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Understanding immigrants' initiatives in the new economy: the case of Western Canada.


In the trans-Pacific region, new immigrants as professionals and entrepreneurs can be understood as pursuing innovative initiatives. They are aided by a specific employment and immigration market that emerged with the growth of international high-tech production and service locations. They are also linked in trans-Pacific social spaces where Canadian immigration policy contributes to the provision of flexible citizenship. This flexibility is used to case the exchange of high-tech goods, innovations, and services and to foster the trans-Pacific accumulation of economic, social, and cultural capital. New transnational Chinese and Indian immigrants are active in business and trade associations that link high technology sectors in Asian cities with those in western Canada, such as those in Vancouver and Calgary. This research note reviews not only high-tech associations and selected cases of ethnic/immigrant entrepreneurship in Vancouver's and Calgary's high-tech sectors but also provides the basis for a western Canadian research agenda in examining immigrants' initiatives in the new economy.

Dans la region transpacifique, les nouveaux immigrants qui travaillent en tant qu'entrepreneurs ou professionnels sont vus comme eetant des novateurs. Ils recoivent de l'appui d'un marche du travail et de l'immigration particulier qui est ne de la croissance des lieux de production et des points de service dans le secteur de la haute technologie. Ils sont aussi relies par des espaces sociaux ou les politiques d'immigration canadiennes contribuent au maintien d'une citoyennete flexible. Cette flexibilite facilite l'echange de produits de haute technologie, d'innovation et de services. Elle encourage la croissance du capital economique, culturel et social dans la region transpacifique. De nouveaux immigrants transnationaux chinois et indiens sont actifs au sein d'associations professionnelles et commerciales qui lient les secteurs de haute technologie d'Asie avec ceux de l'Ouest canadien, a Calgary et a Vancouver par exemple. Cet article examine les associations du milieu de la haute technologie ainsi que quelques cas d'entrepreneuriat dans les secteurs de la haute technologie a Vancouver et a Calgary. Il sert aussi point de depart au programme de recherche portant sur l'Ouest canadien quant aux initiatives des immigrants au sein de la nouvelle economie.


Immigrants are a significant force in Canada's new economy, but the role they play has not been the subject of much academic research. Moreover, many scholars who understand the emergence of the new economy as merely the development of high technology performed in specific industrial cluster locations, such as in the Silicon Valley, overlook the local and international initiatives that the new professional and entrepreneurial immigrants play in urban areas in such clusters.

Therefore, we need not only to understand local initiatives that immigrant entrepreneurs and highly skilled professional workers undertake to become part of such new industrial clusters but also their interactions with transnational technical communities that are embedded in the high-tech agglomerations in more than one country. In such a setting, this migratory phenomenon should not be conceptualized as constituting a permanent "brain drain" or "brain gain" but, as Saxenian (2000, 2002) argued, more as a form of "brain circulation." More specifically, Saxenian found "brain circulation" from Asia to North America (Silicon Valley) and back to Asia as immigrants pursued entrepreneurial and work initiatives in high-tech sectors on both sides of the Pacific. What is being created here are transnational social spaces that Faist defines as the "ties and the unfolding strong and dense circular flows of persons, goods, ideas, and symbols within a migration system ..." (2000, 2). Faist further delineates three basic forms of transnational social spaces--transnational kinship groups, transnational circuits, and transnational communities where the typical cohesive resources are "reciprocity," "exchange," and "solidarity" respectively for each form (2000, 2). In the case of immigrants in the new economy, transnational kinship groups and transnational circuits, such as trading and business networks, are particularly relevant. Examples of how transnational kinship groups (reciprocity) and circuits (exchange) operate within the new economy need to be explored.

It is important to conceptualize high-tech sectors as having flexible accumulation boundaries (where capital can be accumulated internationally in changing production locations) and a globalized, high-tech employment market. Thus, the emergence of complementary flexible citizenship can foster this kind of trans-Pacific transnationalism. This phenomenon can be identified within a growing literature on Asian business networks and the globalization of Asian business firms. For the professionals working in them, and for other immigrant entrepreneurs, the relationship between social capital and human capital needs to be examined to determine their labour market outcomes. There also exists, according to Borjas (1989), a global immigration market for skilled workers, especially for those needed in the high-tech sector. Therefore, we need a focussed examination of the influence of immigration policy on how immigrants participate in the development of the high-tech sector.

