Immigration matters in philanthropy


The 2020 U.S. News and World Report ranked Canada #1 in the world for quality of life in 2019 and 2020. Our charities and non-profits play a crucial role supporting this high quality of life. Canada’s 170,000 registered charities and non-profits employ about 2 million people (Imagine Canada, 30 Years of Giving in Canada, 2018).

Thirteen million Canadian volunteers give their time and a portion of their income to support worthy causes in the charitable sector. Nearly 1 in 4 workers in social advocacy, civic, social and giving-related organizations is over 55 and will be retiring in the near future. Newcomers are an important source of workers to ensure the charitable sector continues to thrive across the country.

Impact of immigration

  • More than 1 in 4 people employed in the social assistance sector were born outside of Canada, as were nearly 1 in 5 working in social advocacy, civic, social and giving-related organizations.
  • Between 2006 and 2016 there was a 58% increase in the number of foreign-born social and community service workers.
  • Newcomers are also giving back. On average, immigrants donate more to charity than Canadian-born citizens.
  • When asked why they make financial donations, immigrants said the top 3 reasons were: compassion towards people in need; personally believing in the cause of the charity; and to make a contribution to the community.
  • Hundreds of thousands of immigrants volunteer their time to charitable causes across the country each year.
  • In fact, nearly 40% of immigrants aged 15 and older are volunteers. On average, these people will volunteer 162 hours each year.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from the Statistics Canada 2016 Census or Statistics Canada, Giving and volunteering among Canada’s immigrants, 2012.

Increase in the number of immigrants employed in social services and charitable organizations (between 2006 and 2016)
Increase in the number of immigrants employed in social services and charitable organizations - Text version below
Increase in the number of immigrants employed in social services and charitable organizations (between 2006 and 2016)
  • Canada: 39%
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 183%
  • Prince Edward Island: 35%
  • Nova Scotia: 43%
  • New Brunswick: 50%
  • Quebec: 74%
  • Ontario: 17%
  • Manitoba: 118%
  • Saskatchewan: 148%
  • Alberta: 75%
  • British Columbia: 23%
  • Yukon: 7%
  • Northwest Territories: 93%
  • Nunavut: 267%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census

See infographic on the impact of immigration on philanthropy

Famous Canadian immigrants

Michael Lee-Chin

Michael Lee-Chin is the Jamaican-Canadian billionaire Founder, President and Chairman of Portland Holdings, a privately held investment company that manages public and private equity and has an ownership interest in a collection of diversified businesses operating globally. The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum is named in recognition of his $30 million gift. His donations to Canadian universities, such as McMaster University and the University of Toronto, and hospitals, such as the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation and the Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation, have made a lasting impact. Among his many personal accomplishments, he was awarded the Order of Jamaica and the Order of Ontario and is the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates.

Aditya Jha

Aditya Jha is a successful Canadian entrepreneur from India, making philanthropy a large part of his life. He founded the POA Educational Foundation, which funds multiple projects focused on education, entrepreneurship and good governance. For instance, he has funded post-secondary scholarships and promoted education and entrepreneurship in First Nations (Project Beyshick). He is a Member of the Order of Canada.

Andrew Harper

Born in Romania, Andrew Harper lived in Israel, Cuba and the United States before coming to Canada with his wife in 1954. Together, they built a successful fine foods business in Montréal, and then retired there. Upon the death of his wife, he created the Andrew and Carole Harper Tolerance Fund in her memory, and made many donations to benefit organizations in the city, including the MADA Community Centre, the Chez Doris women’s shelter and the Alzheimer Society of Montréal.

Djavad Mowafaghian

Born in Iran, Djavad Mowafaghian is the founder of the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation, which funds projects to improve the lives of children globally in relation to health, wellness and education. In 2011, his foundation donated $15 million towards building a new centre for brain health research at the University of British Columbia. As a result of his philanthropic work, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Dalai Lama Humanitarian Award, among other distinctions. He’s a Member of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Order of British Columbia.

Mohamad Fakih

Lebanese-Canadian Mohamad Fakih is the President and CEO of the award-winning Paramount Fine Foods restaurant chain, employing more than 2,000 people in Canada and abroad. He also founded the Fakih Foundation to alleviate poverty and advance education for vulnerable communities. Among the many beneficiaries of his philanthropy are the Canadian Cancer Society, Sick Kids Hospital and the Toronto Make a Wish Foundation. Waterstone Human Capital named him the Most Admired CEO in Canada in 2019.

Immigrant stories in philanthropy

Fundraising for much-needed services in Sudbury

Inspired by her mother’s example, Bela Ravi works tirelessly to raise funds for what people need most in her home town of Sudbury.

Bringing smiles to vulnerable families

Anaida Deti has gone from training in Canada as a dental hygienist to owning a dental practice and using it to support her community.

Catching the giving spirit

Hissein Idriss found a way to potentially touch almost any Canadian in need of help: by launching a charity dedicated to helping other Canadian charities succeed.

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