With smaller cities and a lower profile, Atlantic Canada traditionally has not seen large influxes of newcomers to Canada. Recent initiatives have somewhat altered this trend, as immigrant communities are becoming established and are growing. However, the rate of immigration is not high enough to satisfy regional governments, who are facing the challenges of aging populations, low birth rates, and chronic labour shortages. To effectively manage these issues and plan for the future, Atlantic provincial governments have banded together to build a regional immigration policy to expand the Atlantic work force.
"While each province has something unique to offer, there are many areas where working together can accomplish more and this initiative is a prime example," stated Peter MacKay, Canadian Minister of National Defense and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Through this agency, the federal government and the provincial governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador have jointly invested $4.4 million. Over three years, these funds will be allocated to attracting and retaining newcomers and helping them with workforce integration.
Specific projects include the creation of an Atlantic Immigration brand, the education of regional employers about more innovative and inclusive human resource strategies, and the development of a better understanding of population and workforce retention factors.
Through the Provincial Nominee Programs and other regional initiatives to promote Atlantic Canada as an immigration destination, Atlantic cities have seen significant increases in the number of newcomers. Over the past seven years, Moncton (New Brunswick) has seen an increase of 74 per cent, followed by Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island) at 50.2 per cent and Halifax (Nova Scotia) at 44.8 per cent.
The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) stated in a recent report that then number of newcomers to the region has doubled since 2002 to nearly 5,700 in 2007. Furthermore, the report notes that retention rates have shown a "noticeable improvement" since the 1990's.
Immigrant communities are reaching critical masses in many of Atlantic Canada's cities. Whereas two years ago there were only 40 Korean families in Fredericton (New Brunswick), now there are more than 220. The city has also built a mosque, an important cultural addition that was made in the past ten years. Settlement services and English and French language training have been increasing as well. Successfully settled newcomers are spreading the word back home and bringing family members over.
Atlantic Canada's share of immigration in Canada was 2.4 per cent in 2007, the highest share since 1980. Nonetheless, this number is still quite low considering that the region accounts for 7.1 per cent of the country's population.
Provincial immigration ministers are pleased with the new regional immigration arrangement and look forward to implementing it.
"Addressing these issues in a joint strategy will benefit the region because we all will be able to leverage more resources than if we acted on our own," states Prince Edward Island Minister Richard Brown.