Nova Scotia’s immigrant population is diverse and swiftly growing, according to new data.
Nationwide immigration numbers collected from the 2016 census and released Wednesday shows the number of landed immigrants and permanent residents in Nova Scotia is now at 55,675, or 6.1 per cent of the overall population.
While this is lower than other provinces and the national rate of 22 per cent, the number of newcomers to Nova Scotia is growing. From 2011 to 2016, Nova Scotia saw a 15 per cent jump in immigration, which was fuelled in part by Syrian refugees who have settled in the province. More than 20 per cent of Nova Scotia’s immigrant population landed in the last five years.
So where are these newcomers coming from? The Statistics Canada data shows that the majority of recent immigrants (from 2011 to 2016) came to Nova Scotia from the Philippines (12.7 per cent), the United Kingdom (9.2 per cent), and China (8.4 per cent). In that five-year period, 885, or 7.5 per cent, of the immigrants came from Syria.
Elizabeth Eustaquio-Domondon, the Philippines’ honorary vice-consul in Halifax, says Filipinos immigrate to Nova Scotia and Canada for the same reasons she came here in 1999: family and opportunity.
“When I was living in the Philippines I would hear good words about how good Canada is (and) how good Canadian people are,” she said.
Eustaquio-Domondon said news of economic opportunities travels by word of mouth through family and friends, and often entire families will immigrate together. The vibrant Filipino community in Nova Scotia — which includes a number or organizations and groups aimed at keeping the culture alive in Canada — as well as the existence of organizations like the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia that help newcomers settle, are major draws.
Eustaquio-Domondon said a significant number of Filipino immigrants work in the health-care field, many as nurses. She said newcomers often work as an in-home caregivers while they achieve their licence requirements to practise in Canada.
Gerry Mills, executive director of ISANS, called the increase in immigration exciting.
“I think the Ivany Report woke up a lot of Nova Scotians to the fact that we actually need to do something about the the demographic issue and immigrants are a huge part of the solution, so bringing in immigrants for the workforce and for community development has really been a huge benefit to the economy,” she said.
Mills’ organization helps immigrants with employment support services, language services, and community integration, while also supporting employers and communities to better welcome immigrants.
ISANS also helps newcomers with opening businesses through support services and connecting them with funding partners.
ISANS helped to open 109 new businesses with immigrants last year. That’s a huge increase; three years ago it was in the teens,” Mills said. “Those are businesses that are paying taxes, hiring immigrants, they’re contributing to the economy.”
The census data shows that more than 60 per cent of recent immigrants to Nova Scotia were economic immigrants — skilled workers or businesspeople — and the majority of those were provincial nominees. In other provinces, nominees make up a smaller portion of the immigration population.
In line with key recommendations in the 2014 Ivany report, the Nova Scotia government has lobbied Ottawa for an increase in its provincially sponsored immigrant quota to help alleviate population decline and stimulate economic growth.
In 2015, Nova Scotia was able to get its cap increased from 700 to 1,050 and was later given a one-time top-up to 1,350 when it had filled its quota by mid-year. In March 2016 the province negotiated to increase the number of economic immigrants the province can nominate for permanent residency from 1,050 to 1,350.
Ottawa also launched the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project in March, which will bring up to 2,000 primary immigrant applicants and their families in 2017, with increased numbers in following years if the program performs well.
In an emailed statement, provincial Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab said the new census numbers are good news and show that the province is headed in the right direction.
“Last year, Nova Scotia welcomed more than 5,000 newcomers to our province. This is the highest number of arrivals since the end of the Second World War. Growing our population through immigration is not accidental — it is planned, supported, and invested in.”
But, she said, there’s more work to do, which is why the government continues to invest in programs to attract newcomers to Nova Scotia and to make it easier for immigrants to settle in the province.