Immigrant Futures Forum: Designing a Welcoming Economy


Thu, 02/07/2019

Lead organisation


Live in Toronto       

9:00 – 10:30 AM (open doors, 8:30)

TRSM Commons, Ryerson University

55 Dundas Street West | Toronto


Canada’s strategy to attract immigrants for economic purposes responds to well-established data that show immigration is a positive contributor to economic growth. In Canada’s largest and fastest growing urban regions, this is lived experience.  For smaller cities or cities in economic decline, making the connection between immigration and economic development has the potential to offset population loss, address gaps and shifts in the labour market, and generally secure a more equitable distribution of national social and economic capital while reducing pressure on Canada’s largest cities where most immigrants settle.

What does a welcoming economy look like?  Research suggests newcomer-friendly services and slogans aren’t enough. Immigrant retention depends on positive labour market experiences and a robust local economy. What can local planning councils do to attract and sustain immigrant investment in the social, economic and cultural growth of their cities and regions? To foster new opportunities for innovation and wealth creation?

Join us for in-depth discussion on the drivers of immigrant attraction and retention in the urban economy. Experts from Canada and the U.S will share research, local experience and great ideas for how cities can leverage the potential of immigrant talent and contribution to benefit both newcomers and receiving communities.


Register here.




Christina Pope, Welcoming America, presents the highly successful welcoming economies strategy developed by Global Detroit in response to the ravages of population decline, industrial change and the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The regional economic revitalization strategy focused on immigration and global connections for the Detroit area quickly evolved into the Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network of XX Midwestern rustbelt cities working together to harness the opportunities that immigrants generate for regional growth and job creation.


Robyn Webb, Halifax Partnership, shares Halifax’s acclaimed Connector Program, launched to develop the potential of internationally trained professionals by connecting them to established business leaders and their networks. Connector successfully expanded into the international student and local graduate market to broaden the Halifax region’s talent pool, and is now being replicated across the country and internationally.


Devon Franklin, Hire Immigrants-Magnet, talks about the movers and shakers who were catalyzed to action in November 2015 as the country prepared to welcome 30,000 refugees. The Syrian Refugee Jobs Agenda Roundtable brings together private, public and institutional employers to develop strategies that increase access to employment and optimize the talent and skills that  refugees bring to the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).


Tamara Sabarini, Scadding Count Community Centre, shares Business Out of the Box, a community-led social enterprise model that provides a platform for both communities and entrepreneurs to transform underutilized spaces in a neighbourhood into vibrant, lucrative and inclusive markets.


Discussion facilitated by Sarah Wayland, Hamilton Economic Development.




Christina Pope is Network Director at Welcoming America where she provides technical assistance and designs programs and strategy for a membership network of local governments and nonprofits. Her membership portfolio encompasses the Midwest and Northeastern United States. Christina’s background is in community development and international education, including prior roles at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the immigrant community-based organization CASA, and public schools in Recife, Brazil as a Fulbright grantee. She is based in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, where she enjoys singing in a folk group and volunteering as a mentor to young writers.


Robyn Webb, as the Director of Labour Market Development, Executive of National Connector Program, Robyn leads the Partnership’s talent attraction and retention initiatives, including the Connector Program and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot. Robyn partners with and supports Canadian communities and industry associations interested in launching the Connector Program. With a strong business acumen and considerable sales experience, Robyn has advanced communication skills that allow her to actively engage all levels of decision makers and build productive relationships with a diverse client base. Robyn has a solid background in Human Resources and Recruitment. She has an extensive background in promoting Nova Scotia as the best possible choice for North American and European companies looking to expand into Canada. Robyn has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Saint Mary’s University.


Devon Franklin, as Project Manager of the Magnet Export Business Portal, Devon supports businesses to realize the benefits of tapping into foreign markets, and to build the capacity of Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs. Devon Franklin also leads Hire Immigrants, an online platform for employers to find and share good practices on immigrant employment and a network hub for increased awareness of the valuable skills and talent immigrants bring to local and global businesses. By focusing on the role of employers and drivers of business performance, Hire Immigrants helps identify outdated HR practices in hiring and empowers employers to fully leverage immigrant talent in their workforce. Devon holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and a Master of Arts in Immigration and Settlement Studies at Ryerson University.


Tamara Sabarini, is the Senior Manager of Development and Community Engagement at Scadding Court Community Centre. In her role, she is responsible for the development and implementation of programs and services geared toward under-serviced, culturally and racially diverse groups such as low-income women, children and families, newcomers, at-risk youth, people with developmental disabilities, and seniors. Previously, she was the Project Coordinator for the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge – Canada’s first university-driven private refugee sponsorship program. She is also a Board Member for several community organizations that serve refugees and newcomers in Toronto, including Helping Newcomers Work and Turtle House Art/Play. Tamara graduated from Ryerson University with a Masters of Arts in Immigration and Settlement Studies, where her research examined how racial identities are formed and understood in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.


Sarah Wayland is Senior Project Manager for the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council. Until March 2018, she was the creator and leader of Global Hamilton, the City’s immigrant attraction and retention initiative.  A dual US-Canadian citizen, she earned her PhD in political science from the University of Maryland.  She has worked as an independent researcher focusing on various social issues, especially immigration-related, and her clients have included CIC/IRCC, Government of Ontario, Region of Peel, Maytree, Metcalf, and Community Foundations of Canada.  From 2005 to 2014, she served on the board  of Hamilton’s largest settlement agency, including as Secretary and President.


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