Immigrants are an enormous benefit, says professor

September 15, 2016

By Lynn Desjardins, Radio Canada |

Immigrants who come to Canada are “highly entrepreneurial” and are “an enormous benefit to Canadian prosperity” says Bessma Momani, a professor at the University of Waterloo and fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a policy think tank.She has looked at statistics and anecdotal information and concludes newcomers are a net benefit and not a cost to Canadian Society.

Immigrants have ‘a form of gumption’

Whether immigrants come to Canada with large sums to invest, higher education or nothing at all, they tend to be highly entrepreneurial and more likely than Canadians to start their own businesses, she says. “It seems like it’s a form of gumption, a form of ‘I can do it, I’ve been through the worst and I can take risks.’

“This whole concept of the immigrant who comes to a foreign land—that on its own is an entrepreneurial experience–they’re more apt to take risks.” Beyond that Momani thinks It is easier to take risks in Canada because there are cushions such as social services that can support a person should their business fail.

Immigrants go beyond what people think they do

People may think immigrants mostly open businesses like ethnic restaurants or grocery stores, but Momani says they do much more and in greater numbers than those born in Canada. She cites many large companies that were started by newcomers such as Magna international, BlackBerry, Saputo and Shopify. Immigrants start businesses of all sizes in many sectors.

There are more newcomers involved in the information and communication technology sectors and they are more likely to innovate and invest in research and development. While many Canadians businesses focus on exporting their products to the United States, immigrant entrepreneurs diversify and export to other markets as well. And those who join established companies often help open foreign markets for them.

Immigrants make international connections

“(Immigrants are) very valuable. They contribute to the economic growth of this country. They obviously add, for lack of a better term, a flavour to this country that allows us to experience the world here at home,” says Momani.

“They’re far more entrepreneurial and able to tap into foreign markets which helps us in terms of our overall trade position and our global position. And they also make international connections for us…

“There’s an overall net benefit that I think is a story that is just not told internationally today with the rise of these unfortunate xenophobic and racist parties around the globe.”

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