Image via WikipediaCompared with other provinces in Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador is experiencing greater difficulty attracting immigrants. The provincial government’s Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism is looking to get communities in on the effort, including Gander.
Statistics Canada , Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism , Newfoundland and Labrador , Canada , Nova Scotia
Jamie Valvasori, the central region’s representative for the office, met with the Town’s economic and social development committee on Aug. 23 to speak about efforts to retain immigrants in the area.
According to notes from the meeting, Mr. Valvasori said the province is attracting many professionals who choose to move to larger centres. His office is now working on ways to make communities more welcoming to immigrants faced with living in a new place.
The Town has committed to working with his office on hosting a three-day workshop focusing on creating a welcoming community through specific initiatives.
According to Statistics Canada, 565 immigrants came to Canada from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. In the same time frame, the remaining three Atlantic Provinces welcomed many more immigrants. Nova Scotia attracted the most with 2,377, while New Brunswick welcomed 1,922 immigrants. Even Prince Edward Island, with almost one-quarter the population of Newfoundland and Labrador, managed to attract more immigrants – 1,793.
“While the numbers may be lower than other Atlantic provinces, we believe we’re seeing great progress.” - Minister Susan Sullivan
Susan Sullivan, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, said she could not speak to the approach those provinces are taking.
“We’ve chosen to focus on skilled individuals who will make an economic, social, and cultural contribution to the province,” said Minister Sullivan. “We’re looking for people who are able to make that contribution and also people who have demonstrated a strong interest in staying in the province, and we think this approach will serve the immigrants and our province well.”
A major component of that approach is the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which seeks to recruits immigrants with specialized skills that are also in demand. The minister said 53 per cent of immigrants that came through the program are living in St. John’s.
Since 2007, Minister Sullivan said immigration numbers have been increasing, moving from an average of 400 per year to over 600 in 2009 – with 700 expected in 2010.
“While the numbers may be lower than other Atlantic provinces, we believe we’re seeing great progress,” she said.
A Statistics Canada publication from February 2010 found Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest match rates in Canada for foreign-educated immigrants working in the field they were trained for at 60 per cent. Nova Scotia placed second in Canada with 40 per cent, while Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were tied at fourth with 37 per cent. The Canadian average was 33 per cent for data collected in the 2006 Canadian census.
Minister Sullivan said this shows the province is a good option for immigrants looking to work in their chosen profession.
Rather than offer specific selling points as a province, she said the Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism is using immigrants already here to sell Newfoundland and Labrador to others who may consider making a move. Its website currently offers video testimonials.
“They’re really inspiring examples of why it is that people have chosen to come and then decide to stay here,” said the minister.
She said a low population density constitutes a major attraction for foreigners coming to Newfoundland and Labrador, as many only have experience living in crowded cities. The videos also show people extolling the virtues of living in a place with a lower crime rate.
The efforts to create welcoming communities is being spearheaded by employees at the regional offices, said Minister Sullivan, as becoming a part of the community goes a long way in ensuring an immigrant will stay in an area.
“The workshops engage key stakeholders in the community who have an interest in the topic,” she said, adding the Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism has already held a number of successful ones in other areas.
“What we’re learning form them is the stakeholders who’ve taken the opportunity to go and participate have all reported that these have exceptionally helped them in terms of understanding the immigration process, and helping those who come to settle into their communities.”
By Andrew Robinson