ALLIES (Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies) supports local efforts in Canadian cities to successfully adapt and implement programs that further the suitable employment of skilled immigrants. Through a series of multi-stakeholder initiatives, ALLIES and local partners contribute to building a stronger Canada by using the talents, connections and experience of skilled immigrants who have made Canada their new home. It is a joint program of the McConnell and Maytree Foundations, working with government, private and community sector partners.

Strategic Vision

Through ALLIES, the Foundation envisions a society in which new immigrants are better able to share their talent and creativity in a way that appropriately recognizes their professional experience. This would contribute both to their own well-being and, ultimately, a more prosperous and resilient Canada.

Granting Total

$3 million (with additional support from the Maytree Foundation, and private sector and government partners)

Program History

ALLIES launched in 2007 to support Canadian communities in making improvements to their integration of skilled immigrants into the local workforce. It builds on the success of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), which was formed by Maytree in 2003 as a multi-stakeholder council working to integrate skilled immigrants into the local economy.

TRIEC’s success caught the interest of other communities including the Waterloo Region and Ottawa, who created their own immigrant employment networks. In June 2007, Maytree, with support from The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, hosted a “Learning Exchange” for communities interested in learning from these models. Approximately 150 participants from over 18 communities participated.

As a result of the Learning Exchange Conference, Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies or ALLIES was launched with the goal to help create a pan-Canadian movement of locally engaged communities to provide successful employment solutions for skilled immigrants.

ALLIES has since held two Learning Exchanges in Vancouver (June 2009) and Halifax (May 2010).

Key Lessons

  • Shared Challenges: Many previous projects concerning immigrant employment started from the premise that immigrants have deficits (in language, credentials, workplace culture, etc.). These “deficits” then needed to be remediated through programs such as training in language and culture, and upgrading credentials, an approach which had only limited success. We learned that both immigrants and employers have challenges. Employers sometimes perceive a high risk in hiring immigrants, are uncomfortable with difference, are weary of unfamiliar credentials, etc. As such, the job of remediation of deficits is one best shared between immigrants and employers.
  • Singular Focus:  During the early stages of the project, there was pressure to address many immigration issues and injustices. We learned that, in order to be successful, we had to focus on one issue: the attachment of immigrants to the labour market. While employers have an interest in programs to recruit and hire immigrants, it would be more difficult to engage employers if social justice, equity and racism issues were also being addressed.
  • Real Employers: Having the involvement of actual employers, rather than employer associations such as chambers of commerce or boards of trade, was essential. Companies, especially large employers, were necessary participants. Further, government was recognized to be first of all, a large employer, rather than a policy maker or funder.
  • Leaders: Community leaders, rather than organizations with similar mandates, were found to be more effective collaborators.
  • Concrete Projects: We learned that initiatives progressed much faster and effectively when concrete, actionable projects were introduced and implemented early.


Visit for more information

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation 1002 Sherbrooke W., Suite 1800, Montreal, Québec H3A 3L6