The successful settlement of Lebanese immigrants in Halifax could well be a template for effectively supporting and attracting other immigrant groups to Nova Scotia.
The support system built up around the family and church by Lebanese immigrants has resulted in a strong, closely knit community, says Norman Nahas, president of the Canadian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
With that kind of backing in place, individuals could more easily adjust to living in Canada and quickly became comfortable carving out a role for themselves in the broader Halifax community, says Nahas.
Most Nova Scotians realize that attracting new immigrants to the province and to Halifax is an important element in any economic revival.
Immigrants aren’t taking jobs, they are creating them, says Nahas.
“We’re Lebanese, but we’re Canadian by choice,” he says, quoting his father, Sam Nahas, who came to Canada when he was just 14 years old.
“We’re proud of where we come from, we’re proud of what we do here, but we’re also proud of Halifax.”
While the Lebanese support system was built up by happy accident, he believes the province needs to create winning conditions by adopting the Lebanese model for other immigrant groups that come to the province.
The goal is to keep more immigrants in Halifax and Nova Scotia, rather than having them stop here briefly before ultimately settling in a larger centre such as Toronto.
While there has been anecdotal evidence that suggests Lebanese immigrants have had a disproportionately positive impact on Halifax, Nahas’s group recently teamed up with the Greater Halifax Partnership to find data to support that general impression.
The study uncovered some interesting facts, such as the community of 1,370 Lebanese immigrants and their descendants directly and indirectly create about 4,000 to 5,000 jobs each year.
According to 2011 census data, about 3.6 full-time jobs are created for every Lebanese immigrant in Halifax.
Fred Morley, senior vice-president and chief economist for the partnership, says it was really appealing to use the Lebanese community as a case study because there is data that points to the accomplishments of Lebanese immigrants.
“Really, it is about economic development,” he says.
Immigrants have a much higher likelihood of becoming an entrepreneur, meaning they have a very useful role in developing the labour force, says Morley. They usually account for more than half of Halifax’s population growth.
The study — The Economic Benefits of Immigration: The Impact of Halifax’s Lebanese Community — can be found at clccins.com.
It suggests that immigrants expand the local labour force and supplement it with a broader spectrum of skills, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Recent data show the total value of completed and ongoing major project and other real estate development between 2005 and 2015 by members of the Lebanese community in Halifax is an estimated $4 billion.
The level of residential development activity, directly and indirectly, could account for “about 26,700 person years of work over 10 years for an average of 2,670 direct jobs a year.”
The study concludes that within two generations, people who trace their roots to Lebanon have changed the face and culture of Atlantic Canada’s largest city.