Iain Reeve: One Thing I Learned

By: Iain Reeves

I first became aware of immigration as a concept when I moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver in 1994.

The newly constructed suburban neighbourhood where my family settled was also home to a significant number of recent arrivals from Hong Kong, part of a mini-wave of immigrants who left in the years before the United Kingdom ceded authority over that country to China.

The children of these families were some of my first Vancouver friends. We connected over all being new to the city—adapting in our own ways. But observing the challenges and hurdles my friends and their parents faced, compared with my own, gave me my first insights into the settlement and integration process. In seeing their struggles and victories, exchanging questions about our respective upbringings, and just spending time together, I was immediately inspired by the bravery and resilience necessary to start a whole new life in a new country.

Before long, I started high school, surrounded by more immigrants from all over the world: India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Brazil, Australia, South Africa. By the end of secondary school, I had friends who had lived on every continent on Earth. By the time I started undergrad, I was obsessed with questions of multiculturalism, the negotiation of multiple cultures in a single place, and the inherent value of immigration and diversity.

That passion and interest has stayed with me and grown to this day. As I found answers to many of my questions through graduate studies and time spent working at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, I quickly became ensnared by newer and more complex questions.

One thing I learned very clearly during these years is that Canada’s immigration sector—encompassing settlement service providers, government policy and program experts, lawyers and consultants, researchers, and advocates—is one of the strongest and most dynamic in the world. It attracts brilliant, compassionate, and community-minded individuals—many of whom are immigrants themselves—who work tirelessly to improve our immigration systems and ensure that immigrants who arrive in Canada are safe, happy, and successful.

I’ve also been inspired by an increasing number of employers, big and small, who see the value in hiring and promoting immigrant talent. Every year, more organizations reflect on how to improve their recruitment, performance assessment, and promotion strategies to become more inclusive, culturally competent, and antiracist. The benefits for immigrants are clear, but employers also reap the benefits of not letting conscious and unconscious bias prevent them from hiring the best talent.

The Conference Board aspires to empower all the different parts of the immigration sector to support immigrant success even more effectively.

Our research introduces essential evidence and insights into policy and program questions, elevates discussions, and challenges preconceived notions. We succeed when that research informs the decisions and actions of the key actors across our sector.

Our events, such as the Canadian Immigration Summit, expose people in the sector to critical perspectives, big ideas, and wicked problems. We bring together people from across the sector in the hope that their future collaborations will improve outcomes for individual immigrants and Canada as a whole. We succeed when we make the sector more connected and less siloed.

Our outreach takes our ideas and research insights to policy decision-makers, immigrant-serving organizations, and the public. We succeed when we provide the right insights at the right time, taking an active role in advancing immigrant outcomes.

Working on the research side of the sector can often leave me feeling isolated from the experiences, struggles, and successes of the actual immigrants I spend my days writing and thinking about. One way I stay grounded is by recalling my connections with hundreds of immigrants over my lifetime. The other is by making connections with people from across our sector who help immigrants every day. Creating and nurturing that connection, from immigrant experiences to decision-makers and back, is at the core of our work and our principles.