Commentary by Hamlin Grange in Toronto
While working as a television journalist with Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, in Toronto, I produced a documentary series on how new immigrants were settling in Canada. It was part of an effort by the CBC to celebrate Pier 21, the point of entry for up to one million immigrants to Canada from 1928 to 1971. Pier 21 was often called the "Gateway to Canada." Today it is a national historic site and museum.
For the series, TV cameras followed a man and his wife on their journey from Shanghai to Canada, and in their early weeks of settlement in Toronto. They had worked as electrical engineers in power plants in China. Now, like all new immigrants, they were starting over.
We were there when they moved into their one-bedroom apartment above a convenience store. We were there when they went to the local job placement office to search for jobs and to update and print off their resumes. And we there when they bumped up against the stark reality of discrimination.
I knew him by his real name, which was, of course, Chinese. His accented English was quite good because he studied English in China. We talked frequently during those weeks, exchanging phone calls to catch up on his efforts to find a job.
Then one day I got a message that “Andrew” had called. I didn’t recognize the name. Once I called back, I recognized his voice right away. He was the same person I’d been talking to all those weeks, except his new name was Andrew. I asked him why he had changed his name. He said that acquaintances in Toronto’s Chinese community had advised him to change his Chinese name to a “Canadian name” if he wanted to get a job. That’s what Chinese immigrants have to do, he was told. Once he changed his name, his phone began to ring.
I recalled that story as I read a Toronto Star story about a new study by University of Toronto researchers. According to the study, 40 per cent of non-white job seekers are “whitening” their resumes in order to get called for job interviews. Names such as the Chinese “Lei” become “Luke”.
That’s not the only change applicants are making to their resumes in their effort to ‘whiten’ their profiles.
Only 10 per cent of African-Canadians who included experience with African-Canadian organizations were invited to interviews, but that rate jumped to 25.5 per cent when they deleted that experience from their resumes.
I can certainly relate to this. When I was recruited by the CBC in the late 80’s, a manager on the hiring panel asked me if I could be “objective” covering the black community because he noticed I had indicated on my resume that I had volunteered with a few black community organizations.
I told him I could be objective and that because of my involvement in that community I had unique access to a community other reporters did not have. I also pointed out that my resume also included my volunteer work with the YMCA and that I am certain I would be able to objectively cover stories about the Y. I got the job.
Sonia Kang, the lead author of “Whitened Resumes, Race and Self-Representation in the Labour Market” says the findings show that job applicants from racial minority groups are fighting back against discrimination.
In our practice at DiversiPro, we have heard these stories over and over. They are not new. We have been told of immigrants changing their names, their accents and their experience to be more acceptable to other Canadians.
We’ve also heard from immigrants from former British or French colonies in the Caribbean and elsewhere whose European names have disguised their race or ethnicities until they turn up for a job interview – only to find the welcome mat withdrawn.
In the current political climate in the United States, and to a lesser degree even in Canada, many individuals are cautious about how they identify themselves. In a time of "travel bans" and screening for "Canadian values", it's no surprise some new immigrants may decide to minimize their differences in order to be accepted.
The encouraging news is that new immigrants and people from racial minority backgrounds are finding ways to adapt and work around a system that is not often based on merit but how well a hiring manager believes a job candidate will “fit” into the organization.
I have no doubt that such short-sightedness has deprived companies of competent, hardworking individuals who could have contributed to the bottom line.
by Don Curry in North Bay, Ontario
Economic development officers in the upper reaches of Northeastern Ontario have noticed a trend in the past few years — as businesses come up for sale the buyers are first generation immigrants to Canada.
They had no idea where the newcomers were coming from, how they found out about the business opportunity, how many businesses they own, how many people they employ, or much else.
Now they do.
I wrote about this trend for New Canadian Media in December, explaining why municipalities may be better off canvassing for new immigrants from within Canada's borders, rather than launching expensive international campaigns for potential newcomers from other regions of the world.
Working with the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre through a project sponsored by the Far Northeast Training Board, I travelled to Latchford, Temiskaming Shores, Earlton, Englehart, Kirkland Lake, Matheson, Timmins, Chapleau, Cochrane, Kapuskasing and Hearst in the summer and fall of 2016 to interview as many newcomer business people as possible. The full report is here.
Of a possible 55 business owners identified by economic development officers, 38 were interviewed, or 69 per cent. This extremely high sample number provides very reliable data.
So who are they?
