Commentary by Howard Ramos in Halifax
With a rapidly aging population and low birth rate, Canada’s Atlantic provinces have turned full force towards immigration.
Nova Scotia, for instance, has nearly doubled its allocation of provincial nominees and Premier Stephen McNeil has been a vocal supporter of immigration as a solution to the province’s problems.
This being the case, it is worth asking how immigrants fare there.
Individuals such as Globe and Mail columnist, John Ibbitson, believe that, “Immigrants avoid the Maritimes because of the lack of economic opportunities and because they tend to gravitate toward communities that already have newcomers.”
However, a recent report for Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) by Yoko Yoshida, Madine VanderPlaat and myself of Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities, in partnership with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), suggests that immigrants do well in Nova Scotia.
The report busts a number of myths. The first is that immigrants don’t find work in the province.
This may have been the case a couple of decades ago, however, recent economic immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between 2010 and 2012 out-performed newcomers in other parts of Canada.
Immigrants to the province actually have higher rates of employment one year after arriving (76 per cent) compared to Canada as a whole (73 per cent).
Another busted myth is that immigrants will be underemployed compared to other parts of the country.
The report finds that one year after landing in Nova Scotia, economic principal applicants’ average earnings are $44,000 compared to $36,000 nationally.
Changes in policy and the success of settlement organizations, such as ISANS, have clearly worked at better integrating recent cohorts of immigrants to the province. This is largely because of the work they do in terms of language training, employment and interview coaching, and bridging programs that link immigrants to specific job sectors.
One more busted myth is that immigrant spouses and partners do not fully contribute to the economy.
The report shows that 96 per cent of spouses and partners who come with economic immigrants and 91 per cent of family sponsored spouses and partners are of “prime” working age, between 20 and 55 years old.
The majority of spouses and partners are also employed one year after arrival and over a third have a university degree.
When spouses and partners immigrating to Nova Scotia are compared to immigrants settling across Canada we find that rates of employment are about the same, however, when earnings are examined the report again shows an advantage for family sponsored spouses and partners in Nova Scotia.
For those landing between 2010 and 2012, average earnings were $26,000 one year after arriving compared to $22,000 for immigrants across Canada. Policy makers should not underestimate the economic potential of sponsored family immigrants.
Such findings show that the federal government’s decision to increase the cap on immigrants to the province is well justified and that Nova Scotia is right to continue to ask for more immigrants.
If the trends identified in the report continue, more autonomy in crafting immigration policy to the region with a broader mix of immigration pathways could be a way to stem population pressures and even grow the economy.
The report, however, also identifies some trends that should be examined further and that need policy attention.
In particular, when a comparison is made between economic and family-sponsored stream immigrants, interesting findings emerge.
For instance, among cohorts of immigrants landing in Nova Scotia in the 1990s and early 2000s, family-sponsored spouses and partners rivalled and even outperformed economic-stream principal applicants, which suggests that there is an important role for the family stream in the immigration mix. This is a trend unique to the region and one that has shifted in recent years.
Also worth policy attention are the noticeable differences identified in the report between economic versus family-sponsored spouses and partners.
The economic successes have been greater for spouses and partners coming through the family pathway rather than those who come with economic principal applicants. It is unclear why this might be the case and this should be a focus of future analysis.
A need for more research
Questions like these mean that it is important for Nova Scotia to continue to invest in researching immigration.
It is through investigation and critical review that strong evidence-based policies can be developed.
Such policies combined with quality efforts by settlement organizations are what have led to the dramatic shift in how immigrants fare in Nova Scotia.
Premier McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab, who is the daughter of first generation immigrants herself, are right to encourage immigrants to come to Nova Scotia. They will likely be successful in integrating into jobs and making meaningful contributions to the province.
It is now time to let the rest of Canada in on the secret: immigrants do well in Nova Scotia.
