010, the Cultural Markets team at Environics Research has kept a close eye on this recent new trend.

Rather than observing more of the same struggling newcomer narrative over and over, our team has discovered a new story emerging — one that tells the tale of a more prepared population, ready and excited for the challenges of entering a new cultural situation. Our data shows that, even before their arrival, this new generation of immigrants is doing their research and diligently preparing for upcoming challenges. When we asked newcomers who arrived in the past five years when they opened their first bank account, almost three in 10 (28%) say they had done so before they made the move.

Moreover, we’ve seen a steadily increasing proportion of newcomers agreeing with the statement “I feel as though [we] have the knowledge to get the most out of the financial services choices available in Canada”— revealing a confidence we’ve rarely seen from past generations of newcomers.

Tone matters

It’s much more than simply being prepared ahead of time, though. This generation of immigrants also appears to be much more financially savvy than their previous generational counterparts, and they expect more from their financial institutions. Of those newcomers that came here in the past five years, a whopping 75% have opened a second Canadian bank account with a different financial institution within a year of moving, and 11% had switched institutions completely.

When asked why they switched from their first financial institution, just over four in ten (43%) stated that they wanted better rates, while many others cited better customer service/tone or attitude as key factors.

This move away from financial complacency shows that, for this new generation, the research doesn’t stop. They study ahead of time and continue to actively evaluate the quality of their financial institution from the moment they arrive. They are constantly learning and making changes to better their situation.

Portfolio investments

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this new financial sophistication also appears to be moving beyond just banking and into investment practices. Of the newcomers that came to Canada within the last three years, 46% now use a mutual fund company. It’s a trend that reveals a major opportunity for not only mutual fund companies, but also for financial advisors. Newcomers that came to Canada in the past 10 years represent a total of $55 billion in portfolio investments, but over half of those newcomers still do not have a dedicated advisor. By any standard, that is a massive, potentially missed market for advisors to build a strategy around.

These savvy newcomer investors need products that are geared to their needs, and advisors that can speak their language, both literally and figuratively. Customer service, and the right tone and attitude, rank high on the list of things newcomers look for in an institution. Advisors can significantly differentiate themselves among these groups of newcomers by simply gaining an understanding of cultural differences towards financial planning and investments.

It may seem counter to the popular narrative surrounding immigration, but newcomers to Canada in the past 10 years from South Asia alone hold $17 billion in their investment portfolios. That’s a far cry from the days of Saima’s parents being averse to the idea of even taking a loan — and it’s a figure that financial advisors should take note of.

Bernice is VP of Cultural Markets and Financial Services at Environics Research Group.  She brings over 12 years of marketing and management consulting experience from financial services and consumer goods, helping clients with quantitative and qualitative market research, organizational strategy, segmentation and targeting.  Prior to leading Environics' Cultural Markets group, Bernice led the Ethnic Practice Areas at Nielsen and Altus Strategy Group. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

by Shan Qiao in Toronto   

Hiring multi-language speaking staff, creating real-time interpretation apps, even launching an ethnic bank to serve primarily immigrants, Canadian banking business operators are getting fiercely competitive to woo business from immigrants.

Aiming to “become a preferred bank for the Chinese community in Canada”, Wealth One Bank of Canada (WOBC) has begun operations in Vancouver and Toronto. It is the very first Chinese-founded and -invested bank in Canada, a federally chartered Schedule I Bank under the Bank Act and regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

The man behind it, the founder and also the Vice Chair of the WOBC Board, Shenglin Xian, says from his Vancouver office that there are only 28 such foreign banks in Canada. “It is a historic moment for the Chinese community.”

Shenglin Xian, who is a well-known Chinese community financial advisor, has his own company Shenglin Financial Group Inc. located in North York, Toronto. He got into financial consultancy after he immigrated to Canada in 1990.

Same language, better understanding

“Currently, we will focus on serving the Chinese Canadians from the Great Vancouver Area and the Great Toronto Area. We will hire Mandarin and Cantonese speaking employees. Our service slogan is ‘same language, better understanding (translation)’,” he continues, explaining what he envisions as a respect for Chinese values and culture.

“Although all five major banks in Canada provide Chinese language service, the banking system is still operated under mainstream preference. We want to favour our Chinese clients with a tailored and Asian-styled service,” he continues.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Although all five major banks in Canada provide Chinese language service, the banking system is still operated under mainstream preference. We want to favour our Chinese clients with a tailored and Asian-styled service,” he continues.[/quote]

Ming Gu, a senior news producer from Toronto, also a Chinese immigrant who came to Canada in early 90's like Shenglin, has worked on a couple of translation projects for one of the five major banks for their Chinese language website.