The typical newcomer business owner in the Far Northeast Training Board catchment area is 44, originally from India but moved north from the Greater Toronto Area, owns a restaurant or fast food franchise, motel, convenience store, or gas station, has lived in Canada 13 years, has an average family size of 3.6, loves the beauty and tranquility of the north and plans to stay. The friendly people in the north, the lack of crime and congestion were the other top draws.
Together the 38 people interviewed own and operate 58 businesses, employ 206 people full-time, of whom 56 are family members, 139 part-time, and 20 seasonal. Almost half of them know people from southern Ontario who would move north for the right business opportunity.
Almost half found out about the business opportunity from friends or relatives, with real estate agents, franchise chains and online information cited by others. Two-thirds of those interviewed are originally from India, with the remainder from Pakistan, China, Egypt, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Iran and Belgium.
Twenty own restaurants or fast food franchises, 15 own motels, 10 own convenience stores, seven own gas stations and two own pharmacies. Others owned a landscaping business, nail salon, strip mall and a movie theatre.
Where they come from
Twenty-four of the 38 people interviewed moved north from the GTA. The remainder came from Montreal, Saskatchewan, Windsor, Orillia, India, Kitchener-Waterloo, Gravenhurst, Hamilton, London England, Florida, Vancouver, Fenelon Falls and Belleville. Seventy-nine per cent say they feel connected to the town they live in and plan to stay.
Gejal Gandhi, 35, and her husband Keyur own the Casey’s Restaurant, Esso gas bar and convenience store and the Park Inn Motel in Kapuskasing. They employ 10 full-time and 25 part-time people. They moved to Kapuskasing from Cochrane and lived in Toronto prior to that. They have been in Canada 17 years, are from India, and have two children.
“We bought the Park Inn Motel first,” she says. “We had a motel in Cochrane and sold it. Once we were in Kapuskasing we found the Esso, and then the same thing for the restaurant. There was a sign and we contacted the owner and went through the process.” They have lived in Kapuskasing for four years.
Minesh Prajapati, 44, is originally from India and owns and operates the Subway franchise in Kirkland Lake. In addition he is in partnership with Indian friends in Mattawa who own the Subway there and together they own Subway franchises in Hearst and Englehart.
Change in careers
“I bought the business primarily for my wife,” he says. “She was working in a Subway but was just getting minimum wage. I was a banker doing lending and mortgages. Next year my wife will take over this store and I will be more like managing it. I can go back to banking if I want. They are still calling me.
“Right now, though, the way it is going, I don’t think I’m going back to the bank. Every year we are buying one more Subway.” He has lived in Canada 10 years and moved to Kirkland Lake from Brampton.
With six full-time and two part-time employees in Kirkland Lake, Prajapati says his two part-timers were hired through a special needs program and are doing very well. He says he attends Subway conventions twice a year “and that’s when people spread the news that they would like to sell.”
David Mohamed owns Willis Pharmacy in Matheson, where he is the sole pharmacist. Born in Egypt, he has been in Canada six years and moved to Matheson from Belleville. A couple of friends owned the business and he became a partner recently, after working at the Matheson location for 18 months.
“I decided to purchase because I like working with them and it was a good opportunity in the north,” he says. “Here you are alone in the business and we don’t have any nearby pharmacies.”
Louiz Soliman is also a pharmacist from Egypt. He owns Smallman Pharmacy in Temiskaming Shores. He moved to Haileybury from Montreal to take over the business a year ago. He came to Canada from Greece seven years ago. I asked him if he knew Mr. Mohamed. He said he did not, and asked “where is Matheson?”
If people ask him about moving north to start or purchase a business he says “I would tell them it’s a good area. The people are very polite. It’s a safe area.”
Peter Patel, 67, owns three motels, a restaurant and convenience store in Chapleau, employing 25 to 30 people. He and his partners also own a motel in Fenelon Falls, near Peterborough.
Starting from scratch
Another large employer is Siva Mylvaganam, 49, of Timmins. His is a Canadian success story. He came to Canada as a refugee from Sri Lanka and Siva’s Family Restaurant in Timmins Square now employs 35 people with the restaurant and catering business. In addition, he has a commercial real estate sideline where he employs another one or two people, depending on business activity.
Very well known in Timmins, he started the business from scratch in 1996. “When I came to Canada I had no English so I worked as a dishwasher, and in a car factory. There were layoffs so I worked in a restaurant and became a cook, and then a chef, and then opened my own business. I found this location and I thought Timmins would never be really high, or really low, because it is a mining town.
