Multiculturalism is Key to Innovation: Can Canada Become the World’s Talent Magnet?

Earlier this week Salesforce hosted 5,000 of their users and fans at a mini Dreamforce road show in Canada’s largest city.

The day included a power-packed panel moderated by Salesforces’s Peter Coffee that included some Internet heavyweights—well at least the Canadian head honchos.

The panel consisted of Google Canada Managing Director Chris O’Neill, Facebook Canada Managing Director Jordan Banks, Accenture’s Beth Boettcher, and Salesforce’s own Daniel Debow (a cofounder of Canadian Rypple which was acquired by Salesforce in 2011).

Titled “Innovation in Canada: Putting Canadian Businesses Online,” Coffee kicked off the panel asking them what they see as some of the unique strengths and opportunities of the Canadian market. All were in agreement that Canada’s unique multicultural makeup is what it apart from other countries striving to create an “innovation nation.”

Facebook’s Banks reminded the audience that one in five Canadians was not born here. And Coffee provided some additional local context, stating that almost 50% of Torontonians don’t have Canada on their birth certificate.

“You get people coming to Canada to make better lives for themselves and that’s really fundamentally one of the reasons why they’re here and with that comes this incredible work ethic that you don’t necessarily find elsewhere,” added Banks.

Expanding on that thought, Banks believes the vast majority of these immigrants have entrepreneurship in their DNA: “they’re merchants, they’re traders, they’re creators. And they bring that to Canada.” And with that they bring a global perspective that forces all Canadians to “think outside the boundaries of Canada which ultimately is where our destiny lies.”

Not surprisingly this topic is one that the Managing Directors of the Canadian outposts of Internet giants can agree on.

Google’s O’Neill concurs with Banks but doesn’t stop there. O’Neill’s innovation agenda for Canada requires the flow of immigrant talent to continue. “I would say that immigration policy is an important part of it so we have to, I’d say absolutely must, keep our doors wide open to talent, technical talent from all over the world,” he said.

O’Neill points to the Canadian government’s recent efforts to detour immigration-challenged entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley with a highway billboard as a worthy tactic. But he doesn’t stop there.

Canada has “great quality of life, very liveable cities, world class institutions and higher education institutions doing great research in mobile and doing fantastic things in beginning stages of quantum computing,” opined O’Neil. Add to that Canada’s proximity to the largest consumer market and O’Neill believes we should be celebrating Canada and its opportunity to be a world leader.

Saleforce’s Coffee succinctly wrapped up the Canada love before the panel moved on to other topics: “You guys are talking human capital big time here, and not only home grown, but also saying you are going to be the world’s talent magnet—the place where people with energy and initiative come to be successful and that’s a tremendous mat to be rolling out.”