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Making immigration work well

Manitoba Legislature, meeting place of the Leg...Image via Wikipedia
A global poll by Ipsos shows Canadians are way ahead of their international counterparts when asked about their views on immigration, with almost twice the respondents agreeing it has had a good impact on their country. But even at that, only 40 per cent said immigration was good. And 56 per cent said they believe immigration is too much of a burden on social services. Canadians should get to know their neighbours a little better.
Chances are immigrants are living not far from most of us. At 20 per cent, the immigrant population is at a 75-year high in the country.
It is a fallacy, a misperception perhaps drawn from sensational crime headlines in cities and cultural tension in other western nations, that immigrants are a burden. Good research has underscored repeatedly the success story of immigration for Canada. University of Toronto immigration expert Jeffrey Reitz notes that, statistically, newcomers use fewer social services than other Canadians.
With a declining birth rate over the decades, Canada's population would have slipped without immigration and the economy would have suffered. Since the mid-1990s, immigration has become the primary driver of population growth. Since 1998, Manitoba's homegrown provincial nominee program has staunched a worrisome net out-migration. More than 10,000 immigrants funnel into the province each year now.
While much of Canada sees immigrants leaving for Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, Manitoba's program retains 80 per cent and more of its nominees, who are selected for their ability to adjust to local labour-market demands, connections to the community and employability. A 2008 survey of 100 of the program's immigrants revealed that 85 per cent find work almost as soon as they hit the ground, rising to 88 per cent after three to five years.
Manitoba immigrants "make it" here, integrating in the community, improving their family incomes. While the average income of about $50,000 was $10,000 lower than the Manitoba average, fewer immigrants lived on less than $30,000. In fact, the picture of the survey conducted for the Manitoba government showed that the lower average income did not hold the nominee immigrants back from getting ahead and putting down roots in the community: Some 76 per cent owned their own homes and 73 per cent said they had no difficulties meeting monthly expenses.
Immigrants tend to earn less than native-born Canadians with similar education levels, but that difference disappears with successive generations. This reflects the age-old immigrant story in this country. Manitoba's particular success -- immigrants here are employed at higher rates than in Canada generally -- is derived from a keen understanding of what the economy needs and the tailoring of settlement programs to ensure that language and skill training supports the determination of newcomers.
The fact that those selected to land in Manitoba are not heading to Canada's mega-metropolises shows this province has made the wise decision to pursue higher immigration levels, which has been very good to Manitoba. Investing in people pays off.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2011 A10

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