In Canada, as elsewhere, many immigrants rely on ethnospecific organizations – those that represent and provide services to a single ethnocultural group – to further their economic and social interests. This can have varying consequences for group members. Although dense communal organizing often facilitates economic networking and provides various other supports to recent arrivals, it can also lead to low incomes, social isolation and delayed integration.
This study explores organizational capacity within the Korean-Canadian and Ukrainian-Canadian communities by analyzing the number and types of organizations and the collective resources available to their members. It presents some of the most detailed quantitative data available, drawn from Canada Revenue Agency administrative files on charitable organizations, combined with other evidence.
The study demonstrates that although both communities are notable for the density of their organizational sectors and their extensive mobilization activities, there are important differences between them. The Korean-Canadian community is formed mainly of people who have arrived in the past few decades, more than 60 percent of whom completed post-secondary education. The author demonstrates that collective organizing within this community is closely linked to immigrant entrepreneurship (largely in small businesses) – a “defensive” approach that partly reflects the difficulties many Korean-Canadians face finding work within their fields of education and/or previous employment. The author suggests that this approach may be distancing Korean-Canadians from mainstream economic and social life.
The Ukrainian-Canadian example illustrates the significant long-term benefits associated with strong organizations that, since the community took root in the late 19th century (notably on the Prairies), have combined protection of community concerns with an outward-looking orientation. Ukrainian-Canadians have experienced significant upward economic and social mobility and have strong cultural and political representation at all levels. More recently, Ukrainian-Canadian organizations have supported a new wave of immigrants who have arrived following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
As for policy implications, the author raises concerns about governments’ apparent reluctance to support ethnospecific organizations – reflected, for example, in reduced federal government funding for the immigrant settlement services these organizations provide. He calls on governments to develop or expand programs to assist business development, including by promoting collaboration with business associations in other immigrant-background communities. He concludes by stressing the need to recognize the role ethnospecific organizations can play in immigrants’ economic and social integration and participation – a potential that can be more fully realized through the activities of organizations that focus, at least in part, on building bridges with the broader community.
The rapid growth and diversification of immigration to Canada in recent decades have prompted researchers and policy-makers to ask anew an important question: Are newcomers increasingly isolated from the mainstream, living in insular enclaves, and building their lives around separate communal structures and organizations?
A number of recent studies have provided a cautious negative answer (Walks and Bourne 2006; Hiebert 2009; Hiebert, Schuurman and Smith 2007). Most of this work uses a very specific definition of immigrant social isolation: residential concentration. Yet geographical clustering is becoming far less significant as a way to measure the potential lack of integration of immigrants and ethnocultural groups. Social and technological changes are making it much easier for immigrants and nonimmigrants to create social spheres without physical proximity. Immigrants can stay connected with the homeland and other members of their diasporas scattered throughout the world with an ease that was impossible just two decades ago. In brief, organizing is becoming far more significant for immigrants, enabling them to engage collectively without living side by side (Portes and Zhou 2012; Cordero-Guzmán 2005; Cohen 2008).1
Ethnoimmigrant communities are therefore defined less by geography and more as complex social structures that involve various types of networks, the formation of both physical and virtual communities, and a broad range of organizations (Werbner 2007). This is not an entirely new development: immigrants around the world have long formed employment niches and other forms of communal social and economic structures (Waldinger 1994; Zhou and Lee 2012). But there are reasons to believe the phenomenon is intensifying in Canada and elsewhere, with immigrants increasingly relying on their communities’ networks, organizations and institutions to pursue their economic and social objectives (Bauder 2012; Carment and Bercuson 2008; Couton 2013).
The phenomenon is complex, but one contradiction is noted in almost all the research about immigrant social isolation, going back to some of the earliest observers of large-scale urban immigration. Louis Wirth (1956) described most clearly the paradox of the ghetto (now more often referred to as an “enclave”): it is at once a place of stigmatized isolation and a source of enduring social support and solidarity. Immigrants everywhere have created thriving communal clusters that further enrich urban cultures (one of the main features of so-called global cities is their sociodemographic diversity) and have spearheaded numerous social movements (Wiseman 2007; Cohen 2008; Slattery 2012). But immigrants have also been shunted into some of the poorest, most isolated neighbourhoods and employment niches in the Western world (Massey 2009b; Sayad 2006; Galabuzi 2006). How these immigrants are organizing, the types of social and political structures they are building, and whether their organizational strategies enable them to achieve mainstream economic success or tend to push them into the margins — sometimes called an “enclave effect” — are important questions.
Community organizations can matter a great deal to immigrants (Bloemraad 2005). Yet despite their significance, immigrant organizations are often marginalized or ignored by governments and policy-makers (Ramakrishnan and Bloemraad 2008). Ethnoimmigrant organizations are nevertheless a rapidly growing and diversifying aspect of all immigrant-receiving societies and the subject of an increasing number of studies (Carment and Bercuson 2008; Zhou and Lee 2012). Since the late 1960s, Canadian immigration has been among the most diverse in the world, leading to a range of ethnoimmigrant experiences. The general medium-to-long-term trend has been one of considerable upward mobility for most ethnoimmigrant groups in educational and economic achievements, particularly when compared with the marked ethnocultural inequality that prevailed in Canada well into the 1950s and 1960s (Herberg 1990). Despite these gains, serious inequalities persist among a number of recently arrived groups, particularly in income (Pendakur and Pendakur 2011; Galabuzi 2006; Picot and Sweetman 2012; Kelly 2014). Part of this persistent inequality is due to the discriminatory treatment received by some minority groups, especially those who belong to multiple, overlapping vulnerable categories, such as immigrant visible-minority women (Chui and Maheux 2011).
Some of the inequality may also be related to the ways that immigrants structure their communal social and economic activities. Recent immigrants vary greatly in how they organize their communal lives after migration and in the degree of their collective mobilization. However, studies that focus on the social participation of immigrants often treat them as an undifferentiated category or divide them into overly broad groupings. Many studies also analyze only individual-level variables, such as membership, volunteering or donating (Grabb, Hwang and Andersen 2009).