“I loved smaller towns because I was born and raised in a small village. I lived in Toronto and it wasn’t my place to live. I always go back but I never enjoy it. It’s not like here. People always say ‘Hi Siva, how are you doing?’ and I ask them about their family. It’s not like that in Toronto.”
Amjinber Cheema , ( “the locals call me Ami”) is typical of the younger entrepreneurs from India settling in the north. Only 28, his wife just joined him in Latchford from India. He came to Canada as a student and in his seven years here he lived in Saskatoon, Regina and Toronto before arriving in Latchford to purchase The Dam Depot, a gas station and convenience store.
“There is value for money in the north,” he says. “The winters are harsher but you get used to it. Compared to the bigger cities like Toronto and Ottawa you get value for your money.” He feels connected to the people of Latchford and laughs that “after I was here for two months they appointed me the honourary Indian ambassador to Latchford. It was in the paper. It was very nice.”
Sam Singh, 24, owns the Mac’s franchise in New Liskeard and is another of the young people from India making their mark in the north. He also came to Canada as a student and started in his business a year ago. “Young people like me don’t have much opportunity,” he says. “From here I can get a start. I am learning a lot of things. It’s a small community and I get involved. In the future if I am going to buy a bigger business I won’t have a problem. For everyone, a small town is the best place to start a business.”
Roger Gandhi, 58, was born in India but has been in Canada 40 years. He is typical of the older immigrant from India who is now well established. He lives in Earlton and owns and operates the Earlton Motel and Coté’s Variety. In addition he owns the mall where the variety store operates, plus the Regal Motel in Timmins.
Navin Tamakuwala, 67, is another. He owns the Thriflodge and Terry’s Steakhouse in Cochrane and has 14 full-time and five part-time employees there. He lives in Montreal most of the year and owns a Sobey’s grocery store there. Also from India, he has lived in Canada for 44 years.
While North Bay was not part of the study area, it has more than 70 first-generation immigrant-owned businesses. Its cricket team is dominated by young entrepreneurs from India. The same is true of cricket teams in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Timmins. Together they are changing the face of Northern Ontario and investing in its future.
Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting (www.curryconsulting.ca) He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre and is now chair of the board of directors.
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.
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
Credit: SFU News, Vancouver, Canada.
As Canadians are being invited to play a key role in the future of innovation for the country, a public dialogue at SFU's Wosk Centre for Dialogue on September 8 (6:30-8:30 pm) will provide a unique opportunity to add your voice to the discussion.
The event will give entrepreneurs, employees, students, social innovators and the general community the chance to share their ideas and vision for Canada's Innovation Agenda, with the view to (...)
The Patriotic Vangaurd
I was talking with my good friend James (real person, but name changed) the other day and he wasn’t very happy. But first let me tell you a little bit about James. He has spent his whole retirement living here in Ontario — he is 83 and first started drawing his UK State Pension in 1990.
At that time he was paid £46.90/week, which in those days meant he was getting about $90/week; this was when gas cost 59 cents/litre, and a loaf of bread cost just 70 cents.
Today, because of the UK’s “frozen” pension policy, James is still getting £46.90/week, which immediately after the Brexit vote converted to $79/week — the British pound instantly fell 18% against the loonie. Meanwhile the cost of gas has gone up to 94 cents/litre ($1.15/litre in Western Canada), and a loaf of bread is now nearly $3. How can anybody be expected to live on 80 bucks a week?
Brits in Toronto
by BJ Siekierski in Ottawa
As Donald Trump wrapped up the Republican convention Thursday evening with a speech that played to Americans’ fears about the economy, illegal immigration and national security, many wondered aloud whether Canadian politics might be susceptible to his kind of populist appeal to the disaffected.
New polling from EKOS Research suggests the answer to that question, for the time being, is no: Most Canadians have a positive outlook, aren’t concerned about their economic future and value “openness” over “order” — even if they do believe the world is a more dangerous place than it was five years ago.
Earlier this month, from July 8 to 14, EKOS surveyed a random sample of 1,003 Canadians (with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20) on a range of subjects, recruiting them by phone to take online surveys.
They found a country that is, for the most part, seeing the glass as half-full.
Given a choice of a few adjectives to describe their current outlook on life, almost three-quarters of Canadians (73 per cent) said they were either “happy” or “hopeful”, compared to only 22 per cent who were “discouraged” and two per cent who were “angry”.
Anxiety over economy
There are certainly pockets of Canada that have seen job losses as a result of NAFTA and trade liberalization more generally — versions of Donald Trump’s “communities crushed by horrible and unfair trade deals” — but that hasn’t translated into collective anxiety about the economy.
