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New Canadian Entrepreneurs: An Underappreciated Contribution to Canadian Prosperity?


Too often, immigration to Canada is viewed as a cost to our society, rather than as a net benefit. This 6 Degrees-CIGI report is intended to start a discussion about the economic benefits of immigration. It is not intended to take away from the normative and moral argument of why immigration is a good thing; we also need to change the conversation about immigration from being a burden or a cost to society to one about how it benefits Canadian prosperity. This Canadian story needs to be told now more than ever. From Europe to the United States, countries are increasingly becoming inhospitable to immigrants, and the talk of walls and quotas exceeds that of showcasing their contribution to prosperity.

Canada’s story includes the fact that immigrants are highly entrepreneurial across all categories of entry — whether they come to Canada with a million dollars to invest, have a Ph.D. and hope to land work or arrive with nothing but the shirt on their back to seek political stability — putting into question our past emphasis on investor class immigrants. Canadian immigrants are more likely than Canadian-born people to start their own businesses. They employ other Canadians, innovate new products and services, disrupt business as usual, and generate wealth and prosperity for Canada and all Canadians.

Entrepreneurial immigrants do more than open convenience stores, ethnic restaurants or dry cleaners (the businesses many people may think of when they think about immigrant entrepreneurs); increasingly, they bring “creative destruction” to our knowledge sector. Canadian immigrant entrepreneurs are more likely to innovate, invest in research and development, and introduce a new product, than other businesses.

Immigrant entrepreneurs are not just diversifying our choice of products in Canada; they are also diversifying our exports. In a highly competitive global environment where Canadian rms must take advantage of rising purchasing power in more populous countries, pursue new and untapped markets to reduce risks from uctuations in the domestic market, and nd younger demographics in foreign markets, immigrant entrepreneurs are highly successful.

While Canadian businesses are notoriously risk averse and concentrate their exports to the United States for ease of doing business, immigrant entrepreneurs challenge this corporate culture and are far more likely to seek out new markets beyond our southern neighbour. Immigrant entrepreneurs take advantage of international networks and markets, exporting far more than other businesses.

The businesses owned by immigrant entrepreneurs range from small-scale businesses on Main Street to the corporate giants on Bay Street. It may come as a surprise that Canada’s list of wealthiest individuals includes many immigrants who started businesses in Canada. Corporations such as Magna International, BlackBerry, Saputo, Larco and Shopify, to name a few, were started by immigrants to Canada, and are now among the largest employers and generators of wealth in the country.

Many immigrant entrepreneurs praise Canada for what it has to o er them, but this often has less to do with its liberalized business regulations than with the celebrated Canadian way of life. Immigrant entrepreneurs choose Canada not because of the ease of doing business or because of access to nance and capital, but for the appreciation for diversity.

This positive narrative does not mean we can rest on our laurels. ere is a lot of work to be done on improving funding for research and development, supporting and facilitating patenting, strengthening the intellectual property rights regime in Canada with better protection and enforcement, and improving the quality of universities to be truly world-class. Nevertheless, we are doing something right in this country. We may not be excelling in global rankings of innovation, but we are a chosen destination for providing a safe, supportive and prosperous home for new and old Canadians alike.

The story of the success of Canada’s entrepreneurs is one that needs to be showcased and celebrated. The Six Degrees Citizen Space will provide a forum and space for this conversation to take place among celebrated Canadian intellectuals, artists and stakeholders.

Download the full Report here: 6degrees_cigi_-report_final