Although these are important dimensions of community involvement, they do not truly measure organizational capacity: the social structures available to members of a group regardless of whether they join and/or donate. Organizational capacity can be measured more effectively by analyzing the number and types of organizations within given communities and the collective resources available to their members. The majority of immigrants and nonimmigrants rarely take an active role in their communities but nevertheless derive benefits from organizations that provide cultural, economic, educational or spiritual services. These organization-derived benefits include network formation, social support and other forms of relationship-building opportunities, as well as direct material support, including access to housing, financing and other business resources.
This study analyzes organizational capacity in immigrant communities and some of the implications for integration. Measuring ethnoimmigrant mobilization through facts and figures about organizations does not, of course, give a complete picture. Informal networks and associations are known to be important for many communities, in some cases more so than formal organizations, but they are very difficult to measure precisely. A large number of social structures may be a sign not of strength but of underlying factionalism and fragmentation. Keeping these limitations in mind, the number and strength of formal organizations, in this case officially registered charities (following the Canada Revenue Agency’s definition),2 are significant dimensions of an ethnoimmigrant community’s collective life.
The study finds considerable variation in the number and scope of ethnoimmigrant organizations in Canada and the services they provide. Two communities stand out, heading the list of collective organizations ranked on a per capita basis by a fairly large margin: Korean-Canadians and Ukrainian-Canadians. They have strikingly different histories, integration trajectories and socio-economic profiles, making them suitable subjects for a comparative analysis of some of the patterns and consequences of collective structuring. The first is a community of recent arrivals, consisting mostly of first- and second-generation immigrants, identified as a visible minority. The second is one of Canada’s oldest, most established European-origin ethnocultural communities, one that still receives substantial numbers of new immigrants. Despite these differences, the two communities have in common a high density of organizations and networks and well-developed mobilization strategies. Koreans have long been noted for their entrepreneurship and numerous, interlinked communal organizations (Yu and Murray 2007; Light and Bonacich 1988). Ukrainians are one of the world’s best-organized diasporas (Satzewich 2002; Satzewich, Isajiw and Duvalko 2006).
Comparing these two communities is therefore a potentially promising way to learn about the effect of collective structuring on the social and economic prospects of immigrants in general. Can the degree to which newcomers rely on ethnoimmigrant organizations to organize their collective social and economic lives significantly affect some of these newcomers’ outcomes? Or is there a more complex interplay between social structuring, personal characteristics and other factors?
Recent research has amply confirmed the link between social networks and immigrant entrepreneurship in a number of countries and periods (Waldinger 1994; Werbner 2007; Salaff et al. 2003). Entrepreneurship is often highly dependent on intricate networks and complex relationships between multiple actors. In ethnocultural enclaves, the benefits of these relationships are provided to a well-defined, often fairly small, culturally restricted group. Social capital and geographically concentrated immigrant entrepreneurship can also be mutually reinforcing: enclave businesses benefit from noneconomic networks and organizations to get established (religious organizations, for instance) and later become part of those networks; they thus transcend their initial economic objectives and reinforce the immigrant-background economy. The economic impact of this cycle on members of the groups concerned remains uncertain. Since there are a number of policy tools that can affect entrepreneurship (by immigrants and others), shedding empirical light on this question is important.
Canada’s current immigration policies may unintentionally reinforce some of the less desirable aspects of the cycle. Enclave formation is often the result of frustration with limited labour market opportunities for immigrants or with outright discrimination on the part of employers and other social actors and institutions (Hou and Wang 2011). Immigrants often face difficulties in entering the mainstream economy; even the highly skilled, who also happen to be the category most valued by Canadian immigration policy, often encounter significant obstacles. A natural reaction for many newcomers whose skills and credentials are not recognized or who face discrimination is to turn to self-employment and/or enclave employment, aided by formal and informal networks — even if this choice may result in downward economic mobility (Salaff et al. 2003).
Communal structuring and activism are frequently spurred by hardship and discrimination. Breton (2003) calls this phenomenon “defensive structuring,” a term coined by Siegel (1970) that has also been applied to other, nonethnic communities. Ethnoimmigrant communities mobilize collective resources in an effort to resist societal forces that limit their opportunities or repress their aspirations. But this reactive mobilization occurs within a broader context that has been explained in two different ways.
Neoclassical models expect inequality within and between countries to disappear in the medium to long term as a result of labour relocation: people move to places with better employment opportunities. As De Haas (2010) puts it, migration is simply the “optimal spatial reallocation” of those factors and should contribute to spreading economic development. In contrast, political economy models and state-centric models point out that states and other political forces not only interfere with resource allocation but often completely control it. This leads to many of the social and political issues related to immigration, including the creation of foreign–worker programs (and their unplanned consequences), immigrant selection and integration policies, and the management of cultural diversity (or the lack thereof) (Zolberg 2006; Massey 2009a).
These two perspectives have different implications: under neoclassical models immigrants are distributed relatively uniformly according to (mostly) economic needs, such as skills or other forms of human capital, eventually blending in with receiving cultures and populations, in a largely apolitical supply-and-demand process. Under political economy models, immigrants are significantly affected by political processes and decisions that shape their identities, opportunities and strategies. Mobilization would be far more common under this model: immigrants who encounter significant obstacles to socio-economic integration are likely to develop strate-gies to overcome those obstacles; and they will take advantage of institutional opportunities that encourage collective structuring and identity maintenance (multiculturalism policies and programs, for instance).
Political economy models offer a better account of the factors that affect the lives of migrants. Migration is often the direct result of state policies, which in turn affect communal organizing and collective mobilization. North African immigrants in France (Sayad 2006), Turks in Germany and Mexicans in the US (Massey 2009b), to take just a few notable examples, have all been profoundly affected by the histories, cultures and policies of receiving and sending states. In Canada, there is evidence that immigration policies strongly based on skill selectivity have not yielded the expected result of smooth, market-driven economic integration (see Picot and Sweetman 2012). This makes it all the more important to understand how immigrants organize, the consequences of the different strategies they deploy and the potential effects of relevant public policies.
