April 12, 2017
Small Towns Target Immigrants
It is no secret that most immigrants to Canada settle in what is referred to as the MTV triad – namely Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. These are Canada’s largest cities, most diverse, and well-recognized worldwide. However, increasingly, smaller cities and towns outside of these major centres are letting us in on another secret: they are ready and open for increased immigration.
This growing interest in immigration by smaller and rural communities across Canada stems from a number of factors, not the least of which is the steadily declining populations in these areas and repeated confirmation by Statistics Canada that immigration has been, and will continue to be the driving factor for Canada’s overall population growth. Current Stat Can projections suggest that by about 2031, immigration will account for more than 80% of Canada’s population growth. This becomes even more acute in low-density areas, where youth out-migration and an aging workforce outpaces the number of new arrivals.
While communities across Ontario are now beginning to recognize the importance of immigration and develop municipal strategies to attract newcomers to their communities, northern Ontario has been on the leading edge of this for the better part of the last decade, having long recognized the business case for immigration. In sustained conversation with their business leaders, employers, and community agencies, the region continues to focus on tapping into the wealth of skilled immigrants interested in, or recently arrived in Canada, developing tools and programs for immigrants to more easily connect to the opportunities available. This investment in the attraction of immigrants has paid off, with an increasing number of newcomers choosing to relocate to northern Ontario, taking advantage of the business opportunities and quality of life that exists a short 2.5 hour drive north of Toronto. The region is now also hoping to work towards the development of new immigration streams to further encourage direct immigration to northern Ontario.
Having worked in northeastern Ontario – North Bay, specifically – for a number of years, I have had the opportunity to be closely involved in the development of the area’s immigration initiatives and continue to support the development of accessible immigration strategies for the north, including ensuring access to immigration representation on a wide range of immigration matters. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also recognizes and accommodates applicants who live outside of the major centres, providing access to itinerant services, such as requests to complete the required immigration medical exams by non-Panel physicians when Panel Physicians are not available within 250 kilometres from an applicant’s place of residence in Canada.