He completely agrees with the fact that providing ethnic language service is not quite the same as bridging two different banking systems: Canada’s and the immigrant source country's.

“China’s (banking system) is even more different. The policy and products are very much in the different zones as well. Service literally translated into Chinese language might not be helpful for immigrants to understand the meaning behind. For example, credit rating in Canada is very critical for banks to determine whether or not applicants can apply for line of credit and how much they can get. One SIN number check will bring up a very detailed credit history of the applicant. However, it doesn’t really exist in China’s banking system, letting along for Chinese newcomers to understand the importance of credit rating,” Ming explains.

Maggie Yuan works at a public relations firm which provides multi-language translation services for corporate Canada's ethnic marketing needs in the Chinese and South Asian markets. 

“For economic reasons, mainstream comapnies can’t afford to overlook the needs of immigrant communities. For big corporate accounts, I have been dealing with, especially in bank, insurance, public service, entertainment industry, the needs to have Chinese language translation have always been increasing. Companies strategically promote their investment in diversity to gain positive image in immigrant community. It’s quite political, but it’s also about business,” she says.

Overcoming language, culture barriers

The major Canadian banks are also stepping up, developing faster and more convenient tools to woo immigrant clients who face a language barrier. Just last month, Royal Bank of Canada, which already has a Chinese version of its website besides the official English and French language, introduced a new app – the first of its kind in North America – that provides clients with real-time video access to qualified interpreters.

Christine Shisler, RBC's Senior Director of Cultural Markets, explains why such a language app makes business sense.

“Regardless of which RBC branch a client visits, we’ll be able to offer service in the language of choice. This is critical in helping our client – especially newcomers – understand how banking works in Canada.”

Shisler stresses out that RBC wants to be the bank that newcomers turn to for all of the important firsts – from first bank account to first home purchase. That means a lot of tailored service in language and cultural senses.

Going further, the bank’s Beijing staff, for example, will help students and family initiate their financial transition even before they arrive in Canada, a more aggressive business approach similar to what Wealth One Bank of Canada is doing in the reverse direction. 

Commentary by Marco Navarro-Genie in Halifax
 
When prominent Nova Scotia MP and President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison recently spoke about banning the expression “come from away” (CFA, in short) from the vocabulary of Atlantic Canadians, he drew attention to our hospitality toward immigrants.
 
His discussion also led me to reflect on my own origin as a newcomer to Canada, and more recently, as a new arrival in Atlantic Canada.
 
The precise meaning of “come from away” remains unclear to me.
 
It seems to refer to people who come from elsewhere, but the degree of distance varies.  In some cases, to qualify as a CFA, one can be from the next county, or the next Maritime province, or the next province outside the region, or from a faraway land.
 
The expression has never exclusively been used to apply to immigrants from other countries.
 
Nova Scotians, for instance, apply the term to other Nova Scotians, as well. While in all instances it refers to someone seen as an outsider, it is not always used in pejorative ways. In some cases, it is purely descriptive, as a synonym for a stranger. Sometimes, it is used in humorous ways.
 
Attitudinal change
 
None of this should be a surprise: words have various and varying meanings. In the exact same sentence, an expression can mean more than one thing depending on who utters it, who hears it, and the tone and intention with which it is said. For that reason alone, the idea of banning a phrase from usage seems curious to me, but I am sure the minister only meant to use “ban” in a figurative sense.
 
As for the negative uses and connotations of the expression, the minister is correct in pointing out that attitudes need changing. In my observation and personal experience, they are changing.
 
When my sisters and I requested asylum in Canada in 1979, I was assigned to the École Polyvalente in St.-Henri, a neighbourhood of Montreal then well-known for its poverty and high unemployment.  There, I first encountered hostility toward “les maudits immigrants,” those damned immigrants. In the minds of many of the local children in the school, immigrants represented a threat to their cultural identity and to their parents’ jobs.
 
Their identities seemed threatened by the presence of the many foreign languages they could not understand. Even the teachers seemed resentful at St.-Henri. At our school, they looked the other way when many of the refugee or immigrant children were pushed, shoved, threatened, and on one occasion, attacked — not with a hockey stick, but with a most un-Canadian instrument — a baseball bat.
 
Immigrants to Atlantic Canada and their children are not at the receiving end of physical violence. But, the extent to which immigrants may be made to feel like outsiders if someone refers to them as CFAs, it is not in the more affluent spaces such office towers and banks, stores, and shopping malls.  
 