The type of ethnoimmigrant activism and organizing examined in this study is not the only form of mobilization employed by minority communities. Cultural activism, media campaigns, protest politics, and electoral and party politics have all been used, sometimes quite effectively, by a range of ethnocultural groups. To take only one example, community media and -cultural- productions have long played interconnected, important roles in the expression of Asian–Canadian collective voices in Canada (Li 2007).
The “enclave effect” may also be more than just economic. The organizations of the enclave, including businesses, churches and associations, have often been noted for their cultural and political conservatism, particularly by younger members of those communities (Li 2007, 104, 113). Conservatism in enclaves can usually be attributed to a “don’t rock the boat” attitude, sometimes resulting from exclusionary or racist treatment by mainstream society. This tendency is reinforced by the traditional business model in enclaves, frequently organized around a male head of the family business, which creates fairly rigid power relations within and across domestic and business spheres.3
The ethnocultural ties that help create and are then reinforced by enclave businesses may become barriers to interaction with other social groups (Kwak and Hiebert 2010; Waldinger 1994). But such ties can also help build bridges to mainstream society. These two patterns have been expressed in the now classic distinction between bridging and bonding social capital, with the former helping establish connections with other social groups and the latter principally fostering internal cohesion (Putnam 2000; Grabb, Hwang and Andersen 2009). Whether ethno-immigrant organizations play either or both of those roles hinges on a range of contextual and community-specific dimensions, including the size and composition of the group, as well as on characteristics of the host society.
The types of collective strategies devised by immigrants to address the difficulties most of them face when adapting to a new society do vary greatly, as already noted. It is important to better understand the consequences of these varying strategies, the reasons why some immigrants use them more than others and the ways these strategies may be inflected by policy choices.
This study describes and analyzes certain forms of organizing in the Korean and -Ukrainian-Canadian immigrant communities in order to help us understand some of the ways organizational structuring may contribute to social and economic integration. General quantitative models are not always useful by themselves for this purpose, given the often -highly idiosyncratic nature of migration and settlement; and there is very little quantitative information on ethnoimmigrant organizations. Combining quantitative data with other sources of information is a more promising avenue for understanding the complexity of the pattern and consequences of associations and organizations.
The empirical material selected for this study focuses on two immigrant communities in order to analyze the structure and mobilization patterns of ethnospecific organizations4 and to determine if particular modes of adjusting to difficult integration trajectories are emerging. The ana-lysis is based on original data from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administrative files, the latest available censuses (2001 and 2006) and other data sets, in combination with -secondary sources, documentary evidence and other information. The CRA data provide the original and detailed quantitative core of this study. The approximately 80,000 charitable organizations currently existing in Canada are some of the most important social structures of the country and include large health, educational and spiritual institutions. Ethnoimmigrant groups are a significant and growing part of this sector. Identifying how some of these groups, primarily Korean- and Ukrainian-Canadians, create and use charitable organizations therefore provides a unique window into the organizational capacity of ethnocultural communities.5
Instead of a narrowly specified hypothesis, the empirical analysis is guided by a general expectation: collective organizing among immigrants is not linearly related to their socio-economic situation but is related to a number of other factors. Collective organizing is expected to be much more of a defensive strategy for recent immigrants, who may face a difficult labour market and an unwelcoming social environment, than it is for more established ethnoimmigrant communities. This difference can be expressed using the following hypotheses:
Table 1 presents several variables that combine 2006 census data with CRA data on registered charities.6 The table confirms that the Korean- and Ukrainian-background communities lead the rankings in per capita numbers of charitable organizations. The difference between the top and bottom ranks of the table is large: there is considerable variability in organizational capacity among immigrant/ethnocultural communities.
Average spending per organization is also shown in table 1. A previous multivariate study found that spending did not have much effect on labour market variables, whereas organizational density (as defined above) did (Couton 2013). Nevertheless, the quite sizable differences in spending between various groups’ organizations are bound to have consequences. These differences are in part the result of the presence of large health and educational organizations and institutions in some groups and not others (the Montreal Chinese Hospital is an example). These numbers should, however, be treated with caution until further research is conducted to understand their full significance.
Table 1 shows there is no simple linear relationship between organizational capacity and economic achievement, as illustrated by the significant differences between the Korean- and Ukrainian-background communities’ organizational capacities and their median individual incomes (in the case of median incomes this difference is in the order of three to one). The quantitative information is only the starting point of the analysis. For example, the relationship between organizational capacity and labour market outcomes has no clear direction, positive or negative. The reasons need to be elucidated using other sources of information, including available research and a selective analysis of documents produced by the largest organizations representing the two communities.
Korean immigration to Canada has been high since its initial rapid increase in the 1990s (Park 2012). In the 2011 National Household Survey, 154,355 people reported Korean as their sole ethnic ancestry (Statistics Canada 2013a). In 2012, Korea was the 10th most important source country for immigration to Canada. In 2011, it was in 12th place; it placed higher during most of the previous two decades (Citizenship and Immigration Canada [CIC] 2013). Multiple reasons have been cited for this sustained inflow, including reluctance to migrate to the United States, a more open Canadian immigration policy and, until recently, a favourable exchange rate against the Canadian currency (Han and Ibbott 2005). In 2011, 81 percent of immigrants to Canada from South Korea were admitted through the Economic Class (Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada n.d.); most of these would be skilled workers selected through the points system. In the 2011 National Household Survey, 65 percent of Korean-background respondents reported having a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree (Statistics Canada 2013b).7
Canada’s Korean-origin population has become renowned for its high level of self-employment, familial working arrangements and tight-knit networks and institutions (Lindsay 2007, 15). But this entrepreneurship is mostly small-scale retail, resulting in modest economic achievements. The average income of Korean-Canadians is considerably lower than that of the general population, and a much larger proportion of the Korean population falls below the low income cut-off (Park 2012; Lindsay 2007). Although data are not available on the proportion of Korean-Canadians who are not working in their fields of education and/or previous employment, it seems evident (from the relatively high education level of Korean immigrants) that this community is affected by deskilling (i.e., they are obliged to accept lower-skilled jobs because they cannot find work in the fields for which they were educated or trained).
