Celebrating Newcomers

“Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.” - The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

“Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.” - The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

This weekend, I saw one of my best friends get the biggest news of her life so far when she got a letter from the Canadian Government offering her permanent residency in Canada. Born in Jamaica to middle-income parents, she has spent the last two years struggling with finding a job, a place to stay and working her way through the bureaucracy of citizenship, all while facing the emotional roller-coaster of leaving her home and parents behind. It is not a easy task to uplift your life in the way she did, and I commend anyone that has accomplished such a feat. That is why we are choosing to celebrate the newcomers to Canada. In the face of growing adversity, we see a population ready and willing to chase the Canadian Dream.

Celebrating newcomers for keeping Canada growing

Immigrants play a vital role in keeping our population alive and thriving. As it stands, immigrants make up 22% of the Canadian population and are responsible for 71% of the population growth. With an ageing population and low fertility rates, immigrants have become vital to maintaining the Canadian population and its workforce, which is estimated to need another 350,000 annually to meet workforce needs. Immigrants bring with them diversity in both culture and knowledge, and have a tendency to be motivated, innovative and entrepreneurial, helping to drive business and trade between Canada and origin countries. Not only do immigrants play a vital role in Canada’s identity, but our acceptance of newcomers on humanitarian grounds demonstrates Canada’s compassion and leadership on the world stage and enhance our global standing.  

Celebrating newcomer innovation

Immigrants play a huge role in boosting Canada’s performance in the realm of innovation. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada’s innovation performance ranks 14th out of 17 industrial counties in their How Canada Performs Innovation report card. Acting as a source of diverse knowledge,  The report suggests that at least 35% of Canada Research Chairs are foreign born even though immigrants only make up one fifth of the population. However, immigrants, especially women still face challenges in their ability to display their genius in the workforce. However research continues to show that matching an organization's workforce to its clientele.

Celebrating newcomer women

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson is one of Canada’s most well-known immigrants, having served as the 26th Governor General of Canada as well as spending years as a CBC journalist. Known for having brought a new energy to the position, Clarkson was dedicated in her passion for the arts and sports, having created the Clarkson Cup for women’s hockey in September 2005.

However, immigrant women are still at a disadvantage to both immigrant-men and Canada-born women, even the immigration process itself is biased. By focusing on economic criteria, education, professional experience and official language ability, the application process disproportionately benefits men, especially from countries where women have less access. When women do immigrate to Canada, many of them do so under the “family class” which impacts their social and economic position in Canada. When the do get to Canada, immigrant women are often paid less and more likely to have their education discounted. According to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, visible minority newcomer women have one of the lowest annual incomes of a minority population making only $26,624, compared to visible minority newcomer men who make $35,574.

In 2018, the Liberal government earmarked $31.8 million for a pilot program to support newcomer women entering and staying in the workforce, but there is still more we can all do to help our fellow women:

  • Employment is key to successful integration in a new country, however many newcomer women report feeling denied opportunities because of their skin colour or accent. Management and human resource professionals should work to diversify hiring practices to include newcomer women.

  • Employers should allow for domestic/sexual violence leave as these are issues disproportionately faced by newcomer and racialized women. Companies need to value both physical and mental health in their workers.

  • Government should address precarious working conditions as newcomer women often take up the lowest paying jobs (i.e. retail, cleaning services, etc.). Newcomer women are already at an economic disadvantage due to the immigration process and so need higher paying jobs to establish economic independence.

In the face of growing tensions regarding immigration in countries like the US and even in some parts Canada, it is important for us to remember that almost all of us are ourselves immigrants or descendants of ones. We have no greater claim to this land than someone born in Syria, we were just lucky enough to be born here.