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he extent to which immigrants may be made to feel like outsiders if someone refers to them as CFAs, it is not in the more affluent spaces such office towers and banks, stores, and shopping malls.  [/quote]
 
In the nearly three years that I have been living in Atlantic Canada – and having already travelled through all four provinces — I have heard the expression “come from away” many times, most of them in jest, but I have never witnessed anyone being subject to it in an unwelcoming way. Nor have I been at the receiving end of any unkindness.
 
While the negative attitudes need changing, we need to be reminded that attitudes will change if the context in which they are born changes.
 
Words do not beget attitudes; rather, words describe or express them. What gives rise to words are social and economic experiences. In that sense, suppressing a word without dealing with the experiences that begot them would only send the expression underground, and create new terms that would simply be expressed code for the one suppressed.
 
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][S]uppressing a word without dealing with the experiences that begot them would only send the expression underground ...[/quote] 
 
"The Other"
 
After the horrible baseball bat incident at St.-Henri, many of the newcomers were shipped to other schools in Montreal. I was sent to École Sécondaire St.-Luc, still on the edge of affluent Westmount, but this time on the west side, bordering Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Hampstead.
 
These were neighbourhoods with higher economic profile, much lower unemployment and greater ratios of university education. Here, it was the immigrant children who were sometimes thuggish, picked fights, and were more unruly than the locals. But there was peace, and I never felt unsafe in the way that I had felt in St.-Henri.
 
At St.-Luc, I never felt the threat and insecurity that I experienced in St.-Henri. The attitude of the vast majority of the students and teachers at St.-Luc was much more welcoming.  Having visited homes of classmates in both areas, I am quite sure that the pupils from Westmount and Hampstead didn’t leave their home for school in the morning showered with parental complaints about jobs, lack of money to eat or pay the rent, or heard epithets about immigrants who were stealing jobs from locals. 
 
That was the great difference.
 
Socio-economic context
 
The animosity and suspicion we hear toward immigrants and newcomers, almost everywhere, has a socio-economic context, a background profile that is very similar across borders and cultures.
 
Atlantic Canada is no different.
 
Maritimers’ suspicions of “the other” will erode with more prosperity. The more prosperity, the more they will also be exposed to immigrants coming to settle here.
 
Atlantic economies will only improve and thrive on their own when they become less dependent on subsidies from outside the region, and when home policies foster economic growth through more efficient government and lower taxes, less cumbersome and repetitious regulatory regimes, and when our economic policies exhibit greater friendliness toward entrepreneurs and innovators.
 
With a better economy, fewer Atlantic Canadians will feel threatened by newcomers, whether they have arrived from the next county, or from the other end of the planet.
 
Marco Navarro-Genie is the President of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS.ca). This comment is part of our continuing series on immigration to the Atlantic provinces. 
 
Related reading: The Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy (Feb. 2014) - Section on "Immigration is Essential"

By H.G. Watson

The Canada Periodical Fund may broaden its horizons in the years to come.

Luc Marchand, the director of the Canada Periodical Fund, told attendees at MagNet, the annual Canadian magazine conference, on June 8 that the results of federal government consultations on media may impact how the fund designs its grants, and for who.

In the years to come, more program dollars may be extended to digital-only outlets, which are currently unable to access some portions of the fund.

The fund currently offers assistance to publishers of paid print magazines, non-daily newspapers and digital periodicals through two programs, one for business development and one for distribution, with a third funding envelope for industry associations. Currently digital periodical publishers can only access the business innovation program, and are excluded from support for distribution.

During the presentation, Mark Jamison, the president of envericom, a project management practice, said that government investment through the Canada Periodical Fund represents about four per cent of value in the industry.

However, the amount of money distributed by the Canada Periodical Fund has been relentlessly dropping since the mid-1990s, a trend dramatically accelerated by the Conservative government. As well, J-Source recently reported on evidence that the program had become politicized, citing a business development grant to Briarpatch that was recommended for approval, but then rejected at the directive of former Heritage minister James Moore without explanation.

Change may come

But change may come. The Liberal government’s push to examine and potentially radically alter Canada’s media laws may impact the fund. A standing committee on local media met throughout the winter, and consultations are coming on digital content creation, according to Marchand.

Marchand said that the switch to digital doesn’t seem to be as prominent in the world of magazines as it is in the newspaper industry. “Print is really strong (in magazines),” he said. But, he noted, more magazines now have a greater online presence. 