Korean entrepreneurship in Canada appears to be more a defensive strategy than a path to successful economic integration. Yet the results are not confined to low incomes. Members of the Korean-Canadian community make complex collective and individual economic choices, involving trade-offs and sacrifices that become more apparent when other evidence is considered. These choices are further reinforced by a range of mobilization strategies, including demonstrations, political activism and awareness-raising projects. A good example is the Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association (OKBA). OKBA is probably Canada’s single most vocal advocate for convenience store owners, the niche business where Koreans have been particularly successful. It represents about 2,500 businesses in Ontario and, by its own estimates, accounts for a sizable part of the province’s convenience store sector. Indeed, its members own 27 percent of all independent convenience stores in the province, with combined sales of $2 billion (Kim 2010). It has published large numbers of press releases, sent delegations to Parliament and organized several large-scale demonstrations in Ottawa, Toronto and elsewhere. All these activities have centred on core concerns of Korean small-scale retailers such as illegal tobacco sales, in-store safety and the cost of insurance. OKBA has issued at least three press releases on the specific topic of the illegal tobacco trade, which it argues is hurting the livelihood of some of its members and causing broader damage in Ontario by encouraging organized crime and circumventing policies designed to curb tobacco use.
Koreans in British Columbia have been similarly successful at organizing their community’s business sector. For example, the Korea Times Vancouver and the Korean Businessmen’s Co-op Association of British Columbia (KBCABC) publish business directories. In British Columbia, as in Ontario, some of these Korean organizations have spearheaded mobilization in defence of the material interests of small businesses. For example, Harry Hur, the president of KBCABC, has taken strong public positions against what he has described as the unfair business practices of large tobacco companies and against the harmonized sales tax, joining forces with the NDP official opposition in the fight against the BC Liberal government (Baron 2011; New Democrat Official Opposition 2010).
OKBA and KBCABC are both dual-purpose, enclave-economy organizations: they provide group-buying (wholesale) services to their members, along with other business services, as well as the advocacy and mobilization described above. Although their primary purpose is not protest, the significant resources they control and their large networked, organized memberships can be readily mobilized to defend a communal or broader cause. This type of organizing can only strengthen the enclave niche business that so many Koreans favour. However, the activities of OKBA and KBCABC tend in certain ways to entrench the position of their members as primarily small-business owners (and may contribute to stereotypes within mainstream society).
Local business organizations also have links with the larger Canada Korea Business Association (CKBA), whose main purpose is to encourage business relations between the two countries. CKBA also organizes events and provides funding for various Korea-oriented events and organizations. It is in turn linked to the government of Korea, in particular KOTRA, the Korean government agency in charge of encouraging trade and investment by Koreans and in Korea. KOTRA, established in 162 countries, prides itself on having played a central role in the emergence of Korea as a major economic power through “economic diplomacy” and other investment-promotion activities (KOTRA 2012). In that sense, the strong, well-organized Korean community in Canada is an important dimension of the global economic policy framework deployed by the home country. This should help the community transcend its fairly narrow economic base, but it may also further embed Korean entrepreneurs in the ethnic subeconomy by forging links and supply chains primarily with the home country.
The Koreans’ focus on small-scale family business has come at the expense of other forms of organizing. As a Korean Canadian Women’s Association newsletter noted, “Until now, the Korean community in Toronto has not had many opportunities of professional job fairs and career connections through the community’s own network in comparison to other bigger ethnic communities such as the Chinese and the Indian community” (2011, 9).
Korean women may be right to complain. The community’s preference for family businesses is partly responsible for Korean women having one of the lowest employment rates among visible-minority women in Canada, well below that of European-origin women (Chui and Maheux 2011, 27). Traditional gendered divisions are also reinforced within the cornerstone organization of the Korean community: the church. As indicated in table 2, 84 percent of the Korean–background charitable organizations registered with the CRA in 2011 were religious. The leadership role men play in the economic sphere is reflected in their dominant role in church activities. In most churches frequented by the Korean community (as well as in mainstream and other ethnocultural religious organizations), organized activities go far beyond religious services and other spiritual functions. The churches provide leisure, social and cultural activities, all of which are made possible by women, who frequently do the arduous work of cooking, cleaning and organizing. Most are aware that the division of labour is unbalanced and that these conditions are not reflective of the social mainstream (Chung 2008, 73-8). Evidence even suggests that these churches are more conservative than their counterparts in South Korea. A participant in a study by Chung said that “when she was in Korea, she was taught to respect women’s rights and fought for equality. Interestingly, she points out that the Korean church in Canada, which might be expected to have been influenced by the western culture, is actually more conservative than churches in South Korea. She explained why she thought women had more power in churches in Korea” (2008, 80).
Some feminists have criticized what they see as a form of patriarchal domination in many ethnocultural communities, which is often left undiscussed in the name of respecting cultural differences (Bannerji 2000; Cha 2009). But some Korean women are combatting gender inequality within their own community by creating their own spaces and networks and by renegotiating domestic and family responsibilities (Cha 2009).
This and other evidence points to a highly mobilized but narrowly focused, defensively structured community. This strategy has not been without rewards: Koreans have a strong presence in an important economic sector — if not in income or prestige, then at least in self-reliance and visibility. They are a well-known and vocal section of the Canadian population and are building a future for their children. The community also has a low unemployment rate (see table 1, page 9). By many economic and noneconomic measures, Koreans thus form a successful, tight-knit community.
