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LETTER: The ‘connections’ mentality hindering economic growth potential

New Canadians are sworn in during an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada special citizenship ceremony with the Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia and the Halifax Central Library to celebrate Pride Month. - Tim Krochak
file photo

On June 22, the VOCM website highlighted observations made by the director of language education of the Association of New Canadians, Jim Murphy, pertaining to the provincial need for a long-term immigration strategy —tThat the province, and indeed the country as a whole, has benefitted through skilled immigration is no secret. The economic value that qualified new Canadians offer has been statistically established. The immigration policies of Canada focus on bringing qualified immigrants to support the vision of making Canada the great nation she is. Canadian history books highlight the role immigrants have always played.

This is a great country of immigrants.

Murphy is right!

The province needs a long-term strategy. This topic has been discussed before. The issue of retaining new Canadians has been on the agenda across the political, economic and social divide. However, there is nothing measurable that has been done.

Some important facts must be recognised.

All new Canadians are not refugees.

Qualified new Canadians have been invited into the country by successive governments because they are highly skilled. These are needed for the growth of the socio-economic condition of Canada. This category of immigrant is qualified at advanced tertiary levels, have access to funds exceeding the limit established by the federal government (a requirement), have many options and are resource rich. The reason this group relocates is not because of tragedy in a country, not because of internal displacement and not because they are economically disadvantaged. This category of new Canadians certainly makes a choice to be here.

A psychological fear of immigrants highlights the lack of exposure and there is technically nothing wrong with that. A country, and indeed a province, must protect its culture. Alienating new Canadians will not contribute to protecting a culture.

A culture is best protected by ensuring new Canadians are integrated in all aspects of society – the primary being employment. The province needs to identify strategies that will help new Canadians learn the culture, ways and habits of the people. These strategies must be identified by new Canadians if they are to be successful. Any management book will tell you that if a strategy is to be successful, then the target population must be included in the decision-making process.

Most importantly – anyone who has been in N.L. long enough will recognize the role “connections” play in securing employment.

In other parts of the world this is called nepotism and can be charged in courts of law. The absence of connections, unfortunately, leaves many qualified new Canadians out of the economic system. There are many qualified new Canadians serving coffee.

While serving coffee remains vital, the skill of this particular employee is not maximized and thus the economic potential for the province is not maximised. Capacity and skill must be balanced with output.

Newfoundlanders occupying seats that make recruitment decisions must move out of this “connections” mentality. A common-sense question is, “How does a new Canadian make ‘connections’ to equal that of a Newfoundlander?”

This warrants us to revisit our recruitment strategies if we are to benefit from this vital labour category. Any economist knows that the wealth of a nation is equal to that of the quality of its labour force.

Based on this, N.L. should consider Murphy’s observation seriously and do two things:

Mitigate the “connections” factor in the employment process so new Canadians can be employed in suitable occupations.

Develop strategies to facilitate the embracing of the local culture, ways and habits through integrating this stakeholder into the curriculum development phase of relevant provincial programs.

The inability by the province to retain skilled new Canadians is primarily because of the factors highlighted above. N.L. must statistically visit the total number of highly skilled new Canadians, the total number employed and the total number exiting the province. This will be an eye-opener of a wasted resource. While there may be much public discourse, all efforts will be fruitless unless there is measurable change.

Esther Herat,
St. John’s


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