Given this conceptual sketch, how can we understand the role new immigrants play in the growth of the new economy? Three complementary bodies of literature become important in understanding immigrants' participation in the high-tech sector. One is the theorization of the emergent structure of the high-tech economy as endogenous technological change and the historic clustering of firms, research institutes, and innovative local and immigrant agents as a new form of industrial development in urban areas. A second includes the theoretical and analytical insights about an immigration policy that allows flexible citizenship within flexible accumulation boundaries in the trans-Pacific region and that responds to the global immigration market for skilled workers and attempts to stream such immigrants as independent skilled immigrants, fast tracked temporary immigrants, and entrepreneurial immigrants into high-tech-related economic sectors. Finally, a third builds on the theorization of innovative initiatives that the new immigrants take in interacting with local and global opportunity structures, for example, specific immigrant entrepreneurs and highly skilled professional workers who interact with firms in local high-tech clusters. They use social capital that depends on network members (of similar cultural, ethnic, educational, and economic capital status) who exchange high-tech goods, innovations, and services and who reside in trans-Pacific social spaces (Waldinger et al. 1990; Bourdieu 1983; Faist 2000). The following briefly discusses these three bodies of literature.


Many scholars seeking to understand the growth of high-tech industry since the emergence of the Silicon Valley see innovative high technology development as better performed in "creative regions," and "regional systems of innovation" (NRC 2000; CPROST 1997) or in "techno-poles" and "industrial clusters" (Van den Hoven 2003; Porter 1998). One important aspect of this form of new industrial development is the clustering of the agents of innovation: firms, end users, universities, government research facilities, etc. (Bekar and Lipsey 2002, 63). Researchers have "mapped" the historical emergence of key institutions and corporations that are part of high-tech clusters (PriceWaterhouseCooper 1997). Their close geographic proximity allows innovators (including engineers, end users, intermediate input suppliers, final goods producers, and specialized machinery and instrument producers, managers, purchasing agents, and workers) to benefit from efficient knowledge spillovers (Bekar and Lipsey 2002, 64-65). The focus on the geographic proximity of innovators, however, pays insufficient attention to the role of new immigrants and the role of political institutions (Rath 2000) in fostering immigration policies and transnational social linkages in the high-tech sector.


The effects of Canadian immigration policy on immigrants' participation in the new economy stem from particular programs. The desire by the Canadian state to attract immigrants with high levels of human capital has been described as "designer" immigration (Simmons 1999). For example, since its inception in 1978, the Canadian business immigration program has admitted approximately 300,000 new immigrants and their families, some of whom have used their capital, their entrepreneurial skills, their trade linkages with their home country, and their work practices in emerging high-tech sectors. Such policies attempt to stream immigrants into certain sectors of the economy, including high-tech, and can be theorized as responding to the global immigration market for skilled workers and entrepreneurs, and to allow flexible citizenship within flexible accumulation boundaries in the trans-Pacific region (Borjas 1989; Ong 1999).

Of note here is how Canadian immigration policy has changed over the past thirty years; an evolving policy that contextualized the current situation of immigrants in the new economy. There is not an exact moment of immigration policy change that fuelled the rise of high-tech development in Canada. However, in the 1990s under the points system, a list of occupations and their demand in the Canadian labour market was developed. High-tech occupations were in demand and, as such, were given more weight (points) than those not in demand. It was during this period, and particularly from 1996 to 2000, that high-tech occupations, such as computer programmers and computer systems analysts were consistently ranked number one and two in the top ten occupations of skilled immigrants entering Canada (CIC 2003). Moreover, even since the high-tech decline in the early 2000s, high-tech workers are still ranked in the top five occupational categories for immigrant selection. In 2004, for example, computer programmers and technologists were ranked directly behind engineers and ahead of nurses and welders (Volpe 2005). Another policy development began in 1998 when a fast-track pilot project was introduced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to help Canadian employers attract highly skilled, temporary foreign workers by facilitating spousal employment authorizations. This program was really earmarked for high-tech workers as there was a working partnership with the Software Human Resource Council and in 2000 also involved another government department--Human Resources and Development Canada. Some of the major job categories under this fast-track program include: embedded systems software designer, software products developer, MIS software designer, senior animation effects editors, software developer, and telecommunications software designer.