However, recent research on the Korean-Canadian community presents a picture that includes high levels of family tension, economic struggles and stress resulting from adaptation to a new culture, but also communal resilience and solidarity (Noh, Kim and Noh 2012). Avison and Noh (1996) report that ethnic support networks are important coping resources for Korean immigrants experiencing psychological stress. The same study also found that support from sources outside the community had no effect on the stressors associated with mental health problems. This confirms, in their view, that sociocultural similarity between support providers and clients can be crucial. Support provided by the broader society may even be perceived as threatening or controlling (Avison and Noh 1996, 203), while the assistance offered by members of one’s own community often overlaps with friendship, family and neighbourhood networks. Business, religious, welfare and social associations and organizations may provide a wide variety of overlapping forms of support for everything from setting up a small business to alleviating psychological distress.
Clearly, immigrant-community entrepreneurship is far from being just an economic activity. It has far-reaching social and political consequences. This became particularly evident for Koreans in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s (Min 1998, 2008). Koreans had found a successful niche as “ghetto grocers,” a business few others were willing to enter.8 But these ventures also brought resentment from their mainly Black neighbours (Koreans were targeted during the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles), as well as problems with suppliers and even government authorities. Yet these tensions were also surprisingly rapidly resolved, -largely as the result of organizational activity by Korean-origin greengrocers, who addressed public perceptions of the problems, fundraised and organized demonstrations, relying on what Min calls “reactive solidarity”(1998).
Korean immigrant entrepreneurship in Canada may be changing, however, and reaching into new and promising areas. There is evidence that Koreans are expanding their business opera-tions into sectors well beyond small-scale, low-income retail and services. One striking trend is the rapid rise and growing significance of an economic sector that serves Korean international students coming to Canada. Most of these businesses have deep roots in well-established Korean networks, particularly in and around Vancouver (Kwak and Hiebert 2010). The evidence points to the existing enclave economy’s ability to generate economic opportunities beyond the structures the community has already developed:
Korean ESL school coordinators often find their work through social networks, and many Korean education agency owners learn how to establish and maintain their businesses from other Korean business owners. Considering the degree of clustering and the incubation effect, this small part of the Korean-led economy can be regarded as a form of an ethnic niche economy. (Kwak and Hiebert 2010, 145)
The profusion of communal institutions may also have advantages beyond the mixed economic success noted above. For example, Yu and Murray (2007) note that Koreans in Vancouver have the highest number per capita of media outlets (print, electronic, audiovisual) — much higher than those of more established ethnoimmigrant communities such as the Chinese and South Asians. This is a sign of communal vitality. However, many of these media outlets are small and short-lived.
Some of the particular features of the Korean-Canadian community are evident in the overall profile of their organizational sector, shown in table 2. By far the largest share of organizations have a religious focus, and, more importantly, there are very few organizations of other types. The lower proportion of education and welfare organizations is particularly notable.
This picture of Korean-Canadian organizations leaves a number of questions unanswered. The main one is to what degree the group’s most salient features — strong institutional capacity, enclave-centred business practices and strong ethnoreligious structures — explain the generally modest socio-economic situation of its members. Are other communities experiencing similar conditions (or did they in the past), with similar outcomes? Direct comparisons are always difficult, but Ukrainian-Canadians offer a revealing contrast.
Canada’s Ukrainian community is a fairly large, mostly Canadian-born ethnocultural group: 300,590 people identified themselves as Ukrainian (single ancestry) in the 2006 census, with the vast majority in the second or third generation.9 The community has been formed as a result of several significant migration waves since the late nineteenth century, with the most recent one following Ukraine’s difficult postindependence period.More than 3,000 Ukrainian immigrants came to Canada in 2010 alone, and between 2,000 and 3,000 settled here annually over the past decade. In light of the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia and weakness in the Ukrainian economy, there may be a renewed interest in immigrating to Canada. In 2006, there were 87,560 foreign-born Ukrainians in Canada compared with 101,345 -foreign-born -Koreans (Statistics Canada 2009; CIC 2013a).
The Ukrainian-Canadian community has one of the strongest networks of ethnospecific organizations in Canada, including schools, cultural bodies, educational institutions and religious associations (Baczynskyj 2009; Couton 2013, appendix). Although Ukrainian-Canadians differ from Korean immigrants in important ways, the two communities share a propensity for strong communal organizations and dense ethnocultural networks. These social structures have served the Ukrainian community well during its long presence in Canada, and they continue to assist recent immigrants.
Historically, Ukrainians are one of Canada’s greatest collective success stories. Most of the early immigrants and many in the successive waves had low skills and education, worked in low-paying occupations and stood near the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy in Canada as recently as the 1950s. Ukrainians long formed a well-structured (if fractious) group,10 in part because of the practice of block settlement, beginning in the late nineteenth century. The settlement of entire communities, usually in the western provinces, had the effect of strengthening communal solidarity but also of limiting mobility. Yet by the 1980s Ukrainian-Canadians had made some of the most impressive gains of any ethnoimmigrant community, with 32 percent having obtained some post-secondary education in 1981, up from only 3 percent in 1951, then the lowest rate of any of the major ethnocultural groups (Herberg 1990). As table 1 illustrates, this progress has continued: Ukrainian-Canadians, many of whom were born here, are near the top of the socio–economic rankings for ethnocultural communities (as measured by employment and income). The depth of Ukrainian communal solidarity, reflected in a broad range of organizations and networks (Hinther and Mochoruk 2011, table 2), contributed to this development.
A few studies have documented the social and economic integration of recent Ukrainian immigrants to Canada (Isajiw, Satzewich and Duvalko 2002; Pivnenko and DeVoretz 2003). In a sweeping historical study of immigrants in the Prairie provinces, Loewen and Friesen (2009) showed how Ukrainians leveraged their strong sense of communal identity to climb the socio-economic ladder. As they put it, “Ukrainians in places such as Saskatoon bore their ethnic badge proudly” (64). Ukrainian identity was also maintained and reconstructed in a broad range of -organizations and institutions, spanning classes and neighbourhoods, and playing a multitude of roles. This was not simple ethnocultural maintenance, in other words, but a complex process of “ethnic reinvention” that saw Ukrainians shift their attention away from homeland politics and ethnic-boundary maintenance to a strong, dynamic, locally anchored ethnicity aimed at securing a place in Canada’s evolving social structure (Loewen and Friesen 2009, 64).
