A case study by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has recognized North Bay, Ontario’s successes in terms of immigrant attraction and retention.
The community project included three cities: North Bay, Brockville and Chatham-Kent. The results will contribute to new government policy aimed at encouraging immigrants to settle in communities other than major cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
North Bay’s mayor, Vic Fedeli, stated that the city's focus on immigrant attraction and retention originated after realizing that the city was homogenous.
“It was just a natural feeling that we needed to expand our horizons. When we did our business and retention program we realized there were huge gaps in our labour pool and we knew that immigration was one way to bring people here,” he states.
The first step before developing the project was to work with the area newcomers. Marla Tremblay of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development formed the North Bay Newcomer Network (NNN). In April 2006, an immigration symposium was held with more than 80 participants. One of the main outcomes of the symposium was the need to establish an immigrant settlement agency for both attraction and retention.
FedNor, a federal regional development organization in Ontario, provided funding in December of 2006 to hire a researcher and give NNN a better understanding of newcomers’ needs.
After listening to Citizenship and Immigration Canada note how settlement agencies are funded, NNN members chose a non-profit media organization, Young People’s Press, to apply for settlement funding. Their work resulted in the opening of the North Bay and District Multicultural Centre in February 2008.
With the progress that has happened in three years, Fideli still sees immigration as a priority. “We’ve got a lot of sweat equity into our immigration strategy and it would be a huge step backward to let it fall from being a priority,” he says.
Statistics Canada points out that by 2011, all net growth in the Canadian labour force will be through immigration, and by 2026 all growth in population will be through immigration.