Canadian immigration policy in large part directs the flow of immigrants to serve the country's capitalist accumulation process, in particular, the role of immigrant entrepreneurs in a globalizing economy. (1) The initiatives of the Chinese business immigrants who became part of the economy and culture of Vancouver were constrained by historical racism intertwined with a class antagonism toward newcomers in a variety of western Canadian business sectors (Wong 1995; Wong and Netting 1992). Recent research has uncovered the practice of transnationalism amongst Chinese capitalists, including those in small businesses in Vancouver (Wong 1997, 2002; Wong and Ng 1998, 2002). In other cases, provincial preferences and the ethnic strategies utilized by East Asian immigrant entrepreneurs has been examined (Froschauer 1997). Moreover, other recent work includes the post-migration conduct of both East Asian and European entrepreneur immigrants in British Columbia with respect to their pre-migration context, including their skill acquisition patterns in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, and their postindustrial embeddedness as immigrant entrepreneurs in Canada (Froschauer 2001, 2002). Current empirical research on transnational Chinese businesses in Vancouver and Calgary and theoretical work on regulatory regimes for immigrants and transnational migrations by the above-referenced authors provide insights into how new immigrants become embedded in the new urban economy of western Canada. Once professional migrants have arrived, the setting up of indigenous social networks to serve as channels of diffusion becomes increasingly important.

Although social scientific research has had only a limited impact on Canadian immigration policy over the past twenty years (Richmond 2000), a practical objective here would be for academic researchers to work closely with government policy makers. Overall, research findings may have something useful to add about how new immigrants become embedded in the new economy as a direct result of immigration policy and, moreover, given specific changes in immigration policy, what the implications might be.


High-tech clusters of firms, research institutions, end users, and their social networks can provide opportunities for new immigrant entrepreneurship or highly skilled employment. A starting point for explaining such a form of economic integration by immigrants has been the interactive model based on an "explanation for immigrant enterprise that emphasizes the interaction between the opportunity structure of the host society and the group characteristics and social structure of the immigrant community" (Waldinger et al. 1990, 47). Moving beyond this model's reliance on ethno-cultural immigrants as minorities in marginal roles, we raise the issue of whether "new immigrants, as new innovative men and women, played a major role?" (Schumpeter 1939). The answer depends, in part, on the barriers (social closure) indigenous social networks may establish in high-tech sectors to deny immigrant entrepreneurs and skilled immigrant workers the benefit of technological spillover. Granovetter (1973, 2002) suggests this situation depends on whether the interrelations in such networks are characterized by "weak ties," being therefore less exclusive and open to sharing knowledge with "outsiders," or whether the interrelations have "strong ties'," thereby establishing barriers for those outside the network so that they gain few, if any, technological benefits (Waldinger 1997). However, in famous clusters, such as the Silicon Valley, immigrant entrepreneurs and skilled workers have joined existing local networks and also formed their own networks. Some networks even extend across the Pacific (Shin 2001; Saxenian 1999, 2000; Saxenian et al. 2002). This phenomenon can also be understood within a growing literature on Chinese business networks and the globalization of Chinese business firms (Chan 2000; Olds and Yeung 1999; Yeung and Olds 2000).