An important dimension of this ethnically anchored mobility was the strong presence of women in many key community institutions. Their roles were often traditional, as was the pattern for other immigrant groups. But many also took a central role in political movements (including a number of radical factions), initiated the creation of what would become key cultural institutions and promoted the advancement of education and economic mobility for women (Swyripa 1993).
Ukrainians are proud of their history in Canada and celebrate the rich institutional life that has supported their community. Paul Grod, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), summarized this attitude during one of the events marking the 120th anniversary of Ukrainian presence in Canada:
They experienced extreme physical hardship settling the prairies, discrimination and later internment as enemy aliens. In spite of all these barriers, Ukrainian Canadians were instrumental in building a strong Canadian nation and as a result we are proud to consider ourselves its founding peoples. Four successive waves of immigrants built the Ukrainian Canadian community which we enjoy today — cultural centers, churches, schools, retirement and nursing facilities — a community that cares for its people from cradle to grave. Today, many other Ethnocultural communities look with admiration at our community. We are recognized as one of the top 2 most influential ethnocultural communities in Canada. What is more telling of our success, Canada today considers itself the most Ukrainian country outside of Ukraine. (UCC 2012)
Since 1991, a relatively small but growing number of immigrants have arrived from Ukraine, now independent. Many of them are deeply attached to their ancestry and culture, as Isajiw, Satzewich and Duvalko (2002) report, despite frictions with existing Ukrainian-Canadian insti-tutions. Pivnenko and DeVoretz (2003) label recent Ukrainian immigrants “overachievers”: their earnings are on average higher than those of other immigrants, and their economic integration is much faster. They attribute their relative earnings advantage to “greater official language abilities, a more favourable occupational distribution, and greater education” (Pivnenko and DeVoretz 2003, 20). According to Isajiw, Satzewich and Duvalko (2002), recent immigrants from Ukraine have only limited ties with the long-standing Ukrainian-Canadian community (in contrast with the Korean-Canadian case), often choosing to participate in mainstream institutions and networks instead.
Could this simply mean that Ukrainian-Canadians are successfully integrating into the Canadian labour market without the support of communal social structures but based on their high level of human capital, as the neoclassical model predicts? Some evidence points to a slightly different reality. A recent study in Saskatchewan, for instance, indicates that the strong Ukrainian-Canadian presence there is a powerful draw for many Ukrainian immigrants (Kostyuk 2007). The UCC has been active in attracting immigrants to Canada and in helping them adapt to their new environment. Recent Ukrainian immigrants have also flocked to churches and other key Ukrainian institutions (Isajiw 2010). These differing results may simply be indicative of the internal tensions between some recent immigrants and more established members of the community, particularly over ongoing political troubles in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian-Canadian community has some of the largest ethnospecific immigrant-serving organizations in the country. The best example is the Canadian Ukrainian Immigrant Aid -Society (CUIAS), based in Toronto. In addition to being a large settlement agency (with funding from two provinces and the federal government, a large staff, a broad array of services and multilingual capacity), it is a well-defined Ukrainian ethnocultural organization, promoting Ukrainian culture, maintaining links to other Ukrainian organizations and belonging to UCC (CUIAS 2012). CUIAS is also one of only a handful of ethnospecific organizations that receive large grants from Citizenship and Immigration Canada under its settlement funding program (Public Works and Government Services Canada 2012).
The breadth of services provided to recent immigrants and established community members has not prevented division within the Ukrainian-Canadian community. But much of this can be attributed to political differences:
Many informants disagreed with the politicized notion of Ukrainians that characterizes the Ukrainian community and resented having to choose “sides” between a Russian-Soviet identity and Ukrainian nationalist identity in order to be accepted. For its part, the organized community and the schools which represent it, may feel that the rejection of Russian language use, the role of aggressor played by Russia and the Soviet Union in Ukrainian history and center to right politics are non-negotiable elements which identify Ukrainians in Toronto. (Baczynskyj 2009, 107)
The broad solidarity that emerged during the Orange Revolution of 2004 suggests that Ukrainians from many generations feel a strong sense of belonging to their community despite political differences. As for their economic integration, rather than using communal institutions for purely defensive economic strategy, recent Ukrainian immigrants have been engaging in vital social and political debates, channelled by high-level organizations that include research chairs, national federations and international umbrella organizations. Ukrainian-Canadians’ presence at all levels of the cultural, political and social mainstream is well established; their presence is even stronger in historical areas of settlement (Manitoba, in particular). There are also few signs of narrow occupational concentration. This may be the result of the community’s long-standing presence in Canada as well as the effectiveness of its organizations. The clout of the community, and particularly the UCC, was evident in Canada’s swift and unequivocal response to the tensions between Ukraine and Russia when they escalated in early 2014. The UCC president was recently recognized as one of Canada’s most influential people by Embassy Magazine and the Hill Times (UCC 2014).
Defensive structuring was certainly an important aspect of Ukrainian community life during some of its history. Ukrainian-Canadian leaders famously challenged the binational vision of Canada reflected in the mandate of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and played a major role in developing one of Canada’s defining policies: multiculturalism. However, the current depth and range of services, activities and opportunities offered by Ukrainian communal organizations clearly show that a defensive posture no longer applies. Among other achievements, Ukrainian-Canadians have been elected at all levels of government. Having secured a permanent presence in all manner of social and cultural institutions, Ukrainians and their descendants are an integral part of Canadian society.
