There has been a steady growth in the number of immigrants and refugees who now live and work in Atlantic Canada. Calling the Atlantic region home, from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island to Newfoundland and Labrador, enjoying its Maritime lifestyle, strong Celtic culture and rugged coastlines complete with scenic lighthouses and the odd iceberg.
Yet the numbers are not quite there yet. Provincial governments in the region are calling for more newcomers.
The 2016 Census report shows an overall decline in the population of the region, with some areas portraying negative growth. In 2014, the number of deaths exceeded the number of births in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, and it didn’t have sufficient immigration to offset that negative trend. Atlantic Canada has Canada’s lowest birth rate, highest median age and often sends more residents to other parts of Canada than it takes in.
Despite the negative population growth, some have questioned the need for more people because of the region’s typically slower economy, with a higher unemployment rate than the rest of Canada. But employers in the region have struggled to fill labour gaps, often looking to hire from abroad.
The Atlantic provinces’ provincial nominee programs (PNPs) have been the main tool used to welcome new permanent residents, but, given the program caps the number of immigrants allowed, provincial leaders started calling on the federal government to help them do more to attract more immigrants to the region.
All four provinces have developed immigration streams that help employers recruit workers from outside Canada. In 2017, the federal government established the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, a three-year experiment that gives business a lead role in deciding who can settle in Canada.
The hope is that the new program will convince workers from abroad to put down roots.
Employers can recruit internationally without going through a lengthy approval process that requires advertising for Canadian workers, but they must develop a settlement plan to help employees adjust to Canadian life.
The bonus for workers is that they can bring their families with them immediately and they are fast-tracked for permanent resident status. The Atlantic Immigration Pilot can significantly reduce the number of years it takes a foreign national to become a permanent resident of Canada.
As of Feb. 1, 2018, almost 900 employers in Atlantic Canada were approved to participate in the program; more than 1,000 employees had either applied for permanent residence through the pilot or were preparing their paperwork to do so; 150 applications for permanent residence had been approved.
A research by Saint Mary’s University reveals that immigrants in Atlantic Canada earn more than Canadian-born skilled workers who live in the region.
A profile of immigrant tax filers in Atlantic Canada published by Dalhousie University professors Yoko Yoshida and Howard Ramos found that immigrants to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland were more likely to be employed and earned higher wages than the average immigrant in Canada who landed at the same time. Immigrants to P.E.I. were below the Canadian average, as were spouses of primary applicants and refugees.
Irving, Atlantic Canada’s largest private company, has been recruiting overseas for a long time. Employees in its giant IT center come from 14 different countries and make up 11% of the staff. There are scores of foreign-born workers in its forestry, trucking and manufacturing divisions. The company also aims to hire more than 8,000 people over the next three years.
One of the greatest advantages of Atlantic Canada is its vibrant culture, especially in New Brunswick, where cultures from all around the world are welcome and celebrated. Many of the cities throughout Atlantic Canada have multicultural festivals in the summer months and have farmers markets where international food can easily be showcased and offered to the community.
One of the biggest benefits of calling Atlantic Canada home is the quality of life that comes with it. People do take the time to enjoy family and leisure activities after work, whether they decide to go camping, hiking, kayaking or simply spending a weekend at the Bay of Fundy. And local employers support family wellness and a proper work-life balance.