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Expanded use of Provincial Nominee Programs responsible for substantial growth in immigration to region, report says
Canada’s Atlantic provinces are having no trouble attracting immigrants through their Provincial Nominee Programs, and a new three-year research project wants them to settle permanently in the region.
Led by the Public Policy Forum, an independent Canadian research organization that unites private, public and non-profit organizations, the project is guided by a new two-part report called “The People Imperative” released this week.
The report says the majority of immigrants to the Atlantic Canada region in 2017 were admitted through Provincial Nominee Programs, or PNPs, which now number more than 20 across the Atlantic region’s four provinces — Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (PEI).
PNPs serve as fast-track options for gaining permanent residence in Canada and allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate immigration candidates with the skills and ability to integrate into their local labour market quickly.
“Recent strong growth in immigration to the region is due to expanded use of the PNP — in particular for economic reasons,” the report states.
Among these PNPs are a number of enhanced nomination streams linked to the federal government’s Express Entrysystem. One such stream in PEI has already opened twice in 2018, issuing invitations to apply for a provincial nomination to more than 130 Express Entry candidates.
Express Entry candidates nominated for permanent residence through one of these PNPs receive an additional 600 points toward their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, putting an invitation to apply for permanent residence well within reach.
According to the report, Nova Scotia welcomed 4,515 new permanent residents in 2017, compared to New Brunswick’s 3,650, PEI’s 2,350 and Newfoundland and Labrador’s
The critical issue that now faces provinces in the Atlantic region is getting immigrants to stay.
The report offers seven recommendations for improving the likelihood that newcomers will stay in Canada’s Atlantic provinces, which it says are facing an “existential crisis” produced by the combination of a flat if not shrinking and aging populations, low productivity and natural resource depletion.
“As a wave of people reach retirement age, the population is poised for a steep labour force decline, threatening economic stability,” the report states.
To help counter this, the report says population growth is critical and “immigration is … an essential part of the growth equation,” especially those with the right skills to meet specialized labour needs in the Atlantic region.
The report notes that efforts to increase immigration to the region have helped grow the number of newcomers “substantially in the last five years.”
“Between 2012 and 2016, immigration to Atlantic Canada increased by 113 per cent, while the increase in the rest of Canada was 12.4 per cent,” the report states.
At the same time, the four Atlantic provinces have immigrant retention rates that are well below Canada’s other provinces, which all enjoy retention rates above 80 per cent. The report says Nova Scotia’s five-year retention rate of 72 per cent was the best in the Atlantic region, followed by Newfoundland at 56 per cent, New Brunswick at 52 per cent and Prince Edward Island at 18 per cent.
Among the reasons why immigrants decide to leave the Atlantic region are better job prospects and educational opportunities in bigger cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. These more cosmopolitan cities also offer broader access to cultural amenities and ethnic communities and provide an environment in which immigrants are more likely to feel at home.
In light of these findings, the report offered the following seven recommendations to promote the retention of immigrants to the Atlantic region:
- Actively promote Atlantic Canada’s unique advantages to prospective immigrants
- Promote Atlantic Canada’s low cost of living, quality of life and availability of good settlement services.
- Build on supports for employers
- Engage employers in ways to help them recruit and develop the types of workers they need. Provide them with better support to use the available immigration system.|
- Help families and community networks attract immigrants
- Attract immigrants with connections to family or ethnic communities in the region in order to develop local critical masses of newcomers.
- Proactively recruit established entrepreneurs to Atlantic Canada
- Improve entrepreneurial pathways by more selectively recruiting and nurturing a small number of candidates with established records of success.
- Create opportunities for international students to work during and after their studies
- Streamline the pathway to permanent residence for international students by making it easier to work when they are in school, and immediately after graduation.
- Ensure necessary settlement services and immigrant supports
- Provide settlement agencies in each province with adequate resources to meet current needs and the flexibility to respond to sudden changes. Restaffing IRCC offices in Atlantic Canada and having a regional coordinator would help connect regional and provincial immigration efforts and the federal government.
- Expand welcoming community initiatives
- Reinforce public awareness of the benefits of immigration, empower communities to be welcoming and provide opportunities for newcomers to connect with locals by building on existing resources, infrastructure and success stories in provinces.
80% of Canadians believe immigration is having a positive impact on Canada’s economy
Conducted in February, the annual Focus Canada survey by the Environics Institute and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation interviewed 2,000 Canadians over the age of 18.
Despite the hardening of views against immigrants in the United States and Europe, the study found that most Canadians continue to view immigration in a mainly positive light.
