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Celebrating newcomer entrepreneurship

Dispelling myths, listening to the experiences of local business owners who settled in Campbell River
Hollie Ha produces the podcast Holding Heritage and will be running companion episodes to the Campbell River Mirror/Welcoming Communities Coalition series. Photo contributed

Contributed by The Welcoming Communities Coalition

Does immigration have a positive impact on our community? The Welcoming Communities Coalition would answer that question with a resounding “Yes!”

Of course, the Coalition wanted to know what local residents had to say, and so we posed this question to people in Campbell River and the Comox Valley in a survey we conducted in late 2020.

Of the 203 people who responded, 87 per cent agreed or strongly agreed, stating that immigration contributes to arts and culture in Canada, encourages diversity, fuels economic growth, helps with population growth caused by an aging population and low birth rate, and increases quality of life and vibrancy where we live.

Seven per cent stated they had no opinion about the impact of immigration on our communities, and six per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that the impact is positive.

There is still work to be done dispelling myths around the impact of immigration and in making our communities more welcoming for newcomers. One common misconception is that immigration is a drain on the country’s economy.

Yet, immigration accounts for nearly 100 per,cent of Canada’s labour force growth, according to the federal government, and experts increasingly agree that our economic growth is in peril without it.

Canada – and Vancouver Island – needs immigration for a wide range of reasons, from cultural enrichment to economic practicalities. Last year, RBC Economics released a report highlighting how 600,000 workers from the available labour market pool will leave over the next three years as a result of an aging workforce, just one of the issues bringing economic factors to the forefront.

Newcomers are also job creators, with one study by Statistics Canada finding that, from 2003 to 2013, immigrants represented 12 percent of privately owned businesses and accounted for 25 percent of net jobs created by privately incorporated companies during that period.

About 10 per cent of residents in Campbell River identify themselves as immigrants. Our Coalition works to encourage welcoming, inclusive communities; we hope our community welcomes newcomers to the region and Canada with open arms, but we know this isn’t always the case. To help build this sense of belonging, we also hope that when newcomers open the pages of their local newspaper they see the community they know – one that includes voices like theirs.

The Coalition has interviewed three business owners in Campbell River who immigrated to Canada. These residents talked to us about the challenges and surprises they experienced settling and finding employment, why they decided to own and operate a local business, and the ways in which they were welcomed and supported as they made this community their new home.

The Coalition has partnered with The Mirror and Hollie Ha, the creator of the Vancouver Island-based podcast Holding Heritage. This month, The Mirror and The Mirror’s new magazine, The People Project, will share the stories of newcomers who started businesses in Campbell River and Ha will publish podcast episodes featuring the conversations along with bonus content that did not make it in print. Head to or wherever you get your podcasts to listen to the episodes she has already published that deepen our understanding of Chinese-Vietnamese heritage in Canada.

“I believe it is incredibly important and fulfilling to listen to and uplift these stories and voices - not only to encourage and inspire other newcomers to build meaningful and fruitful lives, but to bridge gaps between the many unique cultures and groups that help our communities thrive, grow and evolve,” says Ha, a second-generation Chinese-Vietnamese Canadian.

We look forward to sharing the stories of local newcomer entrepreneurs with you in the coming weeks.

This article is the first in an October series contributed by The Immigrant Welcome Centre’s Welcoming Communities Coalition on the North Island. The Coalition is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Read Rica Briones and Ivan Ragonot’s story of starting JRV Filipino Asian Store in our Oct. 19, 2022 issue and visit for the podcast episode.