Canadian Immigrants are Innovators

October 29th, 2010

The current Canadian immigration selection system favours skilled immigrants. They are viewed as part of the solution to the problem of an aging population and shrinking workforce. But beyond this, immigrants are making Canada more innovative and that is a good thing according to a just-released report by the Conference Board of Canada, entitled “Immigrants as Innovators”. The report indicates that “innovation” is now the fundamental driver of output and productivity and it is critical for a country’s continued economic growth.

Lester Thurow, the eminent economist and former dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management believes that the world has fundamentally changed. According to Thurow, the “old foundations of success are gone. For all human history the source of success has been the control of natural resources—land, gold, oil. Suddenly, the key to success is ‘knowledge’” and in particular, the ability to exploit the value of knowledge. Simply put, innovative individuals use their knowledge and creativity to turn information and ideas into value. They have become the most important currency for industrialized countries and businesses. The report purports to evaluate the extent to which immigrants are contributing to innovation in Canada and concludes that they are making a positive difference.

This finding should come as no surprise because immigrants, by definition, are motivated go-getters, who are ready to face the challenges of migrating to a new country and take risks in their desire for greater gains. They are looking for a better life, a better way—and that, after all, is the very essence of innovation. In the past, immigrants have been recognized in Canada as a source of low-skilled labour. They played a large role in building our railways, helped on farms and toiled in our mines and factories. Today’s economic immigrants are a different breed. They are likely to hold a university degree, a skilled trade certificate, or have experience in the management of a business. As a group, they tend to be highly ambitious. After all, we are talking about voluntary migration here. Most immigrants to Canada nowadays come from developing nations and while it is true to say that there is more opportunity in Canada, the vast majority of their fellow nationals choose to stay where they are. The immigration journey is not for the faint of heart.

As proof of the premise that Canadian immigrants are innovators and drivers of our economy, consider the following list of enterprises and guess what they all have in common.

• Research in Motion – of Blackberry fame

• Barrick Gold – the world’s largest gold producer

• Magna International – international auto parts giant

• Future Shop – Canada’s largest electronics retailer

• Roots – the iconic Canadian clothing retailer

Yes, that’s right, all of the above were founded by Canadian immigrants. And it’s not just the big guys. The next time you walk by a green grocer or through a food court, take note of the entrepreneurship and the cultural diversity all around you.

Employers too are starting to come around to the idea that a culturally diverse workforce is a sure way to boost output and productivity. Rather than discounting foreign experience, leading Canadian companies such as XEROX Canada, Pratt and Whitney Canada, and the Steam Whistle Brewing Company have implemented policies to take full advantage of the world class talent that now calls Canada home. They have seen enhanced productivity as a result.


As a final note, I want to offer my congratulations to Naheed Nenshi, the mayor-elect of Calgary. Given no chance of victory at the outset, this 38 year old son of immigrant parents electrified voters with a new vision of what the city could be. He talked of big ideas and a detailed, transparent roadmap of how to get there. The electorate overwhelmingly nodded in agreement. Among voters, his religion (Ismaili Muslim), ethnicity (Indian by way of Tanzania) and local origin (a visible minority Calgary neighbourhood) proved to be non-issues.

Good luck to you Mr. Mayor. You are every immigrant parent’s dream and every immigrant naysayer’s nightmare.

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14 Responses to “Canadian Immigrants are Innovators”

  • On October 30th, 2010, farhana said ...

    my dream comes true

  • On October 30th, 2010, farhana said ...

    this is making us hopeful to go to canada

  • On November 1st, 2010, Anonymous said ...

    Really it’s encouraging note or report. Therefore we have been migrating over there.

  • On November 1st, 2010, Anonymous said ...

    I am a Canadian citizen. My husband, a recent immigrant, applied for a entry-level job in a career related to his field. He was interviewed, and then a second time. He was then hired for the management position while a number of Canadian citizens who had been with the company for a long time were given the entry-level positions. I think this is an example of the drive and skill that some immigrants bring with them.

    While a lot of Canadians complain that immigrants are “taking our jobs”, I think that a lot of Canadians just aren’t prepared to put in the commitment, determination, and strong work ethic–not to mention the focus on innovation–(I guess I am saying that many of us Canadians are all too comfortable with the status quo). So I applaud immigrants who are looking for “something better” and becoming a strong driving force in our country.