For some time, network analysis did not anticipate the growing importance of transnational immigrant professional communities "embedded" in more than one country. For instance, Badrinath (2001) found a "brain drain" of Ottawa's recruited Asian computer professionals; once they had acquired Canadian skills, he found, they preferred the dynamism, greater financial gain, and career advancement in the Silicon Valley or other American locations. While some scholars have noted a permanent "brain drain" from Asia to the United Sates, Saxenian's "brain circulation" (two-way flows), mentioned earlier, between Asian and American high-tech sectors is relevant here. Saxenian and others (1999, 2000, 2002) found that transnational immigrant professional and technical communities outdo multinational corporations in their quick and flexible transfer of skills, technology, human resources, and organizational know-how between California and high-tech parks in Taiwan, Beijing, Shanghai, Bombay, and Bangalore. Faist (2000) conceptualizes such transnational social spaces by situating social capital as a crucial meso link between micro (individual) and macro (structural) levels of analyses. Particularly, his insight of the "bridging function" of social capital that consists of "transnational circuits" characterized by the circulation of information, goods, and people allows a more complex analysis than traditional network analysis and is most pertinent for new immigrants in the new economy. (2) Thus, there is a complex and integral relationship between the flow of transnational financial capital and the flow of people and information along these transnational circuits. The social and business networks themselves are a form of social capital for people who belong to the network, and typically there are exchanges in terms of mutual obligations and expectations and the exploitation of "insider advantage" such as language and strong and weak ties, etc. (Faist 2000, 203). As the brief descriptions of the case studies at the conclusion of this article illustrate, there needs to be an analysis of these transnational circuits and the relationship between financial capital flows and social capital. An important aspect still overlooked in much of the literature is the gendered experience, such as new immigrant women's experience in such "transnational circuits." As has been shown elsewhere, immigrant entrepreneurship in particular economic sectors is embedded in neo-patriarchal relations (Froschauer 1997, 2001), and such gender inequality can be particularly pronounced in the high-tech industry. To overcome this situation, Low (2000) proposes that women entrepreneurs in cosmopolitan cities, as happens in urban Australia, strengthen their networks and adopt new technologies to benefit more from globalization and knowledge-based industries. While these additional dimensions of new transnational immigrant communities allow an understanding of the importance of social network structures in which immigrant entrepreneurs and the highly skilled take innovative initiatives in the new economy, how can they be applied to the case of western Canada?


Why is western Canada an interesting case? After recent major set-backs, high technology industries have been resurgent and are a major part of the new economy. Even though large corporations in this sector are undergoing major restructuring, the small- and medium-sized corporations, the skilled work force, and the role of public institutions remain important. In the year 2000, for instance, high technology sectors (including software development and design peripherals for the information highway) employed 552,080 people in Canada: 251,420 in Ontario; 139,310 in Quebec; 60,890 in British Columbia (BC); and 59,310 in Alberta (BC Stats 2001). In the same year, these employees produced high technology goods and services totaling C$49.9 billion in Canada: $24.4 billion in Ontario; $15.2 billion in Quebec; C$4.2 billion in British Columbia; and C$3.8 billion in Alberta (BC Stats 2001, 40). More recently, while Canada's high-tech sector displayed weakness and contracted just as the manufacturing sector declined in 2001, the effect was much less dramatic in both British Columbia and Alberta because high-technlogy services became more significant than high-technlogy manufacturing (BC Stats 2002).

Canada can be conceptualized as having two major new economic regions: the Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal triangle and the Vancouver/Calgary/Edmonton triangle. Vancouver and Calgary, therefore, represent a significantly large portion of the western Canadian triangle and allow us to focus on very specific local clusters.

Calgary and Vancouver, rather than struggling with the problems of the old smokestack industries, prefer the continued growth of the new economy, particularly of the high technology sector. Because high-tech industries tend to be seen as clean and to provide well-paid employment for the skilled and entrepreneurial, many Canadian decision-makers would like to unravel the mystery of how these new special forms of industrial growth emerge. As noted, some argue that since the rise of Silicon Valley, researching aspects of this mystery of the development of high technology is best pursued by analyzing the replication of such areas as "creative regions," "techno-poles," "industrial clusters," or "regional systems of innovation." These approaches tend to emphasize the contribution of influential corporations and of public institutions while understating the social aspects, such as the important involvement of the recent, more highly skilled, immigrants in this new economy. Innovative activities in high technology sectors are highly concentrated in five urban clusters in central and western Canada: Toronto (software, internet applications, computer hardware, health biotechnology), Montreal (aerospace, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology), Ottawa (telecommunications, health biotechnology), Vancouver (multimedia, fuel cells, computer software, biotechnology), and Calgary (wireless, resource informatics/ geomatics) (Bekar and Lipsey 2002; Wolfe 2002).

