January 10, 2024

The struggle for success: a look at the barriers faced by immigrants to Canada

New report shows the success of immigrants is vital to Canada’s prosperity, yet their potential is too often unrealized due to common barriers

CALGARY, ALBERTA—Economic immigration can do many amazing things for the Canadian economy, but only if we do it right. That means planning our systems to bring in people with the right skills our economy needs and providing newcomers with the supports they need to succeed.

Today, the Business Council of Alberta released its latest research paper—The Struggle for Success—which identifies five common barriers that many newcomers to Canada face after arriving; developed through consultation with newcomer serving agencies, businesses, and newcomers themselves. The paper also provides preliminary policy considerations to begin addressing these issues.

The paper highlights two fundamental barriers to newcomers’ success:

  1. Official language proficiency—this is one of the biggest barriers for newcomers. Language learning services are not always accessible or able to keep up with growing demand.
  2. Connection to available settlement services—while Canada has a comprehensive network of services, many do not know about them. Less than 40% of newcomers access settlement services within their first year of receiving their Permanent Residency. While not all require them, others do.

And three that more specifically interfere with their success in the labour market:

  1. Access to a personal and professional support system—newcomers often have limited support systems in Canada, which makes navigating a new city and country such as finding a job, a place to live, or even a school for their children more difficult.
  2. Discrimination in the labour market—newcomers often face negative bias when entering the job market. These might include having foreign experience; “second-language accents”; or even “foreign-sounding names.”
  3. Recognition of foreign education, experience, and credentialsnewcomers in regulated professions can often find that they require additional education or training to be able to practice their profession in Canada, and often the door can be nearly shut altogether.

“Supporting newcomers learning an official language should be job number one—nothing supercharges social and economic integration like language skills, and conversely our research showed that a lack of those skills can often be the most significant roadblock to newcomer success,” says Adam Legge, President of the Business Council of Alberta. “Right now, we are not matching language training funding to the number of immigrants, and that is not optimal for the country or newcomers themselves.”

Preliminary policy considerations to address these barriers include:

  • Adequately funding language training to the scale of newcomers: As Canada is set to welcome more newcomers than ever before over the next few years, the capacity of language programs will need to respond to this expected increase in demand.
  • Improving connections to and awareness of the available services: As few as 8% of newcomers may learn about available services at a government office upon landing. The Calgary Gateway program offers a positive model for potential improvement.
  • Better, faster, and more predictable credential recognition: Learning from the success of policies like the Alberta Labour Mobility Act, as well as encouraging regulatory bodies to identify specific training gaps, and standardized competency testing.

This is the fifth paper in the Council’s series on Canadian immigration. The next paper, which explores the potential unintended consequences of rapid population growth, will be released later this month. The Council has also stuck an expert task force to develop actionable policy recommendations to address the opportunities and barriers identified throughout this work.

The full paper is attached to this release and can be found at


About the Business Council of Alberta. The Business Council of Alberta is a non-partisan, for-purpose organization dedicated to building a better Alberta within a more dynamic Canada. Composed of the chief executives and leading entrepreneurs of the province’s largest enterprises, Council members are proud to represent the majority of Alberta’s private sector investment, job creation, exports, and research and development. The Council is committed to working with leaders and stakeholders across Alberta and Canada in proposing bold and innovative public policy solutions and initiatives that will make life better for Albertans.

Explore Advocacy:

Share This