Growing Canada’s future

Immigrants help grow Canada’s future through their contribution to various industries. Find out more about the key role they play in each sector.

Arts and culture

Immigration matters in arts and culture

Canada is home to a vibrant and lucrative arts and culture sector. Canadian artists, musicians, actors and authors are known around the world. Immigrants play an important role in helping this sector grow and flourish.

“Let me express the hope that Canadians will always remember that immigrants have helped make us the envy of the world.”

Peter Herrndorf, former President and Chief Executive Officer, National Arts Centre

Impact of immigration

  • There are more than 80,000 immigrants working in professional and technical occupations in arts and culture across the country.
  • 1 in 4 people employed as an artisan or craftsperson in Canada is an immigrant.
  • Over a quarter of theater, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers are immigrants (26% of the total).
  • 29% of independent artists, writers and performers are immigrants.
  • Across the country, there are more than 3,000 businesses in the arts and culture sector owned by immigrantsFootnote 1.

All statistics are from the Statistics Canada 2016 Census.

Percentage of immigrants in creative occupations
Percentage of immigrants in creative occupations - text version below
Text version: Percentage of immigrants in creative occupations
  • Photographers: 22%
  • Graphic designers and illustrators: 24%
  • Painters, sculptors and other visual artists: 24%
  • Artisans and craftspersons: 25%
  • Theater, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers: 26%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census.

Famous Canadian immigrants

Michael Ondaatje

Author Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to Canada from England. He’s perhaps best known for his novel The English Patient, which was adapted to film and won 9 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He won numerous literary awards such as the Man Booker Prize and the Giller Prize. He’s also an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Kim Thúy

Author Kim Thúy came to Canada as a refugee from Vietnam and settled in Quebec. A graduate in translation and law, she worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer, restaurant owner and food commentator. She published several acclaimed novels as well as a Vietnamese cookbook. Kim Thúy has received many honors and awards. Her first book, Ru (2009) won the Governor General's Award for French-language fiction and the 2015 edition of Canada Reads. She was named Chevalière of the Ordre national du Québec and Compagne des arts et des lettres du Québec.

Domee Shi

Storyboard artist and director Domee Shi immigrated to Canada from China and studied Animation at Sheridan College. She worked on major animated films for Pixar and was the first woman ever to direct a Pixar animated short, Bao. Set in Toronto, Bao won the Oscar for the Best Animated Short Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

Deepa Mehta

Oscar-nominated film director and screenwriter Deepa Mehta immigrated to Canada from India. Her films include the Elements Trilogy, Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005), as well as Midnight’s Children, all of which have gained international recognition. Water was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best International Feature Film category. Mehta was the Creative Executive Producer and one of the Directors for the Netflix Original Series, Leila. She is the recipient of the Order of Canada, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, the Order of Ontario and more than 15 honorary degrees.

Ins Choi

Actor and playwright Ins Choi immigrated to Canada from South Korea. He’s best known for his award-winning play and television show Kim's Convenience. The show is about a Korean immigrant family who run a Toronto convenience store.

Science and technology

Immigration matters in science and technology

Because of its internationally recognized quality of life and post-secondary educational institutions, Canada attracts talent from around the world to help build the country’s economy and grow the science and technology sector. With an aging Canadian work force and the need for more technology workers, there’s an opportunity for immigrants to make their mark in the field.

“Canada has an opportunity to be a country where the best talent from around the world can move here and do their life’s work as never before.”

Alexandra Clark, Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer, Shopify

Impact of immigration

  • 34% of people working in scientific research and development services across Canada are foreign-born.
  • Nearly 500,000 immigrants working in Canada are trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
  • Immigrants represent 24% of the national workforce but account for 40% of computer programmers, 41% of engineers and more than 50% of all chemists.
  • International students represent 12% of students in the country’s post-secondary education system but account for 27% of all students enrolled in mathematics, computer and information sciences programs and 19% of all students in architecture, engineering and related programsFootnote 2.
  • Many international students enrolled in STEM fields will stay and build their careers in Canada, enhancing our capacity for innovation and helping us build a stronger economy for the future.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from the Statistics Canada 2016 Census.

Percentage of immigrants in STEM occupations
Percentage of immigrants in selected STEM occupations - text version below
Text version: Percentage of immigrants in STEM occupations
  • Computer programmers: 40%
  • Physicists and astronomers: 41%
  • Engineers: 41%
  • Software engineers and designers: 51%
  • Chemists: 54%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census.

