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Oliver Javanpour


by Oliver Javanpour, March 30, 2013

Immigration has been a focus of the media, politicians and voters in recent years, in Europe, in the recent elections in the United States, but also here in Canada. I’ve always been interested in the migration of people from one place to another. I have come by this interest rather honestly, as my family has been on the move for well over one hundred years, until we reached Canada.


Today, immigration is a massive strategic opportunity, a raw asset at our disposal, and understandably, it has some inherent risks. With significant numbers of immigrants and refugees coming to our shores each year since the 1970’s, Canada is now enjoying a growth in first and second-generation Canadians that has boosted our population to over 35 million.


Today, a significant number of our population has come to Canada as immigrants. First and second-generation immigrants form a diverse cultural and economic force, with each generation having its own unique drivers. Drivers such as ethno-cultural issues, religion and economics play an important role in the day-to-day decision making on a variety of topics impacting our nation.


While immigration and refugee laws and policies determine who can and how they can come to and remain in Canada, we have little long term data to enable law makers or public policy wonks to form any thoughts on the unique nuances through which today’s immigrants influence our economy, cultural mosaic, employment, security, health, and minority rights. There is a lack of long-term knowledge and statistics that would enable public and private policy makers and adopters to respond to the changes and needs that immigrants both generate and respond to.


Frankly, one of the issues that made me interested in taking a deeper look into statistics has been reports of dubious interest groups, foreign countries or their proxies in Canada that are reaching out to the first and second generation immigrant young minds in our universities and communities. They are attempting to recruit them for various nefarious causes that are at odds with the visions of economic success and personal security that brought many of their parents to Canada. I wondered why and how the immigrant vision and experience changes, but it was hard to find data to illuminate this or other related questions.


There are small independent studies, such as the Grubel-Grady Fraser Institute study, which points out that “Immigrants arriving in Canada since 1987 are not doing as well economically as immigrants who arrived before 1987”. It found that the immigrants who arrived in Canada between 1987 and 2004 received about $6,000 more in government services per immigrant in 2005 than they paid in taxes. The study further reported that “immigrants impose a huge fiscal burden on Canadian taxpayers of between $16 billion and $23 billion annually.” Grubel-Grady also rejects any arguments based on evidence collected that immigrants’ children will be able to repay such fiscal burden. Why? With a per capita immigration intake said to be the largest of the G20 nations, we should be able to answer such questions.



No vision can be based simply on ideals. There is a need for comprehensive historic data analysis to pave the road for sound policy decisions. Our multicultural approach to immigration has been in effect nearly 40 years, and we are no closer to being able to quantify how each ethnic cultural group has flourished, changed, diversified or caused change for the better. We are also unable to assist any of these communities with specific needs based on long term data on economic and social needs. We need to be able to make public policy decisions based on facts, data, statistics, and analytical models, which could reliably predict trends, threats and advantages.


Obviously Statistics Canada’s information requires augmentation and the communities themselves would be a good source for information. There may be some initial resistance on the part of these communities to working closely with government, academia, or even NGOs to share such valuable information. It is critical for such efforts to remain natural and unbiased, as there will be tremendous pressures from ideological factions, interest groups, self-interested communities and businesses lobby to influence such processes for their own purposes.


In order to maintain our leadership position globally as the most attractive destination and not simply a re-shoring of human-resources for business needs, we need to present an attractive picture, based on facts and figures, to Canadians, who are not only the underwriters of this venture, but also assume all of the inherent risks.


A vision such as this requires federal government intervention and support. Building a body of research in this area is critical for governments to be able to understand the risks, trends and advantages that drive their success in building better lives for their families and a stronger Canada for all Canadians.


Mr. Javanpour is the CEO at Cyrus Echo a public policy, and international relations consulting firm in Ottawa.

This article was first published in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin

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