No changes will happen without consultation with the Canadian magazine industry, he added, noting that it would be at least a year until the Canada Periodical Fund sees major change, if any.

Until then, there is the recently launched pilot program to fund digital start-ups, which Marchand hopes will help the Fund cover a broader base of the industry.

H.G. Watson can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter.

Full disclosure: NCM currently receives funding from the federal Heritage Department's Canada Periodical Fund towards specific editorial and marketing-related projects. This reporting was republished with permission from J-source.ca

by Howard Ramos in Halifax 

Canada’s immigration system recruits the overwhelming majority of its immigrants to the country through economic pathways. 

Still, many highly educated and skilled economic immigrants struggle to find decent jobs and many end up working in the service sector, driving taxis or in other low-skill jobs to make ends meet. 

University of Windsor professor Reza Nakhaie’s research adds new insight to the debate on whether self-employment yields better economic advantages for immigrants. 

In the past, researchers found that self-employment leads to social and economic mobility. This was largely the case for immigrants who came to Canada during earlier waves of migration. Other research shows that new immigrants have low returns on self-employment and it might not pay off. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For many immigrants starting a business remains a key strategy for pursuing their dreams of a new life in Canada.[/quote]

Even so, for many immigrants starting a business remains a key strategy for pursuing their dreams of a new life in Canada and many come to the country through provincial pathways for entrepreneurs. 

Double disadvantage for ‘ethnic’ immigrants 

Published in the Canadian Review of Sociology, Nakhaie’s findings show that self-employment is not a magic solution for immigrants facing precarious work and that they are pushed into it as a survival strategy. 

Using census data, Nakhaie finds that generally immigrants who are self-employed earn less money than those who work for others through waged employment. He also finds that when comparing immigrants who are self-employed, those who are visible minorities earn significantly less than those who are not. 

This leads him to conclude that “there is a double disadvantage for minority immigrants … they are disadvantaged as visible minority and as immigrant.” 

 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"The larger the ethnic population, the more likely a need for specialized services."[/quote]

His research, however, shows that there are exceptions to these findings. 

Self-employed South Asians, Southeast Asians and Arabs earn more when they run their own business and more specifically, self-employed visible-minority immigrants in white-collar professions – such as law, medicine, or finance – earn more than immigrants working for wages. 

When asked to elaborate on these findings, Nakhaie notes, “It is important to break down categories of immigrant groups.”  

He adds that “the size of an ethnic community is important. The larger the ethnic population, the more likely a need for specialized services. But there is a disadvantage if the industry is overcrowded as can be the case with ethnic restaurants, food stores, or other services.” 

The need for a long-term plan 

As an immigrant from Iran, Nakhaie also struggled in the Canadian labour market when he first arrived. 

“As an immigrant I didn’t always have job opportunities,” he recalls. “I had to drive a cab, did dishwashing, and construction. All the time my friends said that I should start a business.” 

However, the professor came to Canada as a student with the goal of getting a university degree and he wanted to see that plan through. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]t is important that policies that support immigrant businesses recognize these obstacles and focus on low-interest loans.[/quote]

He explains that it is important for new immigrants to set objectives on what they want to accomplish in Canada and that is key to their successful integration. 

“Immigrants need a long-term plan. You won’t normally succeed in the first five years,” he says. “On average, several studies show a minimum of three years and a maximum of 11 to integrate into the economy … My advice is to set a goal. In the long run it should pay off.” 

Support for immigrant-owned businesses

When asked if his research can offer any insight to immigrants wishing to pursue their own business versus seeking waged employment, he says immigrants “should use their human capital, they have huge amounts of it, but not necessarily ‘Canadian’ experience or connections.” 

The lack of widespread networks is an obstacle to well-paid wage labour as well as a successful business. 

For this reason, Nakhaie says it is important that policies that support immigrant-owned businesses recognize these obstacles and focus on low-interest loans and ones based on business plans over collateral. 

This approach could lead to a better payoff for immigrants who are self-employed, he suggests.


Howard Ramos is a Professor of Sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada.

{module NCM Blurb} 

by Laura Payton 

The Liberals hope increasing the government’s target for new permanent residents to 300,000 will boost the economy, the 2016 federal budget says. 

The 2016 target is seven per cent higher than last year’s, and includes an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees the Liberals plan to resettle in Canada, on top of the 25,000 who arrived before the end of February.

The total cost for the 35,000 Syrian refugees is budgeted at $923 million over six years.

