Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's time to make Metro a choice destination for immigrants

The Metro Moncton community recently came together to support the plight of the Maeng family from South Korea, which was facing deportation.
People who signed the petition, wrote letters or attended the rally were no doubt moved by the family's personal struggle.
All these community actions showed just how much our region is a warm, welcoming place for newcomers.
There could not have been a better spotlight shone on our tri-city. Nor a better time to talk about why it is so important to increase immigration in our region.
An aging population, low fertility rates, significant out-migration of youth to other provinces and sluggish economic prospects make for a very frightening forecast in our province.
New Brunswick has one of fastest aging populations in Canada.
In Metro Moncton, persons aged over 65 currently make up 25 per cent of the population, and this is expected to rise to one third of the population by 2016.
While efforts can be made to retain our young people by concentrating on creating more jobs and opportunities, it will not be enough to counter-balance the strain that older generations will have on our health care system and public services.
Research shows that communities that have made strategic investments in attracting newcomers are more resilient to change and are better positioned to take advantage of economic opportunities in the future.
Immigrants add entrepreneurial talent, enhance skill levels, help create jobs and contribute to faster economic growth.
The Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) has been very active in promoting immigration.
We work hard to dispel the myth that newcomers take away a piece of the economic pie - the reality is that immigration actually makes the pie bigger for all of us - with many immigrants, such as the Maeng family who owns a successful business on West Main Street, playing a vital role in sustaining our local economy and enriching our cultural diversity.
In fact, a 2011 study by BMO Harris Private Banking showed that nearly one-third of affluent Canadians were born outside of the country.
Furthermore, more than 96 per cent of these affluent new Canadians have no plans to invest outside of Canada.
It is also important to note that immigration can help bridge the gap in finding highly skilled workers.
According to 2007 statistics by the New Brunswick Population Growth Division, 66.4 per cent of New Brunswick's immigrants arrive with post-secondary education and degrees.
The share of immigrants with no formal education remains at only 2.4 per cent.
It often is prejudices among employers as well as red tape surrounding accreditation processes which contribute to the idea that newcomers put a strain on our system.
People who come to Canada to seek a better life are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet. It is a shame that these highly educated and skilled newcomers often have to resort to low wage jobs to make a living in their new country.
Initiatives, like our Chamber's Business Immigrant Mentorship Program which matches newcomers to seasoned entrepreneurs to help them launch, acquire or expand a business can help bridge this gap.
We recently celebrated the launch of our program's second cohort with 30 new participants, including 14 immigrant protégés from countries such as Nigeria, France, England, Germany, and South Korea.
In its first six months, the program led to the establishment of two new businesses in our region.
Our Chamber believes that to continue to grow our region's economy and diversity we must rely on immigration.
Our community has shown how beneficial it can be when people work together.
Keys to a successful immigration strategy for our community include making Metro Moncton a choice destination for new immigrants.
More than just showing hospitality, we need to go a step further and focus on helping newcomers integrate and assimilate.
We need to be more active in recruiting new immigrants as our province's current immigrant intake is well below the national share.
We need to co-ordinate our efforts to make sure we create opportunities for immigrants and retain our newcomers.
* Nancy Whipp is the Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce. She may be reached via e-mail at ceo@gmcc.nb.ca