Demographically, whereas Toronto is the first and Montreal the third, Vancouver and Calgary are the destinations of the second and fourth largest number of immigrants to Canada, receiving approximately 18 percent of all immigrants to Canada in 2001 (Citizenship and Immigration 2002, 7). Moreover, since highly skilled immigrants are the ones who qualify for high-tech jobs, it should be noted that they comprise approximately 38-40 percent of all immigrants to Canada and also for five of the six major cities in the two new major economic regions of Canada (see table 1). Thus, there is a great deal of consistency amongst these major cities in terms of there being a similar proportion of highly skilled immigrant workers in each city. The exception, however, is Ottawa which receives over half (52.9%) of all highly skilled immigrants. That could be due to the fact Ottawa, being a national capital region and city, has labour market conditions that overemphasize jobs and occupations requiring highly skilled workers in the overall service sector as well as in the high-tech sector (both service and manufacturing).

In a recent labour force survey of the computer and telecommunications (CT) sector, the top five cities in Canada for such employment in 2001 were, in rank order: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Calgary with a total of almost 415,000 jobs (Bowlby and Langlois 2002, 17). (3) That number forms approximately 88 percent of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Thus, Vancouver and Calgary rank third and fifth, respectively, in the top five cities of CT employment, and they constitute a significant portion of the new economy labour force. Furthermore, in the year 2000, there were approximately 43,000 firms in the CT sector for these top five cities, and approximately 25 percent of them were in Calgary and Vancouver (Statistics Canada 2000). In some high-tech sectors in western Canada, only descriptive research has been carried out (NRC 2000; CPROST 1997; BC Stats 1996).

While illustrations from Silicon Valley inform our understanding of hi-tech development, they may or may not be applicable to Canada in terms of regions and clusters. Historical research on emergent structures and the innovations of immigrants should be conducted for the new economy regions of both Vancouver/ Calgary/Edmonton and of Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal, as we know little about them and even less has been documented. This research will not only provide comparative information between these two new economy regions; it will also reveal internal city differentiation within each (for example, differences between Ottawa and Toronto and between Calgary and Vancouver). This historical research will enable the development of research questions on immigrant innovation in the new economy of Canada. The historical emergence of key firms who initiated and "influenced" technology growth and clusters can be "mapped" diagrammatically (e.g., as TechMaps). Further, a "mapped" geneology based on secondary data and documents would identify the linkages and connections between and amongst firms such as formal technology transfers and the movement of personnel. A variation of the TechMaps devised by PriceWaterhouseCooper (1997) would enable assessment of the social organization, opportunity structure, and social capital related to firms' technological innovations (Smith 2002) and, in this case, the firms of immigrant entrepreneurs and professionals.

Furthermore, recent statistics (especially the 1999 Statistics Canada Workplace and Employee Survey; the 1991, 1996, and 2001 Canadian censuses; statistics from Citizenship and Immigration, BC Stats, and Industry Canada); and business license information from municipalities should be examined to verify the impression that there has been an increase in the participation of immigrant entrepreneurs and workers in the high-tech sector, specifically among Asians. Of particular interest is the 2001 census because for the first time it provided the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) (Statistics Canada 2002) and the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) thus allowing special tabulations with immigration status, employment status (self-employment), and other variables arranged according to city. In addition, several private databases, such as the business directories from InfoCanada, Dun & Bradstreet, and ethno-specific organizations, as well as TechMaps--developed by PriceWaterhouseCooper--and those published by Business in Vancouver, show an increase in high-tech firms and increased immigrant participation in them.