Three in 10 Canadians do agree with the statement that they’ve lost all control over their economic future — but almost half (48 per cent) don’t, and one in five are agnostic.
“In addition to the clear lean to a positive emotional outlook, the incidence of those who feel they have lost ‘all control’ over their economic futures, although still significant, is actually lower than what we saw in the late 1990s. A sense of lost control is linked to a more negative emotional outlook and is strongly linked to the more economically vulnerable in society,” write EKOS President Frank Graves and EKOS research analyst Jeff Smith.
On one subject, however — safety — that sanguine feeling seems to disappear.
“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life,” Trump said Thursday evening.
Most Canadians appear inclined to agree. Only one in 20 (5 per cent) think the world is safer than it was five years ago, compared to 60 per cent who think it’s more dangerous and 34 per cent who think it’s about the same.
“It is disturbing to see how the public are seeing the balance of danger and safety in the world,” Graves and Smith write. “A rational review of the evidence would suggest that objective risks and safety of North Americans have improved over the last decade. But the emotional response to risk perception is egregiously different.”
Those results need to be put in perspective. No more than 12 per cent of Canadians have ever felt the world is safer than it was five years ago. That said, as recently as 2012, more thought the world hadn’t become any more dangerous.
To the extent that there is a large portion of the population worried about terrorist attacks, rising crime levels and the like, the next question becomes: What are they prepared to do about it?
Is there any appetite to build walls — even metaphorical ones — and suspend immigration? Or to embrace more authoritarian “law and order” governance?
It doesn’t look like it — at least for now.
Order vs. openness
EKOS asked Canadians to choose between a set of different values in what they call “forced choice questions”: openness versus order; respect for authority versus individual freedom; good behaviour versus creativity; morality versus reason and evidence; obedience versus questioning authority.
“When we summarize the results we find that overall a clear majority of Canadians lean to openness (54 per cent) versus the not insignificant minority who favour order (33 per cent). These numbers, while rough, suggest that an authoritarian or ordered outlook is less common in Canada than the United States (according to PEW who found over half of Americans to be authoritarian),” Graves and Smith write.
If drawing concrete conclusions about Canadians’ appetite for a Trump-like figure — or at least for the values he espouses — is a pretty subjective exercise, other recent EKOS polling has gotten at the subject more directly.
In June, EKOS asked what kind of impact Canadians thought a Trump presidency would have on Canada. Only 6.8 per cent thought it would be positive.
Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca
With Canada's economy still stuck in what is best described as neutral, you would think Canadian workers would be clamouring to scoop up what are reported to be scarce jobs across the country.
We know there has been an exodus of workers beating a path towards the Calgary airport as the battered oil patch bleeds jobs and sends workers back to their home provinces.
We've seen this kind of labour mobility reversal before and will likely see it again as the resource sectors continue to go through boom-and-bust cycles, changing the patterns of labour market mobility within Canada.
But this kind of high-profile migration obscures the fact that localized and regionalized labour market shortages are in still in play in many locations across the country, including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. Employers continue to struggle to match open positions with qualified (and available) job candidates.
A 2014 report by Miner Management Consultants estimates a labour force shortage of close to 2 million workers in Canada by 2031. That's an entire major city's worth of workers. It is also important to note that many positions continue to sit vacant today in semi- or lower-skilled occupational job categories in which Canadians are not lining up to work. Many of which are in the agriculture and agri-food sector, including 90,000 anticipated shortages in agriculture and 32,500 anticipated in food processing, as of 2015.
It must be remembered that the official unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent only tells part of the labour story. The other part shows that the current job vacancy rate is 2.5 per cent, representing some 316,000 open full-time, part-time and temporary positions.
Although the vacancy rate is down from the fourth quarter of 2015, it shows that employers still have a hard time filling roles across all skill levels and sectors. This makes sense. A skilled oil-field services worker used to making $80,000 per year is not lining up to move to a rural community to take a job in a slaughter house or processing plant.
We also have the other phenomenon of our system pushing young people to achieve higher and higher levels of education, only to find they cannot find related employment despite their mountains of debt. While teaching is a noble profession, we continue to stream (and fund) thousands of young people into university education programs despite grim job prospects.
I'm pleased to report the new federal government is showing signs it better understands the disconnect between labour shortages and the unemployment rate than the previous one.
While the federal government has indicated it will conduct a wholesale review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), they also announced last month that they would temporarily ease restrictions for seasonal industries that use the TFWP, allowing them to bring in an unlimited number of workers for up to 180 days.
