Sault Star - Sudbury should be attempting to attract 1,599 immigrants a year, according to a new report.
But to attract immigrants and newcomers, communities in Northern Ontario, including Sudbury, need a targeted approach, the Northern Policy Institute says.
They also need to survey the economic needs of the community in which the strategy is being formed from and find out exactly what the community needs.
“That way, when you’re welcoming newcomers, you’re searching for them, you’re able to offer them a job right away,” Christina Zefi, the author of the report for Northern Policy Institute’s final installment of the Northern Attraction Series, entitled Thinking Local: Best practices and Solutions for Nothern Ontario communities, said. “Research does show a job or economic security is one of the reasons why people move and why they stay in a community.”
Another important factor, Zefi said, is to form strong partnerships, whether that’d be with neighbouring communities, or with foreign countries or different parts of Canada itself, in order to form the strategy.
“I think it’s really important to market the community, again through strong partnership, maybe Sudbury or Northern Ontario can share funds and extend their outreach,” Zefi said.
The community itself, she said, could also use a survey to discover how ready they are for newcomers.
“There are some really great examples of other communities having volunteers as a community come and do the settlements, so that way the volunteers get to know the newcomers and you start to form a little sense of community for that person to be welcomed,” Zefi said.
“You might also find out your community doesn’t want newcomers, and you can find out exactly why and start to address those issues.”
This report identifies the need for a coordinated newcomer attraction and retention strategy, and Zefi proposes a step-by-step strategy to facilitate the newcomer process and mitigate demographic concerns within Ontario’s northern regions.
Zefi said it’s important to attract immigrants and newcomers because of Northern Ontario’s declining population, aging population, and young people leaving the region.
“Someone can argue there’s other strategies, but I think that attracting newcomers, welcoming immigrants into the community, and it doesn’t have to be immigrants, it could be newcomers from other parts of the province or country, but having that strategy in place will counter the demographic decline,” Zefi said.
Zefi also dives into several successful case studies that provide useful practices for Northern Ontario communities to consider. Some of the case studies explored are the community-focused Morden Community Driven Immigration Initiative, the targeted strategies by Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise, La Cooperative d’integration francophone, and the Halifax Connecter Program, and the regional approach taken by the Southwest Regional Immigration Committee in Manitoba.
To combat push back against communities bringing in newcomers and immigrants, Zefi said it’s important for community leaders to watch how they send out the message what they plan to do.
“It’s important to speak to the community,” Zefi said. “You can do it through town halls, you can do it through various ways of community outreach, there is different online surveys to find out exactly is it about newcomers that is bringing in the fear. It’s important to reiterate that there are jobs available, of course, but you can’t force someone to do a job they don’t want to do.”
The report also provides an example of possible immigration targets for each census subdivision in Northern Ontario. This, the report suggests, will allow Northern Ontario communities to determine if their annual goals are met by benchmarking against other successful regions.
For Greater Sudbury, with a population of 158,665, the report reads, the annual immigrant target is 1,599.
Part One of the Northern Attraction Series determined the need for a newcomer strategy while Part Two identified Ontario’s strengths and weaknesses in the attraction of newcomers to the North. Finally, Part Three compared the current federal and provincial immigration programs to other provinces to develop a list of best practices.
Read the full commentary, Thinking Local: Best practices and Solutions for Northern Ontario Communities at www.northernpolicy.ca/northernattraction4.