The records of municipal business licenses required by high-tech firms to sell software or computer components are very important for identifying owners of high-tech firms. These records can yield business names, addresses, number of employees, and the type of high-tech service provided, as they do for Richmond and Vancouver. They are also, at times, categorized by SOC or by NAICS. From the business license, the owners' names can be traced, and such names can be an approximate indicator of ethnic ownership. Furthermore, municipal records provide an approximation of the most up-to-date identification of clusters of subsectors (software design, chip production, wireless communication equipment, and computer assembly, among others) in particular urban locations. Because municipal licenses provide addresses, it is possible to identify concentrations of high-tech businesses that may be near immigrant or ethnic neighbourhoods. This situation can lead to an examination of whether owners rely on ethnic skilled labour in their firms in the Yaletown area in Vancouver or in specific locations in Richmond and Burnaby. In combination, this information will reveal which ethnic group holds predominant or subordinated shares in different types of high-tech subsectors. When comparing the composition of subsectors in high-tech industries with those of other cities in Canada or in the immigrants' home countries, the underdevelopment of some sectors can reveal opportunities in niches or means of sizing up the competition before starting an immigrant business. Such evidence of opportunities for immigrant ownership in high-tech services or manufacturing (such as software design, chip production, wireless communication equipment, and computer assembly, among others) will demonstrate what their innovative role in these new sectors might be. Municipal business licenses and private lists (Business in Vancouver 2002) provide sources for selecting interviewees. In both Calgary and Vancouver, these listings would come from searches on InfoCanada's and Dun & Bradstreet's business directories.

Since western Canada's new immigrant entrepreneurs and highly skilled immigrant workers tend not to pursue their success in the high-tech sector in isolation, it is important to understand (1) that they take part in this sector by joining networks or high-tech associations, and (2) that they also take entrepreneurial initiatives that shape the new economy. For example, at the local level (according to various websites), the Vancouver Enterprise Forum fosters and emphasizes the exchange of high-tech information; the BC Innovation Council advances the comodification of innovative technology; the BC Biotech Alliance promotes bio-tech capabilities across all sectors including healthcare, forestry, aquaculture, agriculture, food and beverages, and the environment; and the Calgary Council for Advanced Technology provides a forum to enhance technology awareness, business development, and networking for the advanced technology community. Such networks also help to establish western Canada's high tech linkages with California and across the Pacific (e.g., with clusters in Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Bombay, and Bangalore).

By networking more ethno-culturally, other associations pursue transnational aims that favour transnational linkages in the Indian and Chinese communities. Among other activities, their exchanges include mentoring and the transfer of knowledge and technology in high-tech businesses. For example, the 8,000 associates of the Indus Entrepreneurs mentor new members in offices in Vancouver, London (UK), the United States, and India; whereas the Canada-China Society of Science and Technology serves as a bridge between Canada and the Peoples' Republic of China (and other regions of the world) in areas of scientific information exchange, co-operation, and technology; and the Monte Jade Science and Technology Association (based in western Canada but active in Taiwan, Canada, and the United States) consists of chapters that are involved in about 300 high-tech companies employing approximately 30,000 highly skilled researchers and generating some $4 billion in revenues.

Some associations focus on a particular sector. The Silicon Valley Chinese American Computer Association was established for the purpose of enhancing their successes in the United States. They used the organization as a way of sharing information, pooling their resources, and co-operating with one another in order to leverage their collective buying volume when dealing with vendors (such as Microsoft), as well as with service companies (such as the United Parcel Service). They were also able to extend their influence through networking partnerships with sister organizations such as the Western Canada Computer Distributor Society (WCCDS) Twenty-eight of the thirty-two companies belonging to WCCDS are located in Richmond (a suburb of Vancouver). Most of the computers and components are air-freighted from Pacific Rim locales such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore and China, and the businessmen in this sector have important links, including family ties, with manufacturers in Asia (Bennett 2005, 25).

Such associations provide international linkages, home-country relations, network language, (two-way) capital flows, skill acquisition, knowledge acquisition, technology transfer, local-global reach (Asia, United States, EU, etc.), cultural practices, membership criteria, commercialization of services or products, investment practices, exclusionary practices toward non-professionals and non-co-ethnics, promotion of women's participation, and family influences. Members of such associations took the initiative to found and manage enterprises in the high-tech sectors of western Canada.


In the high-tech sectors in British Columbia and Alberta (see table 2), particularly in the manufacturing sectors in Vancouver and Calgary (e.g., in the computer and electronics sector) and in high-tech services, such as software development, immigrants participated both as innovative entrepreneurs and as skilled professionals. For instance, Dr. Hatim Zaghloul, an immigrant from Egypt, has been highly influential in Calgary's hi-tech industry. He is the co-founder, with Dr. Michel Fattouch, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Calgary, of two relatively successful companies in the mid-1990s-Wi-Lan Inc. and Cell-Loc--both of which produce wireless technology and enjoy multinational operations.

Hatim Zaghloul came to Calgary from Cairo University to do graduate work and is now a recognized international innovator in the field of radio technology, and these companies are involved in seamless communication technology and tech transfer. He was honored in Calgary in 1998 as an "immigrant of distinction" and was also a finalist in the Prairie Region's Entrepreneur of the Year competition. He is currently the executive chairman of Wi-Lan, and he recently hired Dr. Sayed-Amr (Sisso) El-Hamansy as the president and chief executive officer. Wi-Lan's markets are now worldwide, as it is a global provider of broadband wireless commun-ications products to over sixty countries. Moreover, Hatim Zaghloul helped two of his brothers, Ashraf and Essam, finance their own high-tech company in Ontario called NTG International Inc. in the early 1990s. It is interesting to note that Hatim Zaghloul is also very active in Calgary's Muslim community and is currently the chair of the Muslim Council of Calgary.

In Vancouver, Koo Ming Kown, an immigrant from Hong Kong who was originally from Taiwan, provides an interesting case study. He founded Nam Tai Electronics in Hong Kong back in 1975, but he immigrated to Canada in the early 1990s and built a research and development facility for his company in Burnaby, British Columbia. Now the company headquarters is in Vancouver while its base and manufacturing operations are in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China. Nam Tai is an electronics manufacturing and design services provider to original equipment manufacturers of telecommunications and consumer electronic products. Their electronic components are used in numerous products, including cellular phones, laptop computers, digital cameras, copiers, fax machines, electronic toys, handheld video game devices, and microwave ovens.

Irfhan Rajani immigrated from Africa when he was eleven years old with his family and has since become an innovative entrepreneur in Vancouver's new economy. He graduated with a commerce degree from the University of Calgary in 1986 and started his apprenticeship as an entrepreneur with a Toronto high-tech company. In the 1990s, he co-founded his first start-up company in Vancouver, Zentra Computer Technologies, supplying storage solutions and services to companies like MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates. He moved on to his second start-up, the software company Telebackup Systems, and sold it for $143 million to Veritas Software Corporation in 1999. One year later, in 2000, he started the Vancouver software development firm Jaalam Technologies (Constantineau 2003). In 2003, that firm became Apparent Networks, which designs marketing network intelligence software. In 2005, Apparent Networks was named by the BC Technology Industry Association for excellence in product innovation.


To understand what role immigrants play in the growth of the new economy, three areas need to be examined: the continued growth and restructuring of this new economy, the immigration policies selecting migrants for employment or entrepreneurship in the high-tech sectors, and immigrants' initiatives that foster this economy. Moreover, to understand immigrants' embeddedness in this sector, research should be conducted in the context of transnationalism and the role of social capital in transnational social spaces. Furthermore, the case of western Canada's new economy is a potentially ripe focus area.

Our future research is guided by three main questions: How can we best examine the emergent structure of the high technology economy and identify immigrants' historic role in it in Calgary and Vancouver? What current initiatives are new immigrants, as entrepreneurs and highly skilled workers, pursuing in the new economy's transnational opportunity structure? and finally, What are the effects of Canadian immigration policy on immigrants' participation in the new economy? This research program relies on multiple sources and types of data and uses a variety of research methods, thus requiring "data and methodological triangulation" and "crystallization" (Janesick 2000, 392) in order to answer our research questions. More specifically the utilization of municipal records, government and non-government reports, censuses, business directories, survey research data, interview data, and immigration policy, requires "data triangulation" (Denzin 1989, 237) in order to understand the social organization of immigrants in the new economy through time and space.