The Liberals promised in the election to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015, but it was quickly apparent it wasn’t possible to ramp up either the civil service or immigration settlement services in time to meet that goal. The government adjusted the deadline to Feb. 29 and hit that target instead.

The new 2016 target of 300,000 permanent residents will allow officials to “reunite families, offer a place of refuge to those fleeing persecution and support Canada’s long-term economic prosperity,” the government says in the budget, tabled Tuesday afternoon in Ottawa.


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca


by Marcus Medford in Toronto 

Settlement agencies in Canada’s Atlantic provinces are working closely with provincial governments to better service immigrants, but say they need federal support to attract newcomers to smaller communities.

The provinces and territories select which immigrants they want to accept based on their local economic needs. In the past 15 years, the number of immigrants settling in the Maritimes has increased, but their numbers remain the lowest of all the provinces, explained Ather H. Akbari, an economics professor at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. 

“Larger provinces are traditional destinations for immigrants and have established communities with multiple religious and ethnic institutions, which help immigrants with aspects of settlement, but [these resources] are scarce in Atlantic Canada,” he explained, while leading a workshop titled “Economic Integration of Immigrants in Atlantic Canada,” at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto earlier this month. 

The five steps of economic integration are home ownership, car ownership, citizenship, English proficiency and earning a better income said Akbari. These five things are indicators that newcomers to Canada are invested in their new destination and intend to stay. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][R]etention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities.[/quote]

Akbari noted that the retention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities. 

“If the networks are not instrumental then there is clearly a need for government policy and settlement agencies to play a larger role in immigrant settlement and integration,” he said. 

Resources for Entrepreneurs 

In New Brunswick, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has partnered with the government to provide financial support for French-speaking immigrant entrepreneurs in an effort to retain the francophone community. 

Attracting and retaining immigrants in rural areas can be difficult admitted Paul-Emile David, senior policy analyst for ACOA. David and ACOA work closely with businesses, governments and research institutions to find and develop entrepreneurial opportunities. 

“We offer programs, initiatives and support so entrepreneurial activities can take place in these areas,” he said. 

There are more than 40 Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) in Atlantic Canada, many of which are in rural areas. 

Entrepreneurial initiatives need access to financing, resources and business skills development courses, David explained. One example of this is Island Advance in Prince Edward Island, which stimulates entrepreneurial projects and helps immigrants recognize good business opportunities. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration.[/quote]

More funding for integration supports 

As of the end of February, 25,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada, and by the end of the year that total is expected to reach 50,000, making localized support for integration a key issue across the country. 

“We’re hoping that Ottawa will provide some strategic investments very soon in order to put the supports that are needed in place as soon as possible,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. 

He said he hopes that the new federal funding plan for the provinces and territories, along with help from local agencies, will speed up the process of matching immigrants and refugees with language courses. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration. 

It can take up to 16 months for newcomers to Canada to be accepted into federally funded language courses. Some have reported feeling “trapped” because of their lack of English knowledge, meaning they can’t fully interact with society. 

One of the reasons for the long wait-times to get into language programs is a lack of funding and resources. Wait-times also tend to be longer in bigger cities. 

Challenges with government-assisted stream

Of the 25,000 Syrian refugees more than half of them are government-assisted, the others are sponsored privately or with some support from the government. 

For refugees and immigrants alike, one of the most important steps to settling into Canada is finding a job and becoming economically independent. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][F]or some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income.[/quote]

Approximately 14 per cent of government-assisted refugees find work within their first year of being in Canada compared to more than 50 per cent of those who are privately assisted. 

“One of the unique challenges for government-assisted refugees is that they’re funded by the federal government for one year,” explained Nabiha Atallah, communications and outreach manager at the settlement agency ISANS (Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia). “After that they need to support themselves or go on social assistance, but they want to work. They really want to work.” 

Atallah spoke during the workshop about strategies for economic integration for immigrants. 

She explained that for some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income, but helps with overcoming the depression, frustration and feelings of loss of self or status that can accompany relocating. 

Even highly skilled immigrants with work experience, education and English proficiency are experiencing difficulty finding jobs, Atallah said. 

ISANS works with several companies to understand their employer needs and to develop training curricula so that immigrants and refugees know what it takes to work at a particular business or organization. 

Matching clients’ interests, skills and abilities with the right employers and planning with end goals in mind are some of the keys to successful job searching, Atallah explained. 

“We also do a lot of work with interview skills because a lot of that is culture-laden. In some countries they don’t have interviews at all and if they do, they don’t look like ours.”


