Immigration matters in business


The business sector in Canada employs more than 12 million people. 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 employees.

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

  • Immigrants account for 33% of all business owners with paid staff, creating important local jobs in all sectors of our economy such as construction, professional services, health care and retail trade.
  • There are more than 600,000 self-employed immigrants across the country, and over 260,000 of them have paid employees.
  • 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
  • The percentage of business owners (self-employed persons with paid staff) who are immigrants, by sector:
    • Software publishers: 30%
    • Dentists’ offices: 36%
    • Data processing, hosting and services: 40%
    • Restaurants: 50%
    • Computer systems design and services: 51%
    • Grocery stores: 53%
    • Truck transportation: 56%

All statistics are from the Statistics Canada 2016 Census.

See infographic on the impact of immigration on business

Famous Canadian immigrants

Rania Llewellyn

Born in Kuwait, Rania Llewellyn immigrated to Canada from Egypt. She was the first woman to lead a major Canadian-owned bank, serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Laurentian Bank of Canada from 2020-2023. Rania also had a successful 26-year career with Scotiabank. She climbed up the corporate ladder from a part-time teller to Executive Vice President of Global Business Payments.

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.

Ajay Virmani

Ajay Virmani from India is the President and CEO of Cargojet, the largest cargo airline in Canada. Cargojet provides cargo services domestically and internationally and employs over 800 employees. Cargojet was named one of Canada’s Top 50 Best Managed Companies in 2005, and Virmani received the RBC Entrepreneur Award in 2017. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cargojet dedicated multiple flights to the delivery of personal protection equipment for health-care workers in Canada.

Karim Hakimi

Karim Hakimi is the founder of Hakim Optical, an optician chain with over 600 employees serving Canadians in 161 stores across the country. When his father died as a child, he supported his mother and siblings by grinding magnifying glass from old windowpanes in his native Iran. He continued his craft in Germany and Switzerland before coming to Canada and starting his now 40-year-old business.

Rola Dagher

Rola Dagher immigrated to Canada from Lebanon as a teenager. She worked her way up the tech industry ladder to become the head of Cisco Canada, with 1,700 employees. Not only does she advocate for mental health here at home, she has also inspired Cisco to put in place supports for employees globally. In February 2020, she was recognized for her leadership and named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence.

Immigrant stories in business

Brewing up excitement in Brandon

Black Wheat Brewing in Brandon, Manitoba, is the city’s first craft brewery, and residents have welcomed its newcomer brewmaster with open arms.

Lighting the path for aspiring entrepreneurs

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Yamila Franco is an eco-entrepreneur, leader and mentor recognized for her positive, empathetic leadership style.

Introducing new farming techniques to Western Canada

Using solar greenhouse technology, a geologist from China is helping Albertan farmers extend their growing season.

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