Abstract

Successive censuses have shown that the Aboriginal populations of Canada are very mobile with strong tendencies to move to urban areas, but little is known about the consequences of these circular movements on the development of First Nations, the welfare of individual members and their families, and the costs and benefits to their larger communities. This article reviews the large body of literature on the nexus between mobility and development of countries in the developing world with a view to developing insights that may be relevant to the development of First Nation communities. While there are clear differences, the two contexts may be similar enough – in terms of socio-economic well-being, service levels, and institutional barriers to socio-economic development – for such analysis to contribute to understanding the effects of migration on the migrants themselves, their households, and their communities and countries of origin. The experience of developing countries suggest that there are positive gains not only in earnings but also in education and health for those who move internally and more so for those able to move internationally, even if there remain some concerns about negative effects on migrants’ families left behind, especially on the children. What seems clear is that migration plays an important role in family survival strategies. Money migrants send home finance the education of children, enable better health care, and improve housing. They shield migrants’ families against all kinds of “shocks”. However, emigration may reduce the human capital stock (brain drain), thus adversely affecting productivity. The loss of health professionals can set back critical medical services in remote communities, and disrupt formal and informal systems for transferring know-how. These “spill-over effects” or externalities on origin communities can be significant, imposing burdens on those left behind. Finally, the article looks at how diaspora communities have served as sources of information, linkages, or networks with businesses, markets for sovereign bonds, mediums for the transfer of technology and know-how, and a market for tourism.

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