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LETTER: Working to attract more immigrants to N.L.

Abuk Angok Tong, 23, originally from South Sudan, accepts congratulations and a Canadian flag from RCMP B Division Sgt. Maj. Doug Pack during a citizenship ceremony Friday at the Emera Innovation Exchange, Signal Hill Campus, Memorial University. Twenty-nine new Canadians from 16 countries received their Canadian citizenship.
File photo

I am writing in response to commentary published recently in your paper (“To the Point: Newfoundland and Labrador’s Poor Job of Attracting Immigrants Curtailing Economic Prosperity”).

We all know that Newfoundland and Labrador is facing demographic challenges, like many regions of Canada and the world. Our population is aging and we don’t have enough young, working families to make up the difference. We see it in our communities, and employers see it when they try to find workers. In some regions of the province, this has been a chronic challenge for years.

Immigration is crucial because it’s one of the ways we can alleviate that economic challenge in Newfoundland and Labrador. Currently, the median age in the province is 46 years. The median age of newcomers to the province is 29 years. We need more newcomer families to support the long-term vibrancy of our communities and help sustain them socially, culturally, and economically.

Whether they arrive as refugees or immigrants, newcomers increase demand for local goods and services, which supports economic growth. They also help increase employment by filling gaps in the workforce and starting businesses that create even more jobs. To help more newcomers bring these valuable benefits to our shores, our government recently created two new immigration categories, the International Entrepreneur and International Graduate Entrepreneur categories under the NL Provincial Nominee Program.

Canadian immigrant earnings data suggests that newcomers in Newfoundland and Labrador currently report among the highest average earnings in Canada for permanent residents three years after arrival, behind only Saskatchewan and Ontario. Newfoundland and Labrador is a great place to raise a family and build a future, for long-term residents and newcomers alike.

Immigration is making a positive difference in the lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians throughout the province. Newcomers settle in rural and urban areas. In fact, one-third of newcomers have settled in areas outside of St. John’s. Labrador has been the highest immigration growth area outside the capital city. This is why we released The Way Forward on Immigration in Newfoundland and Labrador, the province’s collaborative immigration action plan, recognizing the need to support immigration in our rural and remote regions. Through a partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Association for New Canadians, we now offer settlement services for newcomers throughout the province through an innovative pilot.

We are also working with Municipalities NL and communities to deliver the Welcome NL project, identifying opportunities to make our communities even more welcoming and inclusive to newcomers by addressing barriers to attraction and retention.

Those are just two of many examples of actions our government and its partners are taking to help our province increase immigration and encourage social, cultural, and economic growth. We also recently launched an awareness campaign to make employers and newcomers aware of immigration pathways, while also addressing longstanding assumptions and myths about immigration with facts.

So far, our results have been very encouraging. In 2018, we welcomed 1,525 newcomers. That’s already 90 per cent of our 2022 target of 1,700 newcomers annually. It’s up from just 1,170 newcomers in 2017, the year we launched our immigration action plan. Of these newcomers, 70 per cent came as economic immigrants and 20 per cent as resettled refugees, and the remainder by family sponsorship.

While Newfoundland and Labrador currently has the second-highest retention rate in Atlantic Canada, we know we have more work to do. Supporting newcomer retention requires concerted action by all orders of government, employers, communities, and residents. I am excited to let your readers know we will soon be launching initiatives for 2019-20 to further support community, employer, social, and cultural connections for newcomers.

We believe that a growing number of career and business opportunities makes Newfoundland and Labrador an attractive place for people to call home.

We are making great progress on increasing the number of newcomers and fostering an even more diverse, prosperous province where we can all fully participate, contribute, and belong, shaping the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Bernard Davis, MHA

Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour

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