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by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

New online programs are looking at how work is done in other parts of the world in order to more easily transfer newcomers’ skills to the Canadian job market. 

Abigail Fulton presented the British Columbia Construction Association's (BCCA) Integrating Newcomers program on Mar. 4 at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto. 

The program was one of two B.C.-based collaborative business plans showcased in the panel discussion “Facilitating Labour Market Integration to Skilled Trades”. The programs cater specifically to the construction market and offer an innovative way to reach immigrants who practise labour work in their home countries. 

“Many construction companies tend to look within their circles for hiring,” explained Fulton. “They employ their friends and family. Because of this, those who don’t fit into that category have a harder time finding work.” 

She explained that the integration program helps fill a gap, as 85 per cent of construction companies in B.C. have less than 10 employees.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]... [U]nderstanding how construction is done in other countries [is] research Fulton calls “invaluable.”[/quote]

An important aspect of the program is understanding how construction is done in other countries – research Fulton calls “invaluable.” 

Addressing competency gaps 

The BCCA Integrating Newcomers program focuses on assessing the skills of potential immigrants overseas as well as providing information about working and living in B.C., and later, employment leads. 

It is an example of several pre-arrival tactics that use online programs to properly survey, assess, mentor and inform newcomers about Canada’s workforce and labour market. 

Alongside this research is preparation for newcomers who want to settle in Canada and partake in the labour workforce. This is where the second business module called Facilitating Access to Skill Trades (FAST) comes into play. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know.”[/quote]

Sangeeta Subramanian of the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC of BC) and Lawrence Parisotto of British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) presented FAST as a competency assessment and gap training tool for skill trades individuals. 

Parisotto says the program is “explicit and direct.” 

“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know,” said Parisotto. “The way to do that is being contextual and dependent between our content so that it provides and addresses outcomes.”  

Getting credentials recognized in advance 

FAST’s online application is collaborated with Shift IQ, a cloud-based learning management company. 

Shift IQ provides detailed diagnostics, validation, gap identification, post assessments and contributes to the e-mentoring program that guides and coaches a person through understanding the trades and services. 

The research BCCA Integrating Newcomers and FAST partake in both concluded that one of the main things immigrants should complete pre-arrival is getting their credentials recognized. 

Similar advice was mentioned in the “Seamless Service from Pre- to Post-Arrival in Canada” workshop.  

Maha Surani, a senior program officer and stakeholder at the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) said that research done by Planning for Canada to align newcomers with sector specific jobs showed that 63 per cent of employers encouraged pre-arrival immigrants to have their credentials assessed. 

Surani spoke on Planning for Canada’s collaboration with Acces Employment, a company connecting employers with qualified employees from diverse backgrounds. 

“There’s nothing generic about our work, which enhances the program altogether,” said Sue Sadler, a senior director of services and program development at Acces. 

“We have sector-specific training, and then follow through with a job search,” explained Sadler. “We then have business communications with our clients, the employers. All of this is done to connect our pre-arrival candidates to employers.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]t is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity.[/quote]

Connecting with employers 

Acces Employment’s continuum module is enabled by online technology to enhance the job search of immigrants early on. The eight-week program caters to six sector-specific markets – engineering, human resources, finance, sales and marketing, supply chain and information technology. 

Markus Van Aardt, the business communications consultant behind the program, said that “folks are hungry for this information.” 

He explained the learning principle of the program: Immigrants usually start off being non-conscious and non-competent of the skills required for each of their desired job sectors. 

“I’ve walked in these folks’ shoes, it’s important to make sure they are in good hands,” said Van Aardt adamantly. 

“Newcomers want this information. They will drive you, and you don’t have to drive them. They will move quickly in the learning process, from being non-conscious, non-competence to conscious, [competence],” he said, using a diagram outlining the process of adult learning to illustrate his point. 

Enid Pico, senior vice-president and head of operations and share services at Scotiabank, spoke from an employer’s perspective. 

As the first female president of Scotiabank Puerto Rico and once a newcomer to Canada, she shared her encounters as a newcomer to the country and stated that while a pre-arrival program that prepares immigrants for job specific sectors is important, it is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity. 

“These cross-competency relationships are important. [Scotiabank] believes in diversity. It’s the right and smart thing to do,” said Pico. “Because of this, it’s important for us to find units and partners [like Planning for Canada and Acces] so that we can work with them to give us what we need.” 

Acces Employment and FAST’s pre-arrival modules will launch later on this year and the BCCA’s Integrating Newcomers program is now accepting applications.


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