SUMMERSIDE - Immigration numbers to Summerside appear to be on the rise and the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada is working with the city to integrate and retain these people.
The city is prepared to launch its new economic development strategy that will set the direction Summerside will take over the next five years. One of the major components of that strategy is immigration.
Getting skilled immigrants to the community is one thing. Keeping them here is another.
The city has partnered with the P.E.I Association for Newcomers to Canada's Retention Integration Committee for Health (RICH) and the provincial Health Department for a pilot project to attract health professionals to the area.
Belinda Wood is the integration and retention officer for the Summerside program. She said it has already expanded to more that just the health field.
"It's growing amazingly," Wood said. "My main mandate was to work with health professionals, but it's more immigration and citizenship and getting their sponsorships for bringing family members over. That's really taking off. That's taking up a lot of the time right now. We're getting more immigrants coming into Summerside and I guess they expect there's going to be a lot more coming."
Wood said she still works with the health professions, too. She said if they come here and have a job to go they don't really need a lot.
"It's mostly working with their families to help them get settled because if the families aren't happy the doctors aren't going to stay," she said. "One of the challenges is they're so polite and they agree to everything and then you find out that they didn't have this and they didn't have that. Its just basic things like where do I get my hydro? Where do I get my cable, phone, all of those kinds of things. Then there are activities, schools."
She said through the Charlottetown office of the P.E.I. Association of Newcomers to Canada, staff travel to Summerside to put on presentations to help with diversity and to educate the people who are here now to assist and understand.
"A lot of times there are misconceptions with what people think they know and what they find out when they actually talk to people from other countries. There are lots of judgments made sometimes so once they've had opportunities to talk with different people they have a different outlook. That's kind of what our job is - to bring that education (immigrants have) here as well as help them out."
Wood said there is a misconception out there that immigrants are coming to this country to take jobs away from Canadians.
"That's not true," she said. "They're bringing talents that are not here. They're also filling jobs that we don't want. So, they're filling the void and they wouldn't be able to come here if they couldn't do that."
She said government requires that immigrants who are coming to Canada have a job or will be able to fill an existing need in the labour market.
Wood has only been on the job for two months and it's a part-time two-day-a-week position at the present time. Federal funding is being sought to make it full time. But already she has 30 cases on the go in the Summerside area.
"Every week my calendar is filled with appointments to meet with people. Sometimes I'm three weeks ahead booking people