Howard Ramos is a professor of sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada.
by Susan Korah (@waterlilypool) in Ottawa, Ontario
Getting the mainstream media to cover more immigrant issues is something many settlement and advocacy agencies grapple with.
The first of a series of workshops presented by New Canadian Media, a two-hour interactive session entitled “Increasing the Visibility of the Immigrant Service Sector” aimed at addressing this challenge.
The participants – mostly employed as executive directors and communications officers by non-profit settlement and advocacy organizations – were there by invitation to learn how to project their messages to the wider Canadian public, and particularly to the decision-makers who allocate government grants and corporate donations.
One participant said that she was eager to learn from the two high-profile speakers – John Ibbitson, writer at large with the Globe and Mail and Mitchell Kutney, Ottawa blogger and social media expert – because immigration and refugee advocacy groups have been facing multiple challenges in recent years, and there is an urgent need to make them known to all Canadians.
Crack the Fortress of Media Power
Speaking first, Ibbitson introduced the concept of the “Laurentian elite,” which he defined as the small group of media executives, as well as top academics in various fields, who live in the central Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec (especially the major cities of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal) and control the pages and airwaves of the traditional media.
His central point was that one can wait patiently for another 25 years or so for the demise of the Laurentian elite, or one can be proactive in cracking the group’s closely guarded fortress of media power.
Identifying himself and some of his colleagues as members of this elite, he said that they were mostly white, male, middle-aged or older, and shared the same world-view. They are also desperately fighting for their own survival in a tectonic shift of the media and political landscape, he pointed out. That is a critical point to remember when trying to break into their gated territory, he emphasized.
“I’m 60, white and male, and my newsroom is filled with people like me,” Ibbitson said. “And I’m not prepared to quit right now.”
He explained that, because communications technology is changing at a dizzying pace and there is a very real possibility that traditional media may no longer be financially sustainable within the next 10 years, newsrooms are laying off rather than hiring new staff.
This, he pointed out, combined with the prejudice that some new Canadians hold against about pursuing journalistic careers, is a hindrance to changing the demographics of newsrooms.
Ibbitson cited the example of some brilliant ethnic-minority interns that his newspaper had trained recently, and offered employment to, only to have the opportunity turned down. He speculates this was probably because their immigrant parents disapproved of journalism as a career choice.
Pitch Stories for All Canadians
Regarding the pro-active approach, Ibbitson advised communications professionals to get to know as many journalists as possible, and to pitch stories that fall within the writer’s range of topics and are relevant to all Canadians.
For example, if a country has business opportunities for Canadians, that becomes a relevant story, he said.
On the other hand, as one workshop participant Mohammed Adam, formerly a reporter and now a columnist with the Ottawa Citizen, said: “People used to ask me to write about some country that Canadians have no interest in at all, and my editors wouldn’t go for it.”
Ibbitson said a pitch that would help the beleaguered media industry attract readers/viewers would get a positive response, because there was a definite alignment of interests there. He also elaborated on the increasing importance of business news, pointing out that all of the Globe and Mail’s foreign bureaus concentrate on business.
“Why should we pitch or reach out to you?” asked one of the workshop participants.
“We don’t want to ghettoize. The mainstream media is a platform for all Canadians,” Ibbitson replied. Another reason is that the people who give out funds to immigrant-serving organizations read newspapers like the Globe, he added.
Ride the Social Media Wave
Mitchell Kutney (pictured at right), the workshop’s other featured speaker, is an established Ottawa-based blogger who covers topics related to social enterprise, charity and philanthropy. With over 100,000 followers, he is one of Ottawa’s 10 most highly followed Twitter users.
Kutney’s fast-paced presentation focused on harnessing the incredible potential of Twitter for reaching people outside of one’s “social capital” or usual network of contacts, as well as for securing the attention of key people in the mainstream media.
Some practical tips he gave the audience were:
Asked about the secret of his large following, Kutney said: “I invest an incredible amount of time on my blog and Twitter account and write about controversial topics.”
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-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit