Vaughan’s Economy, Diversity Scores As, But Fails Immigrants


Tamil semiors participate in a community yoga program at Milliken Mills High School in Markham. Photo by Noor Din.

This story originally appeared in the Vaughan Citizen.  

Vaughan has the second strongest economy in the country, according to a new study, but a significant portion of the workforce that helped build it is not reaping the rewards of that success.

The Conference Board of Canada’s January report, City Magnets II, rates the 50 largest cities in Canada from most attractive to least.

Vaughan scored an overall B and was rated the 10th most attractive city in which to live in Canada, but some near failing grades show there’s room for improvement.

The city got straight ‘A’s’ in most areas of diversity, except for an ugly D in success of foreign born population.

To some, such as Vaughan Community Equity and Diversity Committee member Noor Din, even that mark is generous.

“The city of Vaughan may have got a D in the success of foreign-born residents, but I think it deserves more of an F,” he said.

Vaughan – a city that has attracted a significant immigrant workforce in recent years – also got top marks in its economy, making the grade on success (or lack thereof) for foreign-born residents even more troubling.

Vaughan was one of only three cities in the country to get an A in economy and the only municipality outside of Alberta to receive that distinction (first place going to Calgary and third to Edmonton).

A study by Human Endeavour, a Vaughan organization that helps newcomers, says growth in the population of foreign-born residents in York Region eclipsed the growth of non-immigrant residents by over 100 per cent. Vaughan, one of the fastest growing municipalities in York Region, is seen as an attractive place to settle for new Canadians.

Vaughan nearly scored straight As in diversity, receiving an A in overall proportion of foreign-born residents, diversity of population, and evidence of multilingualism (Vaughan was rated the forth most multilingual city in Canada, with the other top 3 all being in Quebec). Despite these consecutive As, we received a D in success of foreign-born residents.

Mario Lefebvre, director of the Centre for Municipal Studies at the Conference Board of Canada, said the study discovered a significant gap in the income level between foreign-born, university-educated residents and their Canadian-born counterparts living in Vaughan.

“While you guys seem to be attracting a fair share of foreign born population, it may turn out to play against you at one point in time if the foreign born population finds they cannot get paid (in proportion) to their level of education,” he said.

The Human Endeavour study shows that while the education level of immigrants is climbing, the income in comparison to Canadian-born workers is dropping.

Thornhill Councillor Alan Shefman says one of the primary problems is that many foreign credentials are not recognized, forcing new Canadians to work low income jobs not consistent with their skill level.

“An individual might have received a university education and practiced their profession, but needs to go through the very difficult process in Canada and Ontario of getting accredited,” he said. “It’s been a huge barrier for many years in this country.”

Mr. Din knows this all to well. Having arrived in Canada in 1990, he also works with recent immigrants and knows how difficult it can be to find a job in one’s field.

“Based on my experience I can say there is serious discrimination both in the hiring process as well as in the income that immigrants get,” he said.

He said despite there being much talk of a universal accreditation system being implemented, little action has been taken.

“We don’t really have a system in place by the federal or provincial government to work on how to absorb these highly educated people coming to Canada,” he said. “Either our governments are incompetent and they don’t know what to do, or they don’t want to deal with it.”

Mr. Shefman said the diversity committee is looking into the issue of accreditation in the city of Vaughan, as well as other issues having to do with diversity.

“We as a city are in the process of developing a diversity strategy,” he said. “We’re hoping by the end of this year to have that strategy in place.”

Vaughan was held back from an A mark by scoring a D in health and environment. These marks were attributed to Vaughan not having a hospital within its city borders and having a poor record on Air Quality Advisories, perhaps due to significant carbon emissions (nearly 90 per cent of Vaughan commuters drive).

On the bright side, Vaughan was in the top five cities with the least violent crimes, the top five in employment growth, and was the number one in the housing category, with only 2.5 per cent of houses needing major repair compared to 10 per cent in Montreal.

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