The differences between the Korean-Canadian and Ukrainian-Canadian trajectories discussed in this study raise a number of questions. The first is whether these can indeed be said to constitute “models” that could be influenced by public policy decisions. The two communities may simply be idiosyncratic examples, interesting in their own right but not particularly instructive or relevant for other ethnoimmigrant communities. There are reasons to believe, however, that this is not the case. For example, Fairlie, Zissimopoulos and Krashinsky (2010) report that most businesses in Canada owned by Asian immigrants earn quite a bit less than the national average, which seems to confirm that, for a number of recent immigrant communities, self-employment may largely be a defensive strategy in a difficult labour market.
In addition, there is evidence that entire business sectors are enclaves for underemployed -immigrants. Perhaps the most familiar of these is taxi driving. In Canada as a whole, 50 percent of taxi drivers are immigrants, with strong concentrations of specific immigrant-background groups in various cities (for instance, Haitians in Montreal, Lebanese in Ottawa and Indians in Toronto; Xu 2012). In Toronto, the vast majority of taxi drivers are racialized, often quite highly educated immigrant men who work under precarious conditions (Sundar 2012).
Taxi driving typifies the dilemma of immigrant subeconomies. The relative ease of entry, the formation of networks and communities, and the self-employed independence the sector permits have both weaknesses and strengths — presenting the same dilemma facing Korean immigrants. The potential for negative racialization, permanent deskilling and downward mobility is very high. But this economic situation persists to a large degree because of a number of structural conditions.
Most ethnic businesses are evidently not thriving enterprises but small-scale, often family-owned, network- and community-oriented retail, service or food-serving operations. They are all subject to similar sources of precariousness and stigmatization of workers and owners. In this context, involvement in the immigrant-community economy may hamper interaction with the wider society. Immigrants who work chiefly within their own ethnocultural communities are much less likely to be involved in social activities outside their group (Fong and Ooka 2002). Work in many of these small businesses can also be physically dangerous, since they are often easy targets for theft and robbery. Koreans have suffered disproportionately from these types of crimes (Yoo 1999).
While this form of defensive structuring, with all its attendant problems, has become increasingly common (and Koreans are affected more than other recent immigrant groups), many immigrants are mobilizing in order to build organizations and institutions that, in certain ways, distance them from mainstream economic and social life. Although ethnospecific organizations can help recent immigrants deal with some of the social and other challenges they face, their cost may be reduced opportunities for integration within the broader society. In this context, it is notable that in most ethnospecific communities, with the exception of the Lebanese and Italian-Canadian communities, religious organizations are significantly more numerous than other types (see table 2 on page 9). Although most religious organizations perform “bonding” functions within their communities, it is less clear to what degree they contribute to integration within the mainstream.
Organizational structuring focused on the immigrant community is not a new phenomenon, of course, and many immigrants, including Ukrainians, have resorted to this strategy at some point in their settlement history, often to their long-term advantage. But there are serious short-term disadvantages and a risk that this could become a multigenerational problem, particularly because of the compounding problems of skill nonrecognition and more-or-less subtle forms of discrimination.
There are nevertheless several reasons to believe that the social and economic structures that sustain ethnic enclaves are not inherently isolating or impoverishing. They may in fact bear the seeds of future success. That is precisely what makes the Ukrainian-Canadian example instructive: strong ethnoimmigrant institutions and organizations have been an important dimension of the socio-economic rise of Ukrainian-Canadians. Moreover, the Korean situation is far from clear-cut. The modest income level of Korean-Canadians is, as already noted, only one dimension of what is an otherwise highly mobilized, culturally vibrant, hard-working community that has created organizations designed to help business owners improve their prospects (Yoo 1999). In addition, there are indications that, particularly in British Columbia, Korean immigrants are branching out into higher-level businesses, particularly in international education, drawing on the strength of their economic and social networks (Kwak and Hiebert 2010). Immigrant entrepreneurship, despite its inherent limitations, can have a number of benefits — for the communities engaging in it and for Canada as a whole. Even family businesses can serve as springboards for much larger business ventures.
The single most important policy-relevant recommendation from the evidence presented here is to steer clear of simplifying assumptions regarding ethnocultural economies and enclave entrepreneurship. Many studies focus on a single dimension of the phenomenon (say, residential concentration) and often home in on negative consequences (social isolation, underemployment, lack of mobility). These problems exist, of course, and it would make little sense to deny or minimize this. But they exist in a complex social, cultural and economic environment, where ethnocultural networks and organizations, not all of which are ethnospecific, play a wide range of roles and where the advantages accruing to those who participate in them can be considerable.
The Ukrainian-Canadian model — of a large, well-organized immigrant-origin community able to maintain a strong presence at all levels of the country’s social, cultural and economic life and thereby provide direct and indirect support to the newcomers who continue to arrive — is the ideal reminder of such benefits. One important feature of the Ukrainian-Canadian community is the presence of a number of large and small organizations that are -federated- by an influential national umbrella organization (despite the predominance of religious institutions, which are a feature of the charitable sector as a whole). This does not mean that the community is free of internal tensions and conflicts; quite the contrary. But it does suggest that it is able to defend its own interests, offer a wide variety of services and enter into dialogue with other social and economic actors. It is also well positioned to provide services to newcomers and encourage immigration to various parts of Canada, sometimes very directly. These organizations and institutions may take decades to develop and become an integral part of the Canadian social fabric, but there is no reason to expect that only a few communities can reach this level of development.
The Ukrainian-Canadian example is also a good reminder that these processes may unfold in successive immigration waves. Ukrainian-Canadians have been able to build a strikingly influential presence in this country, from the days of block settlements on the Prairies, to involvement in organized labour, the advent of multiculturalism and, more recently, debates about post-Soviet Europe. With Ukraine experiencing a difficult democratic transition, the global Ukrainian diaspora is poised to play a key role. The cultural, linguistic and political skills of this diaspora are essential to this influence, which has been strongly prodemocratic — in stark contrast to some of the authoritarianism of recent domestic political developments in Ukraine (Motyl 2011). Skills such as these have been developed in many of the Canadian institutions discussed above, from churches to ethnocultural media and educational structures.