Famous Canadian immigrants

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell immigrated to Canada from Scotland in the late 1800s. He’s famously known as the inventor of the telephone.

Robert Wang

Robert Wang immigrated to Canada from China. He invented the Instant Pot, a versatile smart kitchen appliance with a devoted following.

Mike Lazaridis

Mike Lazaridis, of Greek descent, immigrated to Canada from Turkey. He made a huge impact in the communications sector with his invention of the Blackberry wireless handheld device.

Tobias Lütke

Tobias Lütke immigrated to Canada from Germany and went on to develop Shopify, a multi-channel commerce platform. Headquartered in Ottawa, Shopify currently powers over 800,000 businesses in approximately 175 countries and has processed more than $100 billion in total sales.

Health care

Immigration matters in health care

More than 1.6 million people work in Canada’s health-care sectorFootnote 3 and many more will be needed in the coming years to ensure continued access to high quality care. Almost 500,000 workers in the health-care sector are over the age of 55Footnote 4, and most of these will be retiring in the next decade or so. In addition, there are existing recruitment challenges from everywhere in Canada for nurses, residential care staff and home health-care staff. There’s a clear opportunity for immigrants to play an important role in ensuring there are enough people working in the health-care sector.

The sustainability and effectiveness of the Canadian health care system depend on an integrated and diverse workforce. We value the important contribution of immigrants to our health care system and welcome them to Canada!

Claire Betker, RN, MN, PhD, CCHN(C), President of the Canadian Nurses Association

Impact of immigration

  • Immigrants account for 1 out of every 4 health-care sector workers.
  • Immigrants make up 36% of all pharmacists and family physicians across Canada, as well as 39% of all dentists, 27% of all licensed practical nurses and 35% of nurse aides and related occupations.
  • More than 40% of all newcomers to Canada between 2011 and 2016 who were working in the health-care sector were employed in the important areas of nursing and residential care facilities, as well as home health-care services.

All statistics are from the Statistics Canada 2016 Census.

Percentage of immigrants in health-care occupations
Percentage of immigrants in selected health-care occupations - text version below
Text version: Percentage of immigrants in health-care occupations
  • Licensed practical nurses: 27%
  • Nurse aides, orderlies and related: 35%
  • Pharmacists: 36%
  • General practitioners and family physicians: 36%
  • Dentists: 39%
  • Dental technologists and related: 54%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census.

Famous Canadian immigrants

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui immigrated to Canada from China. He and a team of scientists from the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto discovered the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis. He’s an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame among many other achievements.

Prof. Lakshmi P. Kotra

Prof. Lakshmi P. Kotra immigrated to Canada from India. He discovered a new anti-malaria agent through his research at the University Health Network in Toronto. Prof. Kotra now leads an international association with India for the development of drugs targeting malaria. He won numerous awards, including the Province of Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award and the Canadian Society for Pharmaceutical Sciences Young Investigator Award.

Sports

Immigration matters in sports

How we practice sports in Canada today is influenced by a number of factors, including our 4 seasons, and our geographic and social diversity. For example, lacrosse, our national summer sport, has been played by Indigenous peoples for close to 1000 years.

Hockey, our national winter sport, was invented in Canada in the 1800s. Basketball was invented by Canadian Dr. James Naismith in 1891 to condition young athletes during the winter. Our sport system allows people from all segments of Canadian society to get involved in sport activities at all levels and in all forms of participation.

“Football – like citizenship – is the ultimate team game. It requires people of every size, strength, and skillset to work together as a team to achieve great things. [Canada’s] new citizens, and our players, are part of a proud history that has made our league and country stronger.”

Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the Canadian Football League

Impact of immigration

  • There are more than 2,800 immigrants working as athletes, coaches, officials and referees across the country.
  • Immigrants make up 20% of all people working in Canada as sports coaches.
  • There are more than 16,000 immigrants who earn their living as program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness.

All statistics are from the Statistics Canada 2016 Census.

Number of immigrants in sports-related occupations
Number of immigrants in selected sports-related occupations - text version below
Text version: Number of immigrants in sports-related occupations
  • Recreation, sports and fitness program and service directors: 1,595
  • Athletes, coaches, officials and referees: 2,855
  • Program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness: 16,075

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census.

