Boom or bust, immigrants are choosing Alberta — and they’re thriving

June 12, 2018

By Ameya Charnalia, Edmonton Star |

Sheida Azimi arrived in Alberta amid one of the worst recessions in recent history.

Armed with a degree in public policy, Azimi moved to Edmonton from Iran following in the footsteps of her sister, who settled here a decade ago. As the price of oil fell below $40 a barrel in 2015, it became increasingly to difficult to find a job — not just in the once-booming oilpatch, but even outside the energy sector in Edmonton and Calgary.

Determined to stay in Alberta, Azimi doubled down on her efforts to find work.

“That was very difficult,” she said, recalling her first few months in Edmonton. “My background is in public policy, and I remember everywhere public policy was needed, there was a hiring freeze.”

Eventually, she was hired as a program co-ordinator at a downtown language institute called CCI-LEX, which teaches English to newcomers in the city.

Despite the economic slowdown, she points out, Alberta remains a top destination for newcomers to Canada — and the evidence backs that up.

Sandeep Agrawal, an urban planning professor at the University of Alberta, has spent months mapping immigration patterns to Alberta.

He found immigrant communities are not only thriving in Alberta’s two largest cities, but that they’ve continued to perform better economically — in spite of the drop in oil prices — than their counterparts outside the province.

“Even when the economy was going down, there were immigrants coming from other parts of the country and other parts of the world,” said Agrawal, whose research shows Edmonton and Calgary provided better economic opportunities to immigrants than other parts of the country.

Using Statistics Canada and Labour Force Survey data, Agrawal crunched the numbers to see how Alberta’s immigrant population sized up against immigrants elsewhere.

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