Last Updated on January 24, 2019
In the 1990s, Canada found itself losing scientific, engineering and medical talent to the U.S.
But evidence suggests that a number of developments may have reversed this long standing trend.
The CIFAR created broad research programs and invited the best scientific minds in the world to collaborate with the goal since its creation in 1982 being to give top researchers an intellectual home base, keeping the best in Canada and attracting new talent too.
In the year 2000, the Canada Research Chair program created 2,000 funded positions with the goal of attracting and retaining the world’s top minds. The CERC program is an outgrowth of that, providing major funding to an even smaller and more selective pool: 24 researchers each receive up to $10 million over seven years.
The federal government announced in July that UBC’s Quantum Matter Institute was one of five inaugural winners of the Canada First Excellence Research Fund which was made up of $1.5-billion dollars given out over seven years.
Canada’s research-excellence ecosystem is better than it ever has been at retaining and attracting top talent. However, academics have shown concerns about losing young people to the U.S., especially to Silicon Valley, which receives substantial venture capital financing.
In order to remove the incidence of brain drain it is essential to have opportunities and funding in Canada.
Despite Canada’s “brain drain” of the research and medical elite, rampant speculation in the 1990s led to pundits blaming everything from high taxes to poor facilities. In 2000, Statistics Canada analysts published research examining the migration of knowledge workers in the preceding decade in an attempt to find out if this was a real problem. The result was a lot more complicated than expected.
25% Of the supply of newly graduated doctors, a full quarter left for the U.S. in 1996-97.
49% Nearly half of the adult Canadians who migrated to the U.S. between 1994 and 1999 had a university degree, compared to 12% of the general Canadian-born population. Canada-to-U.S. émigrés were seven times more likely to report incomes of more than $150,000.
2:1 The knowledge exchange was uneven, with double the number of post-secondary faculty who moved from Canada to the U.S. compared to the other direction.
15x However, between the mid-1980s and 1997, the immigration to Canada of computer scientists increased 15-fold; engineers increased 10-fold and natural scientists increased eightfold.
2x According to the 1996 census, recent immigrants to Canada were twice as likely as the Canadian-born population to be working as computer scientists, engineers or natural scientists. They were also twice as likely to have a university education, and even more likely to hold an advanced degree.
4:1 The number of university graduates who entered Canada in the 1990s outnumbered those who left for the U.S. by a ratio of about four to one. A disproportionate number of highly desirable workers left Canada for the U.S. in that decade however Canada enjoyed a net gain in skilled labour.
35% The annual number of individuals who left Canada to live in the U.S. dropped from 113,100 in 2000 to 73,000 in 2006.
1.7 In 2001, for every one individual leaving the U.S. for Canada, there were 2.2 moving the opposite way; by 2006, that number dropped to 1.7.
10% Of those living in the U.S., the percentage of Canadians in professional, scientific and technical services careers rose from 12% in the ’90s to 14% between 2000 and 2006.
21% About one-fifth of all 2005 doctoral graduates intended to leave Canada after completing their degree and more than half of those planned to move to the U.S. Yet more than eight out of 10 said they intended to return. Two years after graduation, a quarter of those who had left for the U.S. had returned.
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