“Canadians as a whole continue to be more positive than negative about the current levels of immigrants coming to this country, and with the legitimacy of refugees who have been arriving,” the study says, noting that “worldwide, Canadians are among the most accepting of immigrants in their country.”
Overall, 60 per cent of those surveyed expressed a favourable view of immigration. This jumped to 80 per cent who see immigration having a positive impact on Canada’s economy. Only 16 per cent of Canadians disagreed with this view.
“The positive impact of immigration is the majority view across the population, and the upward shift is evident across across most groups but especially in Quebec and the western provinces, while holding steady in the Atlantic provinces and Ontario,” the study notes.
The survey results were published on the same day Statistics Canada revealed that international migration was the main driver of an increase in the country’s population in the last quarter of 2017. It also follows a report on Canada’s Atlantic provinces that says
Integration concerns waning
The positive view of immigration was balanced by the fact 51 per cent of those surveyed said too many immigrants are not adopting Canadian values. This percentage, however, was the lowest since the survey began asking Canadians about this issue in 1993.
Across Canada, positive opinions on immigration and refugees are more widespread in the province of British Columbia, where 66 per cent disagreed with the view that “overall, there is too much immigration in Canada.” The same percentage of Canadians aged 18 to 29 and second-generation Canadians also disagreed, as did 69 per cent of Canadians with a university degree.
Negative views of immigration and refugees were more widespread in the province of Alberta, among Canadians above the age of 60 and those with only a high school education.
Alberta also led Canadian provinces in the number of respondents who believed too few immigrants were adopting Canadian values (62 per cent). This view, meanwhile, was lowest in British Columbia and Manitoba / Saskatchewan, where 46 per cent of respondents shared this view.
Attitude toward refugees remains positive
The admission of 40,000 Syrian refugees since 2015 and the arrival of nearly 50,000 asylum seekers in Canada last year has not dampened Canadian support for refugees.
Of those surveyed, 45 per cent said they believe most people claiming to be refugees are legitimate compared to 38 per cent who believe they’re not. Environics said uncertainty has replaced some of the more strongly held views on the issue that it found in 2017, with 17 per cent now saying they have no clear opinion on the legitimacy of refugee claims, an increase of seven points.
“This softening trend is evident across much of the population, but is most noticeable in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan,” the study says, adding this was also the case in Quebec, which was the focus of the asylum seeker influx in 2017.
Negative perceptions of refugees tend to increase with age, decrease with socio-economic status, and are more prevalent among men and immigrants.
90% of Canadians feel their city is good for immigrants
Environics also shared the findings of the 2017 Gallup World Poll, which is conducted each year in 140 countries. This study found Canadians holding some of the most positive views about their cities as a welcoming place for immigrants.
More than nine in 10 Canadians (92 per cent) said the city or area where they live is “a good place” for immigrants. This is an increase of four points over 2016.
“Canadian public opinion on their community as a place for immigrants is significantly more positive than for all other 34 OECD countries (where the average is 65 per cent), and has been consistently so since 2006,” the study says.
Overall, Canada was ranked third by Gallup’s Migrant Acceptance Index, which measures comfort levels and attitudes to immigrants. Only Iceland and New Zealand outranked Canada.
These findings mirror the recently released World Happiness Report, which surveys immigrants about their sense of well-being in their adopted countries. Canada ranked seventh in the world in terms of immigrant happiness, which Environics said parallels that of native-born Canadians.
Treatment of minority groups
Despite these views, most Canadians acknowledge that discrimination remains a concern, especially toward Muslims, people from Middle Eastern countries, and Indigenous peoples.
Of those surveyed, half said they believe Muslims experience discrimination “often” and 34 per cent said they believe this occurs “sometimes.” Interestingly, immigrants were less likely than native-born Canadians to believe such discrimination was frequent.
The belief that Muslims are frequently discriminated against was most evident in Quebec, where 58 per cent of respondents expressed this view. This number, however, was down 10 points since 2015.
“[Muslims] are among the most poorly understood and stigmatized groups, in part because of their recent arrival and ethnic origins, and in part because of specific religious and cultural practices (e.g., face coverings) make many Canadians uncomfortable,” the study says.
Canadians remain more inclined toward a generally positive view of Islam than a negative one (45 per cent versus 35 per cent). At the same time, 45 per cent of those surveyed said they think Muslims “want to be distinct from the larger society.”
the retention of immigrants to the region is crucial for its economic survival.