One of these days we're going to have to admit that even with wage hikes, terrific employers and focused recruiting, most Canadians remain unlikely to consider working at a fish plant or as a meat cutter, or even cleaning rooms at a hotel. If we're not going to take these jobs or encourage our kids to consider these jobs (but we still want these businesses in Canada), then we're best to allow some folks from elsewhere to come and take them.
Like many Canadians and international observers, I am proud to see the way Canadians rallied to welcome refugees from around the world. The significant bump in Syrian refugees to Canada is not only a credit to the new government, but provides a potential pool of labour for employers in months and years to come.
However, I remain concerned that the increase in refugee numbers has meant a cut in the number of economic immigrants Canada plans to welcome this year. Although the country is targeting up to 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016, the number categorized as economic immigrants is actually down from 2015. About 162,400 spots are guaranteed in this class, down from last year's 181,000. By contrast, the number of government-assisted refugees is up 284 per cent from 2015.There is serious work to do in order to tilt towards a growth-oriented immigration strategy, which includes a pathway to Canadian citizenship for temporary foreign workers. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business’s (CFIB) Introduction to Canada visa proposal is one such idea to replace the temporary foreign workers with a pathway to permanent residency.
Economic immigration has always been the lifeblood of Canada's economic success and has played a key role in the building of our great nation. While our immigration system has many goals, employers have a priority to ensure that immigrants of all skill levels are able to come to Canada for jobs where they struggle to find Canadians to fill them. I'm confident we can get there.
Dan Kelly is President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, taking direction from more than 109,000 members.
By arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post
by Justin Kong in Toronto
While many Americans may be declaring their intent to immigrate to Canada if Donald Trump becomes President, this migratory trend towards the north is not a new phenomenon.
Historically, everyone from runaway slaves to draft dodgers and individuals of the LGBTQ community could be found among the different waves of American migrants coming to Canada. In more recent years, this flow has remained sizeable, with Americans being the sixth-largest source of immigrants in 2013.
Yet, Americans in Canada don’t fit most popular notions of immigrants and public discussions usually portray them as invisible immigrants or “expats.” They also appear to perform economically better than other immigrants, and many are also taking up key positions in the fields of arts, culture, and politics.
Higher cultural-economic capital
There is some belief that this stems from the fact that American immigrants have higher cultural-economic capital than other immigrants. A sector where this is particularly apparent is within Canada’s post-secondary education system.
Ongoing research on the changing landscape of academia in Canadian universities by PhD students at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Francois Lachapelle and Patrick John Burnett, has found that among Canada’s U3 universities (UBC, University of Toronto and McGill University) almost 66 per cent of tenured professors in 2015 were American-trained.
Rougher approximation tests conducted by Lachapelle suggest that half (33 per cent) of these are American immigrants.
Effects on Canadian academics
Rima Wilkes, who researches immigration at UBC, suggests looking back to the 1960s to understand the phenomenon of American academics in Canadian universities.
“[That was] when the Canadian university system saw a massive expansion,” she explains. “There weren’t enough Canadian-trained PhDs to fill the jobs. So it made sense to hire people from other countries [such as the U.S.] because we didn’t have the skills base.”
Wilkes notes that since then, however, Canadian universities have produced more and more PhD candidates. “So now [even though] we have the skill base, in some cases Canadians with PhDs still don’t get those [tenured] jobs.”
All of this is happening in a context where academic employment in both Canada and the U.S. is becoming more precarious. With the intensification of competition and fewer tenured and economically secure academic jobs in the U.S., aspiring American academics look abroad. Canadian institutions, such as the U3, have been eager to receive them.
Louise Birdsell Bauer, who researches precarity in academia at the University of Toronto, says that the preference of hiring American-trained academics stems “from institutional traditions combined with a growing inequality in prestige and training” between Canadian-trained and U.S.-trained academics.
These factors, Birdsell Bauer explains, do in fact contribute to the “increas[ing] academic precarity for Canadian-trained PhDs,” who face intensified competition with American-trained academic immigrants for these jobs.
'Colonial inferiority complex'
Other researchers say that the preference and prevalence of American academics in Canadian universities actually speaks to broader attitudes in Canadian academia.
Thomas Kemple is an immigrant from the United States. He has been a professor at UBC for more than two decades and now serves as an executive member of the UBC Faculty Association.
