Global News sat down with a group of community leaders from Calgary dedicated to promoting diversity, economic growth and innovation in Alberta. They shared their perspective on how immigration has contributed to Alberta’s economic and social prosperity.
The round table participants included Canada’s former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, Abdulfatah Sabouni, CEO of Aleppo Soap, Arif Khimani from MobSquad and Jason Ribeiro with Calgary Economic Development.
Clarkson co-founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, which helps new citizens feel involved and included in Canadian life.
“Every immigrant has courage. What they’ve left behind is familiar, even if it’s been terrible, even if it’s been war-torn. Whatever it has been, it was theirs,” said Clarkson.
“Then they come and have to do something completely different and it takes a lot of guts.”
Jason Ribeiro is the director of strategy for Calgary Economic Development. A report on the impact of immigration on Alberta’s economic prosperity is set to be released by the origanization on Tuesday, March 3.
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“Forty-five per cent of the newcomers we attract, have a bachelor’s education degree or higher. As we’re thinking about ushering in a new economy, which is not just about the adoption of technology — but the new economy is an inclusive one, is a diverse one, is a flexible one. Bolstering that kind of talent and brain power into our community is a net positive.” said Ribeiro.
Arif Khimani is the Head of Finance & Administration of MobSquad. The innovative Canadian start-up recruits highly skilled foreign tech workers from the United States, when their work visas expire. MobSquad will move the workers to Canada and contract them back to the same U.S. tech company.
Khimani explained why they look outside of Canada for skilled workers.
“When you look at our management and executive teams it’s largely folks based in Calgary, people that are born and raised in Canada,” said Khimani.
“But for a lot of the foreign tech talent that we get, these are just individuals that simply have skill sets that simply aren’t available here. There are people who have spent 10 years working at leading start-ups in the U.S. or Seattle for five years.
“It’s just an experience level and level of expertise that they bring that actually doesn’t exist in this market currently,” Khimani said.
“What we’re trying to do is actually create net new positions. Without these highly skilled foreign tech workers we’re bringing here, the positions for people under them wouldn’t necessarily exist at all.”
Abdulfatah Sabouni is the CEO of Aleppo Soap. Sabouni moved to Canada four years ago from war-ravaged Syria. He started a soap-making business, which has been in his family for more than 125 years. Sabouni has opened two stores in Alberta.
As it turns out, Adrienne Clarkson loves the product and praised Sabouni on his accomplishment.
“This is to me is one of those Canadian miracle stories. Aleppo Soap is being made in Calgary. I think that’s so wonderful,” said Clarkson.
Sabouni shared his personal story of how he started his business.
“I make it at home the first time, people come to my home to buy the soap,” said Sabouni.
“This year I will be making a lot of soap, cause (sic) I’m looking to send to the USA too.”
“That’s the other thing, that immigrants create businesses,” added Clarkson. “We know that, the statistics tell us that. Immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurial. They will hire people and therefore are creating jobs for people.”
“When you hear ignorant things you have to challenge them,” said Clarkson.
“People have to be brought up in Canada to say, I don’t accept that. If someone says something to immediately catch it up and say what do you mean by that? And of course people back away. They can’t let it go on, if you challenge that.”
“We know how much immigrants bring to this country, they bring a diversity of experiences,” said Clarkson.
“Over the last 10 years, nearly 150 countries are being represented in newcomers that we are taking in,” said Ribeiro.
“It speaks to not only the generosity and spirit of this community, but knowing that it is not only a moral imperative for inclusion that it is an economic imperative.”