  • On November 2nd, 2010, Anonymous said ... is a very richfull source of knowledge which provides facts and figures including the process of immigration to Canada benifiting both for the people interested in seeking the information about immigration and the Canadian Government itself to step up near to its targets and keeping national immage as clear as crystal.

  • On November 2nd, 2010, Sabeen said ...

    I want to ask Sir, if immigrants are proving to be useful to canadians then why had they chnaged the skilled worker lists or prefessions as i saw that there were no eligibility of software engineers and all, so are they not useful? and last but not least is there any plan for changing this list again in coming future, i mean do you think that Software engineers, teachers, it people will be allowed to immigarte through skilled worker programs and if yes then how long will it take , as i m also waiting for immigrating to canada and i am senior software engineer


    Dear David,

    Yes, I agree. I see, for example, that Sasketchawan has an investor PNP program which prioritises nomination based on an ability to commercialise patents, and that many others are predicated on post-secondary education, a key building block to developing the dynamic Canada of the future that we all want. Daniel Robinson

  • On November 4th, 2010, Anonymous said ...

    Congratulations to Mr. Mayor. In fact skills and potentiality are respected all over the world be it from immigrant or born citizen. A society identifies them from a crowd of diverse population . And a consumer population has been proven to be inevitable for all innovations. A society requires skills at all levels though always markes new heights of benchmark. Innovation of coverging all financial services under one roof was also an innovation in the 80s decade and rided on pigs back until the 20’s decade. While ‘slow and steady’ is a strain on patience on the other hand ” fast and consistent ” is troubled with uncerainty . Choice and decision is always ours-which includes our elected leaders – the authorisers of our majority vision .

  • On November 5th, 2010, Anonymous said ...

    It’s amazing where focus, commitment, determination and dependence on God can take you to. Young Mayor we are very PROUD of you! Thanks for setting the PACE for me.

  • On November 6th, 2010, Bewildered in the USA said ...

    I don’t understand. I have a Ph.D. and years of experience in a tenure-track college position, and yet according to CIC’s Eligibility Tool, I’m not eligible to immigrate to Canada because I don’t have a job offer. This is creating a catch-22; I have to have a job offer to be a permanent resident, but for most job offers to be a college or university professor, I have to have permanent residency. Did no one foresee this situation for would-be immigrants such as myself?

  • On November 10th, 2010, software janitor said ...

    @Sabeen: You see, that’s the tragedy associated with migrating to Canada. It is an extremely beautiful country and with a very high standard of living. Yet, they are actually recognizing through this “list of high-demand occupations” that they don’t have career opportunities for SW engineers and other kinds of professionals. And they could have if they truly wanted! San Francisco has Silicon Valley. New York has Wall Street. London has City of London and Canary Wharf. Honk Kong has become the world’s third largest financial center. They need STRATEGIC THINKING and MORE AMBITION. Could Toronto become a similar location? Yes, it could. It definitely could. I mean, why not? Take a look at Switzerland for example. They are attracting a lot of businesses from the UK and other countries to Geneva, Zug and Zurich by offering lower taxation, less regulation, more fiscal predictability and so on. Certainly, Canada could do the same. Canada has to attract not only immigrants, but also CAPITAL. And then you will also have the opportunities.

  • On December 4th, 2010, Darryl Cooper said ...

    I wish that I will be able to migrate to Canada from next year & start a new life from there.

  • On August 29th, 2012, Anonymous said ...

    Immigration is quickly killing this country. Civil rights as workers and females have deminished with the influx of 3rd world implementation.Crime-rate and the lack of cleanliness has sky-rocketed especially in urban centres where immigrants are at their greatest.Please stop erovisive flooding of this country

  • On September 30th, 2012, Anon2 said ...

    I agree with the very last statement. Although there are immigrants who can contribute positively, many more don’t. Then there are reports on those who actually work and considered good people are deported, while many more who should be turned away or shot at the border have been leeching off the system, wholly disrespecting Canadian and other cultures here, and act so entitled.

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