Korea will most likely continue to experience major social and political transformations. This may also be the case for the homelands of many other immigrant communities with large diasporas, such as Sikhs and Filipinos. However, it is not clear that all of these immigrant communities will be able to achieve as high a level of organizing as the two communities discussed here: as the CRA data show, organizational capacity varies considerably. Underemployment and the self-reinforcing tendencies noted here may further spur narrowly focused defensive structuring and discourage social integration.
Policies that target many of the issues confronting immigrants, including business, social and cultural dimensions, could encourage broader engagement on the part of organizations and institutions. For example, as Bloemraad concludes, governments can actively support ethnoimmigrant organizations in a variety of ways: “funding, technical assistance and normative encouragement play an important role in building immigrant communities’ organizational capacity” (2005, 867). This is not a matter of a single policy or a single government. The organizations covered in the quantitative data reported in this study fall under federal jurisdiction for fiscal purposes, but they are often local or provincial in scope. Recognizing and supporting umbrella ethnoimmigrant organizations would encourage greater organizational coherence and facilitate dialogue with other public and private organizations.
Governments at various levels could develop or expand programs to assist business improvement and diversification in several ways, including by promoting collaboration with ethnoimmigrant business associations in other communities. This cooperation is already taking place on a modest scale. For example, some Korean business organizations have collaborated with various levels of government, political representatives and public institutions. Measures to address some of the more difficult issues that affect immigrant communities (issues such as gender differences, family tensions and insecurity) are also important steps in the same direction. The enduring problems of language ability and nonrecognition of credentials (Albaugh and Seidle 2013) should of course continue to be addressed. As for enclave-centred entrepreneurship, the avenue often pursued by skilled immigrants, policies should both encourage its more positive aspects (labour market integration) and limit its long-term risks (persistent underemployment).
In this context, a potentially troubling policy trend concerns government funding for settlement services, much of which comes from CIC in the form of contribution agreements for specific projects. Although CIC’s settlement-funding budget has increased considerably over the past decade, some observers have noted a trend toward the homogenization of service provision and the defunding of ethnospecific organizations.11 Indeed, the overwhelming majority of settlement funding goes to broad-based organizations that do not serve a particular community (Public Works and Government Services Canada 2012). This suggests a reluctance to support ethnospecific organizations, despite the potential benefits of the services they provide (some of which may help enable members of the community to build ties with other immigrant-background communities).12
A further area of potential change concerns the policies governing registered charities, which are, in a number of respects, not well adapted to current Canadian realities. The most contentious issue has been and continues to be the limitations on political activities by charitable organizations. The federal government has made some changes to the interpretation of what programs count as political activities (Canada Revenue Agency 2003), but the rule that no more than 10 percent of a registered charity’s spending may be devoted to political activities still applies (with a higher threshold for smaller organizations). Since any activity that seeks to modify public policy counts as political, this rule limits organizations’ ability to express their views. In particular, it can exclude hybrid organizations that may combine service provision with advocacy. Whether and how much ethnoimmigrant organizations are affected by these limitations is not easy to determine, but it is an important issue that merits further consideration. These organizations are a significant and growing part of Canada’s voluntary sector. They play important roles in encouraging immigrants’ integration and participation in a pluralistic society. In this, as in other areas, public policy should encourage, not hinder, their effectiveness.
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This publication was published as part of the Diversity, Immigration and Integration research program under the direction of F. Leslie Seidle. The manuscript was copy-edited by Barbara Czarecki and proofread by Mary Williams. Editorial coordination was by Francesca Worrall, production was by Chantal Létourneau and art direction was by Schumacher Design.
Philippe Couton is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Ottawa. His recent research deals with many aspects of international migration, including immigrants’ social and political participation, their social capital and institution-formation and, more broadly, the role of immigration in large-scale social change.
To cite this document:
Couton, Philippe. 2014. Ethnocultural Community Organizations and Immigrant Integration in Canada. IRPP Study 47. Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy.
Montreal – Many immigrants rely on organizations that serve specific ethnocultural groups. Although these organizations can help newcomers deal with some of the challenges they face, it may be at the cost of reduced opportunities for integration within the broader society.
Philippe Couton’s new IRPP Study examines forms of organization within the Korean-Canadian and Ukrainian-Canadian communities to assess how these groups contribute to immigrant integration. His study presents some of the most detailed data available, drawn from Canada Revenue Agency administrative files on charitable organizations.
The Korean-Canadian community consists mainly of people who have arrived in the past few decades. Forms of organizing within the group are closely linked to immigrant entrepreneurship – largely in small businesses. Couton describes this as a defensive approach that partly reflects the difficulties recent arrivals face finding work in their fields of education or previous employment.
He explains: “this approach, though not without benefits to recent arrivals, may also limit their social integration beyond the community.”
In contrast, Couton finds the Ukrainian-Canadian example illustrates the benefits of strong organizations that, since the community took root in the late 19th century, have combined concerns for the protection of the community with an outward-looking perspective. These efforts have significantly improved Ukrainian-Canadians’ economic prospects and engagement in broader society since the 1950s.
“These organizations and institutions may take decades to develop and become an integral part of the Canadian social fabric, but there is no reason to believe that only a few communities can reach this level of development,” says Couton.
As for policy implications, the author raises concerns about governments’ decreased commitment to supporting organizations that represent a single ethnocultural or immigrant community – reflected, for example, in reduced federal funding for immigrant settlement services provided by such organizations.
Couton calls on governments to develop and expand programs that support business development and diversification within immigrant communities. He also urges governments to recognize, through their programs, the valuable role played by ethnocultural community organizations whose activities are directed at building bridges with the broader community.
Ethnocultural Community Organizations and Immigrant Integration in Canada,by Philippe Couton, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website at irpp.org.
For more details or to schedule an interview, please contact F. Leslie Seidle at 514-609-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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