First, we will analyze qualitative accounts of the emergence of this sector in the last three decades (1970-2005) using annual reports of high-tech firms, trade magazines, and reports and policy papers (for example, municipalities' reports chronicling their success in external investment and recruitment, and reports from Industry Canada and high-tech associations). To understand the contemporary situation (2005-2008), we examine the initiatives that new immigrants pursue by reviewing similar qualitative research reports and other documents as they become available, and we will use public and private databases to identify business names, addresses, number and type of employees, and the type of high-tech products and services as these are categorized by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Second, since western Canada's new immigrant entrepreneurs and highly skilled immigrant workers tend not to pursue their success in the high-tech sector in isolation, it is important to understand (1) that they take part in this sector by joining networks or high-tech associations and (2) that they also take entrepreneurial initiatives that shape the new economy. In each city we propose to conduct about fifty personal, face-to-face interviews with key informants and immigrant entrepreneurs and highly skilled immigrant workers. Third, evolving Canadian immigration policy over the past thirty years will be examined to contextualize the current situation of immigrants in the new economy. We expect to find that since the 1970s the substantial high technology sector that developed in Calgary and Vancouver is populated by transnational immigrants who play an innovative role. The cumulation of research findings in all three phases will likely have policy implications.


The authors would like to acknowledge the funding support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for this research. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers CES for their helpful comments.


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BC Innovation Council

BC Biotech Alliance

Calgary Council for Advanced Technology

Canada-China Society of Science & Technology (CSST). Organization Structure

Indus Entrepreneur;

Monte Jade Science and Technology Association

Silicon Valley Chinese American Computer Association (SVCACA)

Western Canada Computer Distributor Society (WCCDS), see Silicon Valley Chinese American Computer Association (SVCACA)

Vancouver Enterprise Forum

* All websites were accessed 26 June 2005.


(1.) The commonly described "60/40" immigration policy of Canada refers to 60 percent economic immigration and 40 percent humanitarian immigration.

(2.) Faist introduces four social capital functions for understanding transnational social spaces--selection, diffusion, bridging, and adaptation (Faist 2000), 121-22.

(3.) B. Bowlby, e-mail message to authors, 23 September 2002.

Karl Froschauer is an assistant professor of sociology and director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at Simon Fraser University. His recent research focusses on regional electricity sector integrations, immigrant entrepreneurship, and new immigrants in the new economy of Vancouver and Calgary. He has published articles in Energy Policy, Journal of Canadian Studies, Zeitschrift fur Kanada-Studien, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Comparative Political Studies, and Canadian Ethnic Studies/Etudes ethniques au Canada and has published three books: White Gold: Hydroelectric Development in Canada, In/Security: Canada in the Post-9/11 World (co-edited with A. Netherton and A. Seager), and Convergence and Divergencein North America: Canada and the United States (co-edited with N. Fabbi and S. Pell).

Lloyd Wong is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Calgary and the social and cultural domain leader at the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration. His research interests include racism and ethnic discrimination, immigration, Chinese ethnic entrepreneurship, and transnationalism and citizenship. Recent articles on transnational social space, the global immigration marketplace, and transnational enterprises appear in International Migration, Asian and Pacific Migration Journal and International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Recent book chapters appear in Changing Canada: Political Economy as Transformation (with V. Satzewich), edited by W. Clement and L. Vosko, and Street Protests and Fantasy Parks: Globalization, Culture, and the State, edited by J. Stein and D. Cameron.
Table 1
Highly Skilled Immigrants as a Proportion of All Immigrants:
Canada and the Six Major Cities in the New Economy Regions


Immigrant Skill Level * Canada Toronto Montreal Gatineau

Highly Skilled 37.5 38.3 39.9 52.9
Semi & Unskilled 62.5 61.7 60.1 47.1
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
N 458,380 35,523 9,682 3,167


Immigrant Skill Level * Vancouver Calgary Edmonton

Highly Skilled 39.2 40.4 37.7
Semi & Unskilled 60.8 59.6 62.3
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0
N 12,088 3,709 3,045

Source. Calculated from 2001 Census Public Use Microdata File on
Individuals. This file is a 2.7% sample of the Canadian census
population enumerated

* Skill level was determined using the variable occupation (Employment
Equity Designations - based on the National Occupational
Classification) with senior managers, middle and other managers,
professionals, semi-professionals and technicians, supervisors and
supervisors of crafts and trades designated as "highly skilled." The
rest of the occupations were combined into the semi and unskilled
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Author:Froschauer, Karl; Wong, Lloyd
Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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