Famous Canadian immigrants

Geraldine Heaney

Geraldine Heaney immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland and became a pioneer in women’s hockey. She was a member of the Canadian national women’s hockey team in the first 7 Women's World Championships, winning gold each time. She’s a 2-time Canadian Olympian (silver in 1998, gold in 2012). She was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Donovan Bailey

Donovan Bailey immigrated to Canada from Jamaica. He won 2 Olympic golds in sprinting for Canada in 1996 with one run recorded as the fastest time ever recorded by a human. He was also inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Wally Buono

Wally Buono immigrated from Italy to become one of the most legendary coaches in the Canadian Football League (CFL). After playing college football in the United States, he became a linebacker for the Montréal Alouettes. He was head coach and general manager of the Calgary Stampeders and then the BC Lions, where he retired at the end of the 2018 season. Wally’s impressive CFL career spanned a remarkable 46 years.

Business

Immigration matters in business

The business sector in Canada employs more than 12 million peopleFootnote 5. Entrepreneurs are a very important part of the business sector and the Canadian economy as a whole. More than 2.7 million Canadians are self-employed, and more than 800,000 of them have paid employeesFootnote 6.

These entrepreneurs ensure there’s competition and consumer choice for products and services in communities large and small from coast to coast to coast. As we look to the future, immigrant entrepreneurs and business leaders will have an important role to play ensuring we have a growing and successful economy.

“Economic immigration has always been the lifeblood of Canada’s economic success and has played a key role in the building of our great nation.”

Dan Kelly, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Impact of immigration

Immigrant business owners are active in all sectors of our economy such as construction, professional services, health care and retail trade.

  • There are more than 47,000 immigrants in senior management roles across the country, including:
    • over 15,000 in finance, communications and business services sectors
    • 12,000 in trade, broadcasting and other services, and
    • more than 12,000 in construction, transportation, production and utilities
  • There are more than 600,000 self-employed immigrants across the country, and over 260,000 of them have paid employees.

All statistics are from the Statistics Canada 2016 Census.

Percentage of self-employed immigrants with paid staff in various industries
Percentage of self-employed immigrants with paid staff in selected industries - text version below
Text version: Percentage of self-employed immigrants with paid staff in various industries
  • Software publishers: 30%
  • All self-employed (with paid staff): 33%
  • Dentists’ offices: 36%
  • Data processing, hosting & services: 40%
  • Restaurants: 50%
  • Computer systems design & services: 51%
  • Grocery stores: 53%
  • Truck transportation: 56%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census.

Number of self-employed immigrants with paid employees in various industries
Number of self-employed immigrants with paid employees in selected industries - text version below
Text version: Number of self-employed immigrants with paid employees in various industries
  • Accommodation and food services: 24,095
  • Transportation and warehousing: 24,740
  • Retail trade: 26,850
  • Health care and social assistance: 30,150
  • Professional, scientific and technical services: 35,595
  • Construction: 36,540

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census.

Famous Canadian immigrants

Aldo Bensadoun

Born in Morocco, Aldo Bensadoun founded Aldo Group, a footwear and accessories company based in Montréal that operates in more than 100 countries around the world. On top of his retail success, Mr. Bensadoun is an active supporter of many educational, health-care and arts institutions. Among his many other awards and distinctions, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012 and in 2014, was also named knight of L'Ordre National du Québec.

John Molson

John Molson immigrated to Canada from England and in 1786 established the brewery that still bears his name today. Mr. Molson was also involved in Canada’s earliest banking, steamship and railway companies. The country continues to benefit from his family’s business and philanthropic ventures.

Peter Tielmann

Peter Tielmann immigrated to Canada from Germany and is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian furniture company EQ3. Based in Winnipeg, EQ3 products are mostly made in Canada. All of the upholstery is made in a Winnipeg factory.

Dimitrios “Jimmy” Antonopoulos

Dimitrios “Jimmy” Antonopoulos immigrated to Canada from Greece. He’s the founder and owner of the Jimmy the Greek chain of quick-service restaurants, which grew from a single location into a thriving enterprise with more than 55 locations nationwide.

Stories across Canada

See inspiring stories of immigrants making a difference in our communities.

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Canada’s immigration track record

What does immigration do for our country?

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Canada’s immigration system

How are immigrants selected, screened and set up for success?

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Immigration and our local economies

What role does immigration play in local economies?

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