How did you end up an academic in Canada?
While I was an undergraduate in Tokyo, I was part of a group of
students who came to Montreal for a month to learn English. It was
1994, just before the referendum on Quebec separation, and as a
20-year-old girl from Japan – which is really ethnically homogeneous
– I got fascinated with this society very quickly. I began studying
international sociology with an emphasis on Canadian studies and I
wrote my thesis on Canadian multiculturalism. I returned to Montreal
in 1997 to start graduate work at McGill University and eventually
became a professor at Dalhousie. Now my role is as educator to the
new generation of social researchers who can produce solid evidence
for good social policy.
What data sources do you use in your work?
One of the best-known and most complete sources of information is
Statistics Canada’s Longitudinal Immigrant Database (IMDB), which
contains details about the categories under which immigrants are
admitted and what they do after landing here. Access to the IMDB is
very restricted, which is understandable because it contains personal
and private data about individuals. However, I was able to gain
access to it through participation in Pathways to Prosperity, a
national partnership among academics, government and NGOs that
looks at immigration and immigrant integration. The IMDB finally
enabled me to gather enough information about immigrants to the
Atlantic region to examine questions about how immigrants are
living. However, most of this information was collected from other
sources, such as tax records, rather than direct interviews. I had
to think clearly about who would be included in my analysis
of Atlantic Canada, since people move around and then file their
taxes from somewhere else.
Are there other sources you will be consulting?
I am proposing to work with another statistical source called the
Temporary Residents (TR) file, which captures data about individuals
who came to Canada and then left, such as students or foreign
workers. Since a lack of experience in the Canadian labour market is
one of the greatest barriers to immigrant success, these individuals
could have an advantage if they later immigrate. By linking the TR
database with the IMDB, we might be able to identify those who
Smart Ideas: Q&A
This series sponsored by the Federation
for the Humanities and Social Sciences
features notable humanities and social
sciences researchers with smart ideas for
a better tomorrow. This month we speak
to Yoko Yoshida, associate professor
in Dalhousie University’s Department of
Sociology and Social Anthropology.
Yoko Yoshida looks at the faces
behind immigrant numbers
arrived here with that kind of experience and then take stock of
How does your particular emphasis on statistics shape this
kind of analysis?
I tend to pick a certain concept or a topic which is causing some
controversy or stirring up debate. For example, I used administrative
data collected by the federal and provincial government to study
the socioeconomic profile of Nova Scotia immigrants with various
immigration categories. The popularly held image is that the province
is struggling to integrate and retain this population. Also, family-class immigrants’ economic contributions are often not expected
to be as significant as for those who come here specifically under
economic streams. But that doesn’t mean these people are just
going to sit around. What I found is that family-class immigrants
are actually doing better in Nova Scotia than in the rest of Canada.
In fact, up until 2009, immigrants who came to Nova Scotia as
spouses were more likely to be employed than those who came
here as economic migrants.
What do your findings reveal about the way Canadian
Canada is not like the United States, where employers directly sponsor
the process, although it has changed rapidly over the last few years.
Here, at least traditionally, immigration is not solely based on market
principles, which is something that enables people to work together
after they arrive. The most recent immigrants may be having trouble
in terms of economic success. But, even then, for the most part there
is an underlying spirit of helping each other and not attacking each
other. It is uniquely Canadian to think of immigration as a resource
of social development, rather than a source of social problems. In
the past, even some Europeans were seen as “outsiders” and the first
generation struggled; but the next generation could blend right into
the Canadian mosaic. In a sense, integration is a long-term process,
so we might find problems if we focus only on recent immigrants’
performance now. While we need research to assess short-term
well-being and provide necessary services settlement, the leaders of
the society also need a longer term vision of how immigrants will
contribute to the future.
SMART IDEAS STRENGTHENING CITIZENSHIP AND INTEGRATION
Learn how smart ideas are helping improve outcomes for newcomers to Canada
Learn more here: ideas-idees.ca/smart-ideas idees-ideas.ca/bonnes-idees