Skip to main content

If you're a Canadian working in Silicon Valley, check your voice mail: your country may be trying to reach you.

Canucks who've migrated to the Valley area are being wooed by provincial governments and corporate recruiters that are mounting campaigns to lure high-tech expatriates back home.

"We're looking to repatriate these people," said Ken Faulkner, executive assistant to Alberta's Innovation and Science Minister, Lorne Taylor.

Story continues below advertisement

Alberta is one of several provincial governments trolling the region south of San Francisco, among other areas, for graduates of colleges and universities in their jurisdictions in hopes they might draw them home.

Mr. Taylor said: "The idea is to reverse the brain drain and get some of these people back."

An estimated 300,000 Canadians live in Northern California, which includes the Silicon Valley region.

Handol Kim, consul and trade commissioner for Canada in San Jose, Calif., estimates two-thirds to three-quarters of the Canadian population in Northern California is working in technology-related jobs. That's a population as big as Saskatoon, Sask.

And if Canadians in the Valley haven't heard from their provincial governments yet, they may one day soon be called upon by corporate recruiters in Canada such as Susan Read with Technocap Inc. of Montreal.

Ms. Read, the "TechnoBrainGain" director at TechnoCap, a venture capital company that invests in technology companies, said recruiters looking south must realize that Canadians who have left did so because they wanted to work in fast-moving companies.

Her message to expats in Silicon Valley and elsewhere: They can now find just as exciting opportunities back home because of the recent growth in Canada's tech sector, from Montreal to Ottawa to Edmonton. "There are some pretty hot companies here . . . I think we've got some of the best technology minds in the world."

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Read, provincial governments and others believe that Canadians living in Silicon Valley don't realize the opportunities that have sprung up in Canada since they left -- and may not know how badly they are missed.

"It's important for people in the United States to know their government back home cares and wants them back," said Graeme Bowbrick, British Columbia's Minister of Advanced Education, Training and Technology.

Mr. Bowbrick recently returned from a fact-finding mission to the Valley where he met with B.C. university graduates to discuss the question of "what might bring them home."

About 100 Alberta graduates turned out to meet Mr. Taylor and hear his pitch at a reception near Palo Alto, Calif., last fall. The Alberta cabinet minister is planning more get-togethers this fall in several U.S. regions, including Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The pitch being made to expats includes a strong appeal to Canada's quality-of-life advantages: safer streets and better public schools, to name a few.

And, as many Canadians in Silicon Valley have discovered, bigger paycheques don't always leave expats with oodles more cash at the end of the day after paying some of the most expensive housing costs in the United States.

Story continues below advertisement

"You put more in your pocket but it costs more to live there," says Alberta's Mr. Taylor. "And in Alberta, you don't have to pay $10,000 to send your kid to a private school."

Some Canadian recruiters appealing to foreigners in Silicon Valley don't hesitate to boast in their advertising. "#1 country in the world for the past seven consecutive years, according to the United Nations," proclaims a come-to-Canada ad recently placed by Global HR Source Inc. of Ottawa in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Cisco Systems Inc., a Silicon Valley-based company, has taken note of the repatriation urge among Canadians in the area and markets Ottawa job openings to U.S.-based Canucks accordingly: "Interested in coming back?" says an ad on the Web site of the Digital Moose Lounge, a social club for expatriate Canadians in the Valley area.

Mr. Kim, with the federal government in San Jose, said he thinks Canadians "ripe for recruiting" in Silicon Valley include those reaching parenting age or whose children are approaching their school years. That's a demographic niche that many familiar with the Valley say will be longing for less-expensive family homes and good public schools.

"But whether or not Canada is ripe for having them [back]is another story," Mr. Kim added.

He said Canadians move down to Silicon Valley for the challenge and opportunity -- and it requires a similar environment in Canada to draw them back.

Story continues below advertisement

Still, he said the recruiting drives by Canadian-based companies are a good sign. "It means there are companies in Canada that are innovative and aggressive enough to realize you can't have a Bay Street attitude when it comes to technology."

Canadians Susan Chung and Robert Bennett are the sort of Canucks in Silicon Valley who might one day take up the offer to return home -- although not just yet.

"We're due to have a child on Christmas Day and I don't want to raise my child in this kind of education system," said Ms. Chung, a journalist whose husband, Mr. Bennett, is working in the medical imaging field.

Then there are Silicon Valley traffic snarls that can make Canadians long for the relative ease of negotiating the Lion's Gate Bridge.

Ms. Chung said she has a love-hate relationship with the Valley. It may be frustrating at times, but it's "ground zero of the revolution" that's transforming the world, and a place where tech workers can be challenged and rewarded like nowhere else.

"You couldn't recreate this place anywhere on Earth," she said.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies