APF Canada Report Argues Canada Can Do a Better Job to Harness Potential of its 2.8 Million Canadians Abroad

Vancouver, BC - June 27, 2011 Canada can do a lot more to turn its 2.8 million Canadians abroad into an asset for the country. This is one of the key messages from the capstone report Canadians Abroad: Canada’s Global Asset released today by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

The report calls for a more proactive and coordinated approach by the federal and provincial governments recommending key policy actions such as: the creation of a dedicated agency overseeing Canadians abroad, the establishment of a special Parliamentary Committee on Canadians Abroad, and the formation of a global, cross-sector non-governmental organization to link national and regional Canadian networks overseas.

Commenting on the report, Mr. Yuen Pau Woo, President and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada said, "Given the large and growing population of Canadian citizens living abroad, there is a need for coordinated and forward-looking policies that treat overseas citizens as assets for the country, while putting in place measures to mitigate the risks of a global citizenry." He added, "In the same way that we celebrate Canada as a country of immigrants, we should also embrace the fact that Canada is a country of emigrants."

Kenny Zhang, Senior Project Manager with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada noted, “There is opportunity to balance out discussions that have primarily framed Canadians abroad as a liability, as disloyal, and as citizens of convenience. Clearly there are challenges we need to keep in mind, but there’s a lot more we can do to make Canadians abroad our global asset.”

The report is the culmination of a three-year research project that produced the estimate of 2.8 million Canadians citizens living overseas that is now widely cited in the press and by other researchers. The project’s key findings and policy recommendations are:

• Canada’s 9% population of citizens living abroad is higher than the United States (1.7%), equal to Britain (9%), less than New Zealand (21.9%).

• Between 1996 and 2006, naturalized Canadians (i.e. Canadians born abroad) made up the fastest segment of Canadians abroad with an exit rate of 4.5% in contrast to citizens-born in Canada at 1.33%. While China and India showed a low exit rate during this period, anecdotal evidence suggests exit rates among Chinese immigrants are increasing.

• Naturalized Canadians abroad faced greater economic disincentives to return to Canada.

• The largest jurisdiction of Canadians abroad is located in the United States (1.06 million) with the second highest located in Hong Kong SAR (300,000), and thirdly in the United Kingdom (73,000).

• A 2010 National Opinion Poll that found 51% and 66% of Canadians residents believed that citizens living abroad should be entitled to voting and citizenship rights, respectively, as Canadians born and living in Canada. However, ad-hoc government policies on voting rights (no voting rights after 5 years abroad) and citizenship (restricting citizenship by descent to one generation born abroad) discourage attachment of Canadians abroad.

• In a survey of Canadians living in Hong Kong, 66% of respondents noted having immediate and or extended family members residing or studying in Canada. Three in five respondents intended to return to Canada.

• Policy recommendations include: creating a dedicated agency overseeing Canadians abroad; creating a special Parliamentary Committee on Canadians Abroad; providing staff and funds for Canadian posts abroad for active outreach to Canadians overseas; creation of a global, cross-sector non-governmental organization to link national and regional Canadian networks overseas; and the modernization of bilateral double taxation and social security agreements.

The full report Canadians Abroad: Canada’s Global Asset can be accessed here.

The Canadians Abroad Project is a policy research consortium initiated by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada with the generous support of the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Government of British Columbia, and the Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation.

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About APF Canada

The Asia Pacific Foundation is an independent resource for Canadians on contemporary Asia and Canada-Asia relations. As a national not-for-profit organization established by an Act of the Federal Parliament in 1984, the Foundation brings together people and knowledge to provide the most current and comprehensive research, analysis and information on Asia and on Canada's transpacific relations. It promotes dialogue on economic, security, political and social issues, helping to inform public policy, the Canadian public and Canada’s Asia practitioners. The Foundation is funded principally through an endowment from the Government of Canada and by corporate and individual donors.

For additional information, please contact:

Trang Nguyen
Communications Manager
Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
Tel: 604-630-1540
Email: trang.nguyen@asiapacific.ca

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