“In some ways, Canadian universities suffer from a kind of ‘colonial inferiority complex’ where ‘our own’ could never be quite as ‘excellent’ as academics produced in the U.S.,” he says. “We hear versions of this argument from deans and department heads who value degrees from certain U.S. universities over their Canadian counterparts, [and] often without checking the content and quality of the applicant.”
Unlike the experiences of many immigrants who come from regions such as Asia, Africa or Latin America who are unable to turn their credentials into positive labour market performance and economic well-being, academic immigrants from the U.S. sometimes experience the reverse.
Kemple says whether or not the prevalence of American academics in Canadian universities should be an issue of concern is something to think about.
“There has certainly been some discussion in recent years among faculty – but I’ve never heard it among administrators – about whether an affirmative action or diversity policy should be implemented for Canadian-born or Canadian-educated applicants for university positions.”
Wilkes similarly notes that she has seen some discussion around this trend stating “that it is often American-born or trained scholars who are leading this [discussion].”
There is some evidence to suggest that American academic immigrants in Canadian universities appear to be on the statistical upswing.
Lachapelle, who continues his research at UBC, is finding that amongst the U3 and many other Canadian universities there has actually been a “small, but statistically significant increase in the number of American academic immigrants in Canadian universities between 2008 and 2015.”
It seems American academics will continue to come to Canada, regardless of who becomes the next president of the United States.
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Commentary by Winnie Hwo in Vancouver
The much-anticipated first federal budget from the new Liberal government was unveiled on March 22. To describe the general reactions, they would be “Wow,” “Oh,” and maybe even, “Oh no.”
I was all “Yay!” and this is why.
I am a Chinese-Canadian mother with a university-aged child. I also work for one of the most respected environmental organizations in the country, after a long career in journalism.
For someone with my kind of profile, I tend to want my country to be cleaner, greener and friendlier. I want this because it is good for my health, my child’s health, our lives and his future.
For a decade, people like me were frozen out of the federal government’s national policy equation because our previous federal government was only interested in pushing fossil fuels.
The consequences of this are known: our major trading partners like the U.S. and China have spent the last decade developing their clean-tech industry and green infrastructure. We are grossly behind in this very competitive new economy.
A struggling Canadian economy
As it turns out, our previous government was also reluctant to invest in our infrastructure, while it continued to take in more immigrants.
One thing about accepting more immigrants is that while newcomers help our country grow, they also increase demands for housing, transportation and other services.
We know many new Canadians gained acceptance to our country by paying millions of dollars for investment funds to contribute to the nation’s economy even before they landed.
One would expect that this money would be invested in areas to strengthen our economy, like in our clean-tech sectors and aging infrastructures. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Over a billion of taxpayer dollars were invested in the fossil fuel industry in the form of oil sand subsidies.
As world oil prices plunge, so does our dollar. Today, Canadians struggle in the low-dollar reality and find ourselves stuck, with little room to juggle.
While workers in the oil sands industry are losing their jobs fast, those in the manufacturing sectors are only recently seeing their job prospects improve slightly.
Long overdue attention to First Nations
The investment in our First Nations communities is also commendable.
As immigrants, we came to Canada mostly for better job opportunities, clean water, air and food security.
Unfortunately, these are not always afforded to our Aboriginal Peoples. For those who live on reserves especially, their water supply is often compromised due to irresponsible mining.
When their only source of water is contaminated, they pay with their health and lives.
For generations, our First Nations people have had to see their loved ones, often small children, suffering serious health challenges because their homes were badly built, their water supply was contaminated and hope was always too far to reach.
The $8.4 billion funding for our First Nations communities is long overdue.
Welcoming a new era
The new Liberal budget is important to me because it signifies a new direction or even the dawn of a new era, if you will.
The vision I keep seeing is a huge ocean liner called Canada changing course in the high seas, making waves and making its passengers feel bumpy, disrupted or even unsettled.
But if we take a deep breath and think about it, the reason we feel so shell-shocked by this new budget is because a lot of the big-ticket items were not even addressed by the previous government.
The move to a new and green economy is a reality. Some might even say inevitable.
It would be wonderful if Canadians were served a gradual change, of course, but the 10 years of relying on oil and closing our ears to the call for help from our First Nations people by the Harper government means our journey from here on will likely feel a little bumpier.
Yes, we will have to spend a little time to play catch up, but I know Canadians are resilient and hard working. As long as we work together and support each other, I have no doubt we will make the journey.
Winnie Hwo joined David Suzuki Foundation’s Climate Change Team in 2010 after a long and stellar career in journalism. She is passionate about Canada’s